August 6, 2012
The situation: With Ian Stewart out for the year and Luis Valbuena proving to not be a suitable stopgap, the Cubs decided to give former first-round pick Josh Vitters a look, rewarding him for a breakout year at Triple-A Iowa, where he was batting .304/.356/.513 in 110 games with 17 home runs.
Background: It feels like Vitters has been in pro baseball forever, but he's still just 22 years old. The third overall pick in the 2007 draft, Vitters was seen as one of the best pure hitters in the minors early in his career, but he stagnated, not by playing poorly, but rather by never taking the big step forward that was projected for him. In just four months this year, though, Vitters has already set career highs in doubles and walks, and was just one off his season high in home runs.
What he can do: Vitters has a pretty swing and outstanding hands, but those tools also have been his undoing as a prospect. His fantastic plate coverage and coordination allows him to see most pitches as hittable; while he does hit them, he often makes bad contact on balls out of the zone. While he's never going to be confused with Joey Votto, he has become a more patient hitter this year, which many scouts believe has led to his marked improvement. He has the power to hit 20-plus home runs, and that number still could go up as his game matures. He's not fast and not a very good defensive player, but he projects as an acceptable third baseman who can at least remain at the position.
Immediate big league future: Vitters likely won't light up the world right away; if his minor league career is any indication, it could be a slow burn. That said, he should at least hold his own.
Long term: The next two months will be used by the Cubs to evaluate whether Vitters is the everyday big league third baseman in 2013, or if the club needs to find another short-term solution at the position. Either way, Vitters has done wonders for his stock this year.