When Acquired: Selected in the 10th round of the 2006 draft
Like so many of the Oakland A's recent draft picks, Christian Vitters hails from the baseball hot-bed of Southern California. The Anaheim native was a highly recruited high school prospect when he was at Cypress High School. He chose to attend Fresno State over traditional baseball powerhouses such as Arizona State, Fullerton and Long Beach. In his junior season at Fresno State, Vitters helped carry the Bulldogs program back into national prominence.
While at Fresno State, Vitters was one of the Western Athletic Conference's best players. A starter upon arriving at college, Vitters was first-team All-WAC as a freshman and a Louisville Slugger All-American after posted a 902 OPS and playing in all 58 games for the Bulldogs. He struggled a bit at the plate during his sophomore season, posting only a 794 OPS. The slump may have been attributed to his switch from third base to shortstop, where he committed 19 errors in 59 games.
When his junior season arrived, Vitters was more comfortable at shortstop and that comfort seemed to carryover at the plate. He hit .340 with 11 homers and a 988 OPS in 57 games before breaking his thumb at the end of the season (ironically, the break came when he was hit by a pitch thrown by San Jose State's Branden Dewing, whom the A's also drafted in 2006). He also improved his defense at short considerably. For his efforts, Vitters was named the WAC Player of the Year for 2006.
After being selected by the A's in the 10th round of the draft, Vitters quickly signed and joined the short-season A Vancouver Canadians. He spent much of his short-season rehabbing from his thumb injury and ended up appearing in only 12 games for the Canadians, eight at short and four as the DH.
Not surprisingly, Vitters was a little rusty when he first got back on the field with the Canadians. He hit .182 in his first 33 at-bats. However, he picked up the pace at the end of the season, going 5-12 (.417) to finish off the season. He participated in the A's Instructional League and he should be 100 percent for spring training this year.
When the A's saw Vitters on the board in the 10th round, they jumped at the chance to select the Fresno State shortstop.
"One guy we were very impressed to see available in the 10th round was Christian Vitters," A's Scouting Coordinator Bryn Alderson after the 2006 draft.
"Some people have doubted some of his tools, but he has always done a lot of what we covet. He has shown good plate discipline and the occasional power for a shortstop. He had a wrist or hand injury that backed a number of teams off, but if you had asked some guys a few months earlier, Vitters is someone who could have gone in the top three or four rounds."
Standing at 6'3'' with a powerful build, Vitters has drawn comparisons to another A's shortstop who hailed from Orange County, Bobby Crosby. Vitters isn't as athletic as Crosby, but he has some of the same skill-sets. Like Crosby, Vitters has a solid line-drive swing and the ability to hit for above-average power for his position. Vitters also has good plate discipline.
Vitters has solid mechanics with his left-handed swing and he can spray the ball all over the field. Defensively, he has improved since his early days in college, but the jury is still out on whether Vitters will stick as a shortstop or a third baseman long-term. He has a strong throwing arm, but his range at short is only average. Vitters could also move to the outfield eventually, as his big frame and strong arm could play well in a corner outfield spot. He has only average speed.
Vitters received high marks for his work ethic and his leadership skills in college. He comes from a baseball family, as his younger brother, Josh, is one of the highest-rated high school position prospects going into this year's draft.
Had Vitters played an entire short-season, he almost assuredly would have begun the 2007 season in High-A Stockton. However, since he only received 45 at-bats in Vancouver, the A's may elect to start him at Low-A Kane County instead. Starting in Kane County would likely give Vitters a chance to stay at shortstop for at least one more season. 2006 Kane County shortstop Justin Sellers is likely to move up to High-A Stockton in 2007.