When the Chicago Cubs traded Brett Jackson to the Arizona Diamondbacks yesterday, they took another big step forward towards the end of an era. The Cubs are now at the point in their rebuilding process where they have almost completely purged the system of all the former top prospects acquired by the old regime and have since floundered. The list is now down to just Josh Vitters and Matt Szczur. It would seem that their days in the Chicago Cubs organization are officially numbered.
Josh Vitters, OF, Iowa Cubs
Josh Vitters was supposed to be what Kris Bryant is becoming. The Cubs’ took Vitters with the third overall pick in the 2007 amateur draft and had high hopes for him until he floundered in his major league debut in 2012. Vitter’s career followed the same path as Brett Jackson’s, impressive and tremendously promising until he reached the big leagues. Before being called up in 2012, Vitters was having a career year at AAA, hitting .304 with 17 home runs in 110 games. But after hitting just .121 in 36 major league games, Vitters has never been able to regain his stroke. In the year and a half since his major league debut, Vitters has hit just .229 and has been moved to a platoon role in the outfield because of his poor defense at third. At 24 years old and after eight years in the minor leagues, it’s safe to say that Vitters will follow Jackson sooner rather than later.
Matt Szczur was always lost in the shadows of Jackson and Vitters, for better or worse, so the pressure to move on from him has been significantly less. In fact, Szczur has put of decent numbers in 2014 hitting .261 and stealing 30 bases for the Iowa Cubs as their leadoff hitter. The Chicago Cubs made Szczur their fifth round selection in the 2010 amateur draft and he hit the ground running, batting .347 in his first professional season. Szczur, a multi-sport athlete at Villanova University, has great athleticism but, even at 25 years old, he is still a bit raw in some areas of the game. Szczur could serve as a decent back-up outfielder/pinch runner at the major league level but between the Cubs’ over crowded outfield and Rick Renteria’s opposition to stealing bases, it looks like Szczur’s big league future lies with another club (if he indeed has one at all). He has had a good run with the Chicago Cubs organization but he has now reached the point in his career where it’s now or never.
At one point Josh Vitters and Matt Szczur had promising futures with the Cubs but they have since been replaced by the likes of Javier Baez, Kris Bryant, Jorge Soler and Albert Almora, among others, and their futures now appear bleak. And in all likelihood, it won’t be long until they follow in the footsteps of those before them who have floundered and moved on; guys like Ronny Cedeño, Geovany Soto, Tyler Colvin, Rich Hill and Corey Patterson.
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