Prospect Spotlight: Josh Vitters

Name: Josh Vitters
Organization: Chicago Cubs
Position: Third Base
Drafted: 2007 #3 overall pick
Bats: Right
Throws: Right
Height: 6-3
Weight: 195

As many know, the Chicago Cubs franchise has been cursed for decades. The curse continued last year with a very disappointing 2006 season. Due to this, the Chicago Cubs were able to secure themselves the third overall pick in the 2007 draft. While 2006 was very painful for Cubs fans all over the country, their failures ended up being rewarded with the best hitter available in the draft.

History: High school third baseman Josh Vitters had been on everyone’s radar for quite some time due in large part to his well known high school, Cypress High School, and his brother Christian Vitters, who was drafted in 2006 by the Oakland A’s. But Josh’s play in 2007 is what really solidified him as a wanted man as he dominated in some major high school events like the Area Code Games, World Wood Bat Championships, Aflac Classic (doubling three times), and picking up MVP honors at the Cape Cod Classic. All of these just capped off some very strong back-to-back seasons as a junior and senior with impressive stat lines of .352 (31-for-88), 7 doubles, 9 homers, and 32 RBI in 2006 and, despite a horrible battle with pneumonia in 2007, still posted .371 (26-for-70), 6 doubles, 8 homers, and 25 RBI. After accomplishments like this, it’s no wonder he was so highly touted entering this year’s draft.

After drafting Vitters with their number one pick in 2007 (third overall), many Cubs fans began to become worried as their new prized pick held out from signing up until 20 minutes before the deadline. Since Cubs fans have long become used to consistent abuse, it wouldn’t have surprised many people if he hadn’t signed. But now that Vitters has his large deal inked, Cubs fans can begin waiting with baited breath for this young slugger to join them in the historic Wrigley Field. And with his skills it shouldn’t be a long wait at all.

Scouting Report: There’s no secret what makes Josh Vitters so highly rated. He has dazzled scouts with the natural power that he generates with his stellar bat-speed and ability to make excellent contact with the bat. The way he so consistently gets great contact with the meaty part of the bat, it’s almost as if he were swinging a club with an enormous barrel on it with great double and home run power to all fields. Vitters is also able to handle pretty much any type of pitches he’s faced like a pro but does have the tendency to chase bad pitches from time to time. What makes him even more special is his uncanny hand-eye coordination, fast wrists, and beautiful, fluid swing. These are some of the most difficult things to teach a young hitter and the fact that he has already harnessed these items is nothing short of miraculous.

Many scouts are so blinded by his bat skills that his defensive problems are often overlooked. While Vitters does play at an “offensive” position at third base, he does have problems with his glove work at times. Vitters has developed some pretty good footwork over at the hot corner as well as fairly good hands, but he struggles judging hops and can often boot the ball even on some rather routine plays. Due to his offensive skills and the fact that he’s far from a defensive gem, he could be moved around the diamond and have it justified. Unfortunately for the Cubs they are in the National League without the DH rule and have both third and first filled with Aramis Ramirez and Derrek Lee. Vitters does have an excellent arm so right field could be an option as well. But with a bat like Vitters’ the Cubs will do what they have to do to get him in their lineup.

I project Josh Vitters to be a 30-40 homer guy with around 100-115 RBI and average anywhere between .265-.285. His batting average will depend a lot on how he adjusts to major league pitchers as he will need to learn a little more patience at the plate and wait for his pitch. If he doesn’t learn this, pitchers will catch on very quickly and give him junk more often than not knowing that he will most likely waive at it. This issue could also come into play when Vitters finds himself in a slump as power hitters like him tend to try to over-compensate by swinging at more bad pitches trying to make something happen. However in a lineup with a lot of powerful hitters such as the Cubs, Vitters could benefit from being sandwiched between a couple of other big bats in order to get more hittable pitches.

If you need a Major League player comparison to help put all of this together, you can look at someone similar to Pat Burrell as they both were similar players at a young age in regards to strengths and weaknesses. While some get on Burrell about his average woes, you still know what you will get out of Burrell year in and year out. This kind of consistency should be what we see from Vitters once he reaches the big time in Chicago. I do however see Vitters as having a better batting average, but this is only if he can learn the strike zone a bit better.

The Chicago Cubs organization and its fans should be very excited with the talented youngster from California that they drafted this season. With a solid draft and the success they had winning the division, 2007 could be a huge turning point for the historically tortured Cubs franchise.

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