View From The Bleachers

June 28, 2012

A Phone Call Away: The Next Call Up For the Cubs

Filed under: Featured,Minor League — Michael Jimenez @ 12:00 pm

by Michael Jimenez

The arrival of Anthony Rizzo marked the first step in the evolution of the roster.   While the Cubs farm is lacking at the higher levels, we do have three position prospects at AAA that could make the major league team sometime this year.

Welington Castillo, C:  Castillo is hitting .343/.489/.582 so far this year in the minors after hitting .287/.359/.516 last year at AAA.  He has very little left to prove at AAA.  We have already seen Castillo this season when a barrage of injuries decimated our catchers last month but Castillo also ended up on the DL with a sprained MCL in his right knee.  He is no stranger to the disabled list, as he has found his way on it six times in the past 5 seasons in the minors.  My largest reservation for Castillo is inability to stay healthy.  Ironically, he shares that trait with the guy blocking him, Geovany Soto.  It’s one of the reasons I do not think Soto has much trade value considering his rising salary and disappearing bat act. I am expecting the Cubs to move Soto for the best offer available by the deadline and Castillo to assume the everyday catching duties.

Josh Vitters , 3B:  Vitters, if you remember, was the 3rd overall pick in the 2007 amateur draft directly out of Cypress High School in California.  He was ranked in Baseball America’s top 100 in 2008 (43), 2009 (51), & 2010 (70) based on one of the sweetest swings in all of baseball, plus bat speed, and a ton of raw power.  This season Vitters was dropped from the top 100 list and was only considered the organization’s 9th best prospect according to BA.  He has come under scrutiny for poor defense that may force him to move to first-base and a lack of plate discipline, although his swing is still there, the lack of development defensively and at the plate caused his stock to drop considerably.

This year he has reestablished some of that value with solid numbers and an increase in power.  He is currently hitting .291/.341/.493 with a significant increase in his isolated power.  His ISO is currently at .202 a nearly 40 point jump over his ISO last year at AA. Part of that increase is his move from the Southern League to the ultra-offensive Pacific Coast League, but another reason for his developing power is due to an improved approach at the plate.  His BB% is only 5.7% but that is the highest he’s ever held a walk rate for this many plate appearances at any level in the minors.  He’s walked 16 times so far this season in comparison to only 22 walks all of last year. He’s still suspect defensively but many think he should at least be serviceable at 3B.

Valbuena got the call when Ian Stewart went down with a wrist injury but since then Vitters is on fire hitting .488/.757/1.245 with 3 double and 3 homers.  He may soon force his way on the major league team and I think Vitters at least sees a cup of coffee in September.

Brett Jackson, CF:  Many believed Jackson would make it onto the team out of spring training but that did not happen.  Even after the Marlon Byrd trade, Jackson remained at AAA. He has the tools to be an above average center fielder at the major league level but his contact rate is hampering his development.   At each minor league level, Jackson’s K% has increased.  At A ball he struck out 20.2% of the time, at AA it increased to 24.2%, and now at AAA it’s up to 31.9%.  He’s also seen his BB% drop at each level from 13.8% at A ball, to 13.2% at AA,  and now at AAA it’s down to 11.4%. This year his K% is up to an alarming 33.3% and his BB% is down to 9.8%.

This trend is a cause for concern as major league pitching will exploit his inability to make contact and that’s why Jackson is still sitting in AAA despite an opening in CF.  A second reason for Jackson being over looked is the Cubs knew they were going to call up Rizzo once his arbitration clock pushed back on June 23rd, forcing LaHair to the outfield which would have then created a logjam between Soriano, DeJesus, LaHair, Jackson, Johnson, and Campana.

Despite his shortcomings this year, Jackson is still hitting .259/.338/.493 after a .297/.388/.551 campaign last year.  I expect the Cubs will find trade partners for Johnson and LaHair or DeJesus clearing the way for Jackson to play CF every day.

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  • Noah_I

    For me, the question with Jackson is if the Cubs think he can cut down the Ks or not.  If they see something fixable there, they might as well keep him in the minors for at least all of this year, looking at a latest possible call up date as June 2013, when he would avoid Super 2 status for next year.  If they think it’s just always going to be a part of who Jackson is as a hitter, though, go ahead and bring him up sooner.

  • Chuck

    I am hoping Vitters puts it together at the plate and is, simply, not a disaster at 3B.  I think he is the key to the rebuilding process.  If he can become a good 3B, that is one less piece of the puzzle we have to find.  If he could put up anywhere near a .290/.350/.500 slash line in the Majors we could have a special infield.  Castro is good, Rizzio is probably going to be good, and if Vitters can be good  that is a pretty solid group of hitters.  All we would need then is a thumper or two in the OF.

  • Timothy Scarbrough

    If both Vitters and Rizzo work out on the corners (and note the big if) Rizzo-Barney-Castro-Vitters is an infield that doesn’t sound old, over paid, and devoid of talent.

  • Buddy

    I like the Rizzo-Castro part of that equation. No thanks to Barney and Vitters.

  • Doc Raker

    Barney has a errorless streak going on and is a fine 8 hole hitter as 8 hole hitters go. The only problem right now is we have six 8 hole hitters in the line up but in a real major league line up Barney can be that quality defensive second baseman while contributing out of the 8 hole. I project a real major league line up by 2014.

  • Buddy

    I wouldn’t mind Barney as a utility IF. As you said, he’s a pretty solid fielder.

  • Timothy Scarbrough

     I feel like if we can get the other three hitting, and get some quality bats in the outfield Barney is okay as the 6th, 7th, or 8th best hitter in a lineup.


    Yeah, I can see Barney taking on a DeRosa type role.

  • Verncrowe5

    I’m still weary about bringing Jackson up, even if we do get a trade out of Johnson, Lahair or DeJesus. Maybe I’m wrong, but if we lose one of those guys I’d rather throw out Campana every day in the OF before we bring up a struggling Jackson. It seems to me like we should keep him in AAA all year or at least until he turns things around. Now, if we lose Johnson, Lahair AND DeJesus, then I’ll rethink my statement. For now, keep him in the minors

  • Al

    I hope so, too, but I’m more expecting Vitters to be a carbon copy of Kevin Orie.

  • Chuck

    I think the Vitters hate has gone too far and I don’t see the Jackson love.  Vitters is very young for AAA and Jackson has some serious contact issues.  I can live with a CF that is a 7 or 8 hitter, but he had better bring an A+ glove to make up for it.

  • Buddy

    I don’t know anyone who hates Vitters. But I do know quite a few people who think he isn’t a very good hitter. 

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