Amidst the Cubs’ current rebuild plans, you’re likely to hear about a lot of current prospects who otherwise wouldn’t get a whole lot of press.
Cubs’ 1B prospect Daniel Vogelbach however, should be getting more press than what little buzz he’s currently generating.
This 20 year old 2011 second round draft pick has been turning heads after posting up very nice numbers in the Arizona Rookie League and short-A baseball for the Cubs’ affiliates last season. A total of 102 AB in the rookie league was more than enough for Vogelbach to generate some big time numbers, including 7 HR, .686 SLG and a 1.078 OPS. Big time power for a guy who only had a 13% K ratio, and the Cubs’ front office took notice.
Vogelbach was quickly moved up to the short-A Boise Hawks and continued to post big time batting metrics. 143 at bats saw Vogelbach hit 10 HR, 10 XBH, a .322/.423/.608 triple slash line and a 1.031 OPS. These figures are surprisingly close to the figures he put up in the rookie league despite being challenged by better pitching, which would indicate maturity and a strong ability to read pitches at the plate. Although his K/AB ratio rose to a rather ugly 23%, he still managed to put up power numbers and still drew a healthy amount of walks (16% BB/AB) – a very important metric when considering the success and effectiveness of a power hitter.
Big power often comes with a big body, and Vogelbach is no small fry. He’s been scaled in at 6 foot, 250 lbs which could be a rather generous weight approximation if you ask me. If you had to describe his stature? Words like thick, wide and broad would all come to mind despite his height. Since moving his way in to pro ball from high school, Vogelbach has toned up a little bit now that he faces professional conditioning and shows promise in keeping his weight at a controllable level. Despite his concern about looking like a beer-league softball player, there’s no doubt in my mind that he’s strong as an ox and shows it at the plate.
Being strong isn’t the only thing that Vogelbach has going in his favor – his swing is very nice too. After looking at video, it’s easy to see that his power is generated from a couple factors. Vogelbach take a simple swing and occasionally tries to fully muscle up to the ball, but allows his stable mechanics to drive the ball up and out for the most part. He’s aggressive but shows a good eye for pitches and a solid awareness of the strike zone for a prospect as young as he is. His aggression can sometimes lead him to get too much elevation in his swing, which can deplete his power as he wont make as solid of contact as he is capable of. He naturally seeks a pitch to drive and can be picky with his selection, often not biting at secondary offspeed pitches (which is both a plus and a minus.) Overall, he’s a + potential hitter with obscene raw power and natural “pitch sight” abilities who will find success with refinement.
This must be the power prospect the Cubs have been waiting for right? Sadly, there’s always a downside to a good story. Vogelbach’s comes as a double edged sword as his massive stature makes him slow and sluggish on the base paths and on the field. As a fist baseman, he’s not required to be quite as agile as an outfielder or a left infielder for example, but he does need to often make quick transitions from base defense to positional play. Running down bunts isn’t exactly his strong suit and has been known to have trouble digging up low throws. Scouts report that he’s showing improvement, but if he’s going to make take the next step in his development, he’ll have to learn to field better… and fast.
The future for Vogelbach? The Cubs will likely allow him to develop until he can find success at AA, where the men are separated from the boys. Since Vogelbach matches the ideal DH style player and the Cubs have plenty of talent in Anthony Rizzo at first base, you can likely expect him to be flipped as part of a deal to a team in the American League. Sure, the Cubs do see potential in him, but his optimum value to the team would come as a big power trade chip as he’s fully capable of being a 30+ HR, cleanup hitter in the MLB one day.
In the mean time? Expect Vogelbach to improve greatly inside the batters box as he fully realizes his potential. He’ll be valuable to the minor league system for some time to come.
The future is bright for this young gun.