FUTURE AT THIRD BASE
The Chicago Cubs haven’t filled the hot corner since the departure of Aramis Ramirez. We’ve used a platoon of Luis Valbuena and Cody Ransom this year. Valbuena is hitting .225 and Ransom .215 as of today. Last year we used Valbuena, Ian Stewart and Josh Vitters. Valbuena led those three players with a .219 average for 2012. So, it’s pretty obvious we haven’t had much production at the hot corner.
However, the future at third is bright…..but who will it be. Here’s some of our minor league players that could end up being our future at third.
Josh Vitters will turn 24 later this month. He was the third overall pick in 2007 out of high school. He has been plagued with injuries this year and that really has hurt his chances despite hitting .289 in triple A Iowa. Last year he had a successful year in Iowa batting .304 with 17 HRs before getting called up. After he was called up, he struggled to hit big league pitching. He finished with a .121 average in 99 at bats. His best chance is to get healthy and have a strong spring training in 2014. Even then I’m not sure if he is our long term answer.
Recently acquired Mike Olt, from the Texas Rangers, is next on the list. He is exactly one year older than Vitters and will turn 25 on August 27th. He was drafted in 2010 in the first round by Texas and has some amazing raw power and a good glove at the hot corner. Unfortunately, he has not hit the ball well in the minors this season despite putting up great numbers in double A in 2012. Supposedly, he has been battling a problem with his eyes that has contributed to his hitting woes this year. I’m hoping this is true because he could be our starter at third next year.
Christian Villanueva, 22, is another third baseman that the Cubs acquired from the Texas Rangers last year. He’s in double A Tennessee this year and has hit 14 homers in 404 at bats with a .260 average. He shows quite a bit of promise, but is a little farther away than Vitters or Olt.
Next on this list is 20 year old Javier Baez. He is currently playing shortstop but could projects as a power bat at the hot corner or a corner outfield slot. He started the year at high A Daytona and earned a promotion to double A Tennessee. He has unbelievable power and bat speed. The 2011 first round pick by the Cubs has hit a combined 28 homers this year between Daytona and Tennessee. He also possess the most speed of any of the players on this list. One concern is his high strikeout rate. That’s something he needs to work on. Also, his glove at SS has been shaky. He’s committed 38 errors so far this summer and that is another reason he could shift to third. One thing is for certain though…..it’s his bat and unbelievable power that will get him to majors.
Finally, this year’s second overall pick is the last player on this list. Kris Bryant, 21, is currently assigned to short season Boise. He’s batting .292 in 48 at bats with 3 homers as of today. He’s another power bat that could end up as a corner outfielder or stay put at third. Either way, there is a lot of promise with Bryant. Also, he won the Golden Spikes Award this year as the best amateur player in the country.
So, there it is. Vitters, Olt, Villanueva, Baez and Bryant. One of these guys will hopefully be our future at third base and be a long term solution.