The Chicago Cubs drafted Josh Vitters with the No. 3 overall pick in the 2007 draft back when former GM Jim Hendry was running the show. While the current Cubs regime is more than happy to spend money on amateur talent, in those days the Cubs were run by the Tribune Company who was looking to spend as little as possible in the draft. So when it was the Cubs’ turn to make their first-round selection, they opted to go with high school third baseman Josh Vitters instead of pay what it would cost to sign Georgia Tech catching sensation Matt Wieters.
While Cubs fans were disappointed that the team passed on Wieters, Vitters still had a lot going for him. He was commonly referred to as “the best pure hitter in the draft” and was also expected to develop power as he matured. While Vitters has always had the ability to barrel up a baseball, it is now nearly seven years later and he has only appeared in 36 major league games.
Vitters has two main problems working against him: his poor defense at third base and his stubbornness to take a walk. While Vitters hit his way through the minors and has an impressive cumulative Triple-A line of .302/.361/.513 in 552 plate appearances, the problem has been finding a position that suits him. The Cubs have settled on left field for the 24-year-old, but with many top outfield prospects in the system, Vitters will have to make a statement this year if he wants a future with the Cubs.
Vitters deserves credit for continuing to work on his game and making steady improvements throughout his time in the minors. His walk rate has slowly risen, going from as low as 2.4 percent in A-ball to 6.6 percent at Triple-A in 2012 all the way up to 11 percent during his 28 games at Triple-A last year. He has also worked this offseason to prepare to be a full-time outfielder in addition to spending time with a sports psychologist to improve his mental mindset.
This spring will be monumental in determining Vitters’ future with the Cubs organization. His bat is big league ready, but whether or not he can stay on the field and provide sound outfield defense is what the Cubs will need to determine. Currently Junior Lake is expected to be the Cubs left fielder, so this spring Josh Vitters will have to prove that he can handle left field while continuing to be a threat at the plate. The Cubs have the luxury of moving Lake to center field to potentially platoon with Ryan Sweeney or to take the job outright. This gives Vitters a real opportunity to make the 25-man-roster this spring, and Cubs fans should be rooting for the former first-round pick to finally make an impact in the big leagues.