Judging Cubs youngsters was a mixed bag

September, 26, 2012
9/26/12
9:53
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
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DENVER -- There was some good, some bad and some ugly when it came to the young players the Chicago Cubs brought up to the big leagues this season.

[+] EnlargeJosh Vitters
Greg Fiume/Getty ImagesCubs third baseman Josh Vitters has struggled in his first stint in the majors.
Leading the positive charge was Anthony Rizzo, who showed he was worthy of being placed in the No. 3 spot of the lineup since the day he arrived. Rizzo entered Wednesday’s game batting .286 with 14 home runs and 45 RBIs, and combined with his Triple-A numbers he had delivered 37 home runs and 107 RBIs in 150 games.

On the other end of that spectrum, though, was third baseman Josh Vitters, who struggled mightily since he was recalled in early August. Vitters entered Wednesday’s play batting .111 with two home runs and five RBIs.

“Some have shown a lot, some have done enough to certainly, if not earn a position on the team then strong consideration going into the winter,” general manager Jed Hoyer said. “Some have indicated that they need more seasoning and starting next year in Iowa is probably for the best.

“So I think that it is a mixed bag. Certainly every guy who has come up has not shown that we need to reserve a spot for him at the beginning of next season but that’s to be expected.”


So if Vitters isn’t the Opening Day third baseman next season, who will it be?

Without knowing which third basemen will have their options picked up for 2013, the free-agent group at that position looks weak.

That could leave the Cubs looking at Luis Valbuena at third base again next season or possibly giving Ian Stewart another chance to see what he can do when healthy. Stewart played in just 55 games this season, batting .201 with five home runs and 17 RBIs.

He was hampered by a chronic wrist issue, finally had surgery that ended his season and his current health status still isn’t known. Results on a recent checkup are expected soon.

“We’re going to spend a lot of time on how it looks going forward and talking to Ian before we make a decision on his future with us,” Hoyer said. “It is a year that is hard to evaluate for us because of the wrist. It’s challenging because you don’t know what was the wrist and what was the real struggles. We need to get to the bottom of that.”

With arbitration-eligible status, Stewart is in line to make a raise on the $2.24 million this past season and the Cubs don’t figure to go that route. But there is always the possibility the Cubs could non-tender him and work out a new deal that is beneficial for both sides.

Vitters could then start the season at Triple-A Iowa and be ready when needed again next season.

“I do think that first year in the big leagues is really difficult to evaluate,” Hoyer said. “I’ve had a number of players tell me the butterflies don’t really go away that first time up. They’re nervous all the time and have a hard time calming themselves down. Maybe the second, third time coming up it’s, ‘OK I belong here.’

“It’s hard to evaluate what a guy is doing when he’s nervous, and it’s hard to blame them sometimes. This is their dream, they’re up here for the first tome and the game is faster. Sometimes I think those things can snowball. They did with Rizzo last year and I think they probably did with some of the guys we brought up (this year).”

Doug Padilla

Chicago White Sox beat reporter
Doug joined ESPN Chicago in July 2010 and covers the Chicago White Sox for ESPNChicago.com and ESPN Radio 1000.

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TEAM LEADERS

WINS LEADER
Jake Arrieta
WINS ERA SO IP
9 2.65 157 149
OTHER LEADERS
BAS. Castro .292
HRA. Rizzo 31
RBIA. Rizzo 72
RA. Rizzo 82
OPSA. Rizzo .896
ERAT. Wood 4.86
SOJ. Arrieta 157