What to Expect: Brett Jackson and Josh Vitters

The Cubs have purchased the contracts of Brett Jackson and Josh Vitters. Both players have been playing for Triple A Iowa, and have 682 and 452 plate appearances, respectively. Vitters and Jackson have the talent to be All-Stars, but have obstacles in their way before getting verifiable major league success.

Jackson is a toolsy player, but doesn’t have a great tool. He is a player without weakness, who can hit for a decent average and power, can steal bases, and play a solid center field. His biggest problem is the large number of strikeouts he piles up (striking out in 33% of at bats). It’s unclear exactly what kind of average he’ll hit for, but somewhere between .210 and .250 is probably his most likely landing spot. If he can keep his average up and the strikeouts limited, he has an everyday spot on the roster waiting for him.

Don’t expect a ton from Jackson during the rest of the season. He’ll probably strike out at least 50 times while hitting about .260-.270. Five home runs and 10 stolen bases is probably wishful thinking, but certainly possible. He should play center field the rest of the way.

Jackson can increase his odds of sticking in the big leagues by working on his approach. There was some concern in the minors that he was giving away at bats at times, so he should work on transforming those at bats into balls in play or longer at bats. Jackson can also work on his swing, which has a lot of holes in it. He should spend the off-season and spring training tweaking it and start to close those holes. If he can fix these issues, he should cut down on the strikeouts and make more contact, perhaps getting him to a .260 average.

The set of issues for Vitters is very different. He has one of the better swings in baseball and makes contact regularly, but he swings at too many pitches out of the zone that result in weak contact. This leads to low strikeout and walk rates, but Vitters has improved his approach this season in Triple A and had already surpassed his career high in walks.

Vitters’ playing time looks to be a bit more than part-time at this point, but he should get plenty of time at third base, where Luis Valbuena has been terrible, and possibly some time in the outfield as well. He should hit somewhere between .280 and .300 with 6 or so home runs a possibility. Vitters should avoid stealing bases at all costs, as he isn’t good at it at all. His defense at third is suspect at best, and will be a big project moving forward.

Polishing his approach should be Vitters’ biggest goal moving forward, since his swing is perfect, so adjustments there wouldn’t make any sense. If he can work the count more, the power should start showing up more often and the walks should could come as well. He also needs to put in work on the field, or see his position change to left field, where his value dips. In that way, he is a lot like Starlin Castro: the reason he is playing for the Cubs is his bat, but the glove still needs work.

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