Cubs' top pick is touted third baseman
Vitters widely viewed as top high school hitter in the country
CHICAGO -- The Chicago Cubs were looking for offensive talent Thursday with the No. 3 pick in the 2007 First-Year Player Draft, and they found it in high school third baseman Josh Vitters.
Vitters, who turns 18 on Aug. 27, was ranked as the top pure high school hitter by Baseball America and batted .371 with eight homers and 25 RBIs for Cypress (Calif.) High School. Baseball America also touted him as the player closest to playing in the Major Leagues among all high school pitchers and position players.
The 6-foot-3, 195-pound Vitters was considered one of the top hitting prospects in the Draft because of his compact swing, bat speed and athleticism.
"Nobody really taught me how to swing the bat," Vitters said. "My swing's all natural; I haven't really done any hitting instruction or anything like that. It's just always come to me."
The selection of Vitters marks the second straight year Cubs scouting director Tim Wilken has selected a position player rather than a pitcher. Last year, the Cubs and Wilken chose Clemson outfielder Tyler Colvin in the first round. Prior to that, the Cubs had taken a pitcher with eight of their last 11 first-round selections.
"We're extremely happy to have Josh," Wilken said. "I've been fortunate to be around good first-rounders in the past, and I think he's got those capabilities."
The Tampa Bay Devil Rays selected pitcher David Price with the No. 1 overall pick Thursday. With the second pick, the Kansas City Royals took high school third baseman/catcher Mike Moustakas.
This Draft, hosted at Disney's Wide World of Sports complex in Orlando, was the first aired live on television. Vitters, who was in attendance, became the first player to pose for pictures with Commissioner Bud Selig after hearing his name called.
|1. TB||LHP||David Price||Vanderbilt U|
|2. KC||SS||Michael Moustakas||Chatsworth HS (Calif.)|
|3. CHC||3B||Josh Vitters||Cypress HS (Calif.)|
|4. PIT||LHP||Daniel Moskos||Clemson U|
|5. BAL||C||Matthew Wieters||Georgia Tech|
|6. WSH||LHP||Ross Detwiler||Missouri St U|
|7. MIL||LF||Matthew LaPorta||U Florida|
|8. COL||RHP||Casey Weathers||Vanderbilt U|
|9. ARI||RHP||Jarrod Parker||Norwell HS|
|10. SF||LHP||Madison Bumgarner||South Caldwell HS|
"I'm just ecstatic," said Vitters, who will graduate from Cypress later this month. "[Being here] was really important to me. We're making history, because this is the first time the Draft is being televised, and I'm very proud to be a part of it."
His older brother, Christian, was drafted by Oakland in the 10th round of last year's Draft and currently plays for the Class A Kane County Cougars.
Wilken had not had much time to talk to Vitters about contract negotiations, but was optimistic the two would be able to reach an agreement. The Cubs have until August 15 to sign their No. 1 pick before losing him to Arizona State, where he has a baseball scholarship.
Vitters said he just wants to "go out and play ball," and at the moment, he doesn't anticipate any problems when it comes to reaching an agreement with the Cubs.
"Whatever is fair money for that slot is what I'll take," Vitters said. "I don't know if they work it off what the first pick gets or what, but we'll see. Just being able to play Minor League ball and pro ball is more important than the money to me."
The third baseman said he was a little concerned that he would fall lower in the Draft after a bout with pneumonia forced him to sit out nearly three weeks of his senior season. But after hearing the Commissioner call his name, he is just excited for the opportunity to be part of the Cubs organization.
"I really started taking notice of the Cubs when the whole Sammy Sosa/Mark McGwire thing was going on [in 1998]," Vitters said. "I was watching a lot of the Cubs on WGN because I get that station down in California. That's probably when they first got on my radar.
"I just love their whole tradition and how they play ball, and it's just a great fit for me."
The first day of the Draft consisted of five rounds and a supplemental round. The Cubs had five picks on the day, including three in the top 100. Last year, the team only had two selections in the first five rounds. On Thursday, they continued the trend of selecting field players over pitchers with each of these picks.
With the 48th overall selection, the Cubs chose 21-year-old catcher Josh Donaldson, a junior from Auburn University. The Cubs got the pick -- 18th in the supplemental round -- as a result of Juan Pierre's free-agent departure to the Los Angeles Dodgers during the offseason.
Donaldson hit .338 for the Tigers last season, with 19 doubles and 49 RBIs, and was rated 74th overall prospect by Baseball America.
|"I'm just ecstatic. [Being here] was really important to me. We're making history, because this is the first time the Draft is being televised, and I'm very proud to be a part of it."|
|-- Josh Vitters, the first player to greet the Commissioner in a televised draft|
He is a gifted athlete, having played basketball and football in high school in Mobile, Ala., while also starring as a shortstop and pitcher. Donaldson played third base at Auburn before moving to catcher his sophomore season. He is an aggressive player behind the plate, but his arm strength has been questioned. His unorthodox swing has also raised concerns.
In the third round, the Cubs took second baseman Tony Thomas from Florida State with the 98th overall pick. Thomas, 20, was the 2007 Atlantic Coast Conference Player of the Year as a junior. He led the Seminoles in virtually every offensive category last season, highlighted by his .430 batting average (111-for-258) in 62 games.
Thomas also led the team in hits, doubles (33), triples (six), home runs (11), slugging percentage (.733), walks (43) and stolen bases (31-for-36).
The Cubs got a player who knows something about winning in the fourth round in shortstop Darwin Barney. Barney, a junior, won the College World Series in 2006 with the Beavers, and also won a gold medal at the World University Championships in 2006 with Team USA.
Barney started all 60 games and batted .296 for Oregon State last season.
The Cubs closed out their first day of the Draft by selecting right fielder Brandon Guyer out of the University of Virginia. As a junior, Guyer hit .370 with eight home runs -- which led the team -- 19 doubles, and 50 RBIs. He also tied for the team lead in hits with 84.
"I feel good with where we're at, and where we might be at by the end of tomorrow," Wilken said.
The Draft will continue on Friday at 10:30 a.m. CT.
Marc Zarefsky is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.