by Matt Eurich
We all knew the time was coming eventually, but the call-ups of Brett Jackson and Josh Vitters over the weekend made Cubs fans realize that the future is slowly becoming the here and now.
Brett Jackson has had a nice season for the Iowa Cubs with a line of: .256/.338/.479 with 15 HR and 47 RBI in 106 games. The weakest and most notable part of Jackson’s game offensively has been his strikeouts. In 407 at-bats this season, Jackson has struck out a staggering 158 times; nearly 40% of his at-bats have resulted in a strikeout.
In Jackson’s first start with the Cubs on Sunday, he went 2-4 with a walk, a strikeout and a run scored.
Jackson will likely play every day in centerfield, but with a bit of a logjam in the outfield, David DeJesus and Bryan LaHair will be platooning in right field. Many did not expect Jackson to get the call-up until an outfielder was moved, preferably Alfonso Soriano. Soriano clearly does not play in to the Cubs future plans, yet both DeJesus and LaHair have the possibility to become pieces of a winning team in the future. DeJesus has done well as a lead-off hitter and LaHair has the ability to be a power hitter but both will struggle to find at-bats with the call-up of Jackson.
Josh Vitters has been a name that Cubs fans were ready to give up on. The third overall selection in the 2007 draft, many were ready to consider Vitters a bust when his level of production never seemed to improve, until this season. This year at Triple-A Iowa, Vitters has hit .304/.356/.513 with 17 HR and 68 RBI. The 22 year-old Vitters will need to greatly improve his defense at third base having committed 21 errors in 110 games, but with the lack of offensive production at third base this season, the Cubs will be willing to go through the growing pains.
Jackson will undoubtedly still struggle with the strikeouts at the major league level, but if he can learn to improve his patience and curb his aggressiveness the Cubs will be willing to let him prove himself in the lineup. Jackson shouldn’t have any problem defensively in the outfield, given his ability to read the ball of the bat and take good lines to the baseball. Vitters will likely be more of an adventure at third base and even though he has spent some time in the outfield and at first base in Iowa, the Cubs likely will not play him anywhere but third base. Vitters’ production offensively should be an improvement over current third baseman Luis Valbuena’s .198/.269/.336 line and although it appears as of now that they want to platoon Vitters and Valbuena, Valbuena’s continued struggles could give Vitters a chance to play everyday at third base.
Rookie Anthony Rizzo has been great since his call-up in June and despite a dip in his batting average, Starlin Castro continues to prove he is one of the best young shortstops in the game. After the trade of Geovany Soto last week to the Texas Rangers, the Cubs now have two young catchers, Steve Clevenger and Wellington Castillo, who they are expecting to be contributors in the future. Those four players along with Jackson and Vitters are starting to resemble a good young core for years to come in Chicago. Expectations certainly need to be tempered for such a young group but if they can produce on the field they just might give Chicago something to cheer about for years to come.