Moving On Up: Rizzo, Jackson and Vitters
The fazes of Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer’s rebuilding plan for the Cubs seem to be falling in line. After a busy trade deadline which involved swapping veteran players like Ryan Dempster and Geovany Soto for an assortment of prospects, the Cubs front office has begun calling up a few of their young stars to join the majors. If the Cubs poor play (43-66 record through August 9th) has kept you from watching since May, you should take the opportunity to get familiar with these three guys. If everything goes according to plan we could be seeing them for many years to come.
First Baseman Anthony Rizzo was the first Cubs prospect to be called up this season and in the 40-some days he’s been in the bigs, he’s lived up to the hype. The 23-year-old lefty was called up on June 26 and proceeded to catch fire in July, racking up 32 hits, 7 homeruns and 17 RBIs – an effort that landed him NL Rookie of Month honors. If this is a preview of what we’ll see from Rizzo going forward, the Cubs just may have found their everyday guy at first for years to come.
Over the last decade the Cubs center fielder position has primarily been occupied by either aging-veterans far from their prime (Kenny Lofton, Jacque Jones, Juan Pierre, Jim Edmonds), or prospects who never played up to expectations (Corey Patterson, Felix Pie, Angel Pagan). Fans and front office alike are hoping that 24-year-old Brett Jackson doesn’t end up falling into the latter category. A 1st round draft pick in 2009, Jackson was ranked the Cubs best prospect coming into the 2012 season. After calling up Jackson from Triple A Iowa, Manager Dale Sveum explained to media that he wanted to take a better look at Jackson’s talents in person and see just how they could help the team. Thus far, the center-fielder has played sound defensively, but has brought his history of strikeouts with him. Once he can correct that habit, Jackson looks to be a very productive addition to the Cubs.
From mid 2003 until 2011, third base was manned admirably by current Brewer, Aramis Ramirez. In fact, Ramirez is considered by some to be the second best third basemen in franchise history – only behind Hall of Famer and Cubs legend Ron Santo. This offseason, with the Cubs clearly in rebuilding mode, the front office decided to let Ramirez walk as a free agent opposed to signing the 34-year-old veteran to a multi-year and multi-million dollar deal he was seeking. Since, the team has been looking for someone to hold down the position into the future, and 22 year old Josh Vitters just may be that guy. Vitters, who was batting over .300 this season in Triple A, was called up alongside Jackson on August 5th and has already seen a handful of starts with the Cubs. Like Jackson, if he can continue to elevate his game, correct one notable flaw (errors in his case), and begin to match the consistency he’s shown over the years in the minors, he will be wearing Cubbie Blue for a long time.
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