Jackson, Vitters Called Up For Cubs
CHICAGO — When Brett Jackson and Josh Vitters walked into Dodger Stadium on Aug. 5, they saw lots of familiar faces in the clubhouse.
"It seems like half the guys here are guys who started out in (Triple-A) Iowa," Vitters said. "I couldn't think of a better situation to be in right now."
Joining the Cubs less than a week after a series of trade deadline deals, Jackson and Vitters arrived with Theo Epstein's youth movement in full bloom. They joined shortstop Starlin Castro, second baseman Darwin Barney, first baseman Anthony Rizzo and catchers Steve Clevenger and Welington Castillo to give the Cubs seven position players who average less than 24 years in age.
For the newcomers, the challenge is to prove they belong in this nucleus as the Cubs move forward. Both are first-round draft picks who moved one step at a time through the minors, and they come with the areas where they need improvement well defined.
Jackson, a 2009 pick from California, is a speed-power player and solid center fielder whose contact problems have grown through 2012. He was hitting .256/.338/.479 with 15 home runs and 27 stolen bases for the I-Cubs but had struck out a minor league-leading 158 times in 407 at-bats.
"His (.817) OPS (despite) those strikeouts is incredible," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. "I mean, 22 doubles, 12 triples, 15 homers . . . for that amount of contact, that's pretty impressive. We decided to evaluate him here, get his development in the big leagues and see what happens."
Jackson, ranked as the Cubs' top prospect last winter, was 24 when he was promoted. Vitters, the 2007 first-rounder out of Cypress (Calif.) High, has been in the organization longer but was only 22. He was hitting .304/.356/.513 with 17 homers and 68 RBIs at Iowa but had committed 21 errors at third base. He's blessed with a quick bat and solid mechanics but his 30 walks this season is a career high.
• Castillo joined Clevenger in a platoon of rookie catchers after Geovany Soto was traded to the Rangers at the deadline. Both are likely to be in the 2013 plans. Castillo threw out 44 percent of basestealers in 2009, and the Cubs still praise his arm despite that total dropping to 24 percent this season with Iowa.
• Shortstop Javier Baez, the Cubs' 2011 first-rounder, earned a promotion to high Class A Daytona by hitting .333/.383/.596 with 12 homers, 33 RBIs and 20 stolen bases in 57 games at low Class A Peoria.