We've already taken a closer look at Brett Jackson so let's now take a closer look at Josh Vitters. He had about the worst imaginable start to his big league career in 2012. Vitters hit .121/.193/.202 over 109 plate appearances. His wRC+ late in the year had dipped to something like -12 and after a hot stretch Vitters managed to end the season at 4.
Thanks to everybody's attention being on Brett Jackson's strikeouts, people have overlooked the problems Josh Vitters had with making contact. He struckout in 30.3% of his PA and unlike Jackson who had a very high walk rate, Vitters walked only 6.4% of the time. Vitters had 4 extra base hits and an ISO of .081.
Last week when Myles wrote about young minor leaguers in the Cubs system I looked at how Vitters OPS+ of 9 compared to other players in the early part of their career. I limited it to players with at least 75 plate appearances over the player's first three seasons between the years of 1901 and 2012. Josh Vitters ranks as the 76th worst in OPS+.
There are a few interesting names on that list, but the overwhelming majority of those players had forgettable careers.
Among players with 100 or more PA in a season, his 4 wRC+ last year ranks as the 28th worst since 1950. He ranks 45th worst if we go all the way back to 1901. I haven't been very high on Vitters for a long time and even these numbers surprised me. Josh Vitters had one of the worst seasons in MLB history last year.
If you can't say anything nice about Josh Vitters, don't say anything at all
Josh Vitters reportedly has a pretty swing. I'm not really sure what that means, but enough scouts have said it that I'll trust that he does in fact have a pretty swing. He's relatively young. He turned 23 in August so he just completed his age 22 season. There's still plenty of time for him to figure things out.
I've long thought that age isn't necessarily the only factor. We often talk about a player being young and there's certainly something to it. However, I also think there's something to the length of time a player has spent in professional baseball.
Vitters hasn't flown through the minor leagues. It's basically been one stop at a time and in a few of those stops he struggled. Pretty swing or not, baseball hasn't come easily to him.
He has 2118 minor league plate appearances and that will increase in 2013. That's not an especially high total, but it also shows that he's been around a long time now. He's spent 6+ years working with professional coaches.
It's important to highlight at this point something I think people were and perhaps still are eagerly overlooking: .283/.327/.455. That's what Josh Vitters has hit over 6 years in the minor leagues. Last year in AAA was undoubtedly his best. He hit .304/.356/.513. There's no doubt that's a good batting line, but it was in the PCL, which is known for being a hitter's paradise.
If Vitters can somehow maintain this level of hitting, he can be a productive player. He'll have to hit the ball because his other skills are lacking. He's known as a poor defender. Some scouts think he'll end up at 1st base. He's not very good on the bases either.
Brett Jackson's road to success is a hell of a lot easier than it is for Josh Vitters. That doesn't mean we should count Vitters out, but he has a huge hill to climb.