Vogie Bear. I think it’s pretty catchy. Can’t say I’d ever call Dan Vogelbach that to his face, but it has a nice sound to it. You know what else has a nice sound to it? The ball when it explodes off his bat. After seeing him in action last night at Class-A Kane County’s home opener, it’s clear this kid has the potential to be a pretty special piece of the Cubs’ long-term success.
I had the opportunity to meet Vogelbach before the game during an autograph session, and it immediately became clear that Cubs fans are excited about this guy. Of the entire Kane County roster, the line for the team’s first baseman was more than twice as long as any other player. And if you’re wondering, yes. I now have his autograph. No shame.
Several small children were in line in front of me, and Vogelbach made small talk with them, which meant the world to these kids. Too often, we sports writers look at statistics and base our conclusions off those. His attitude with the fans said a lot about the type of person he is – something that can be a make-or-break aspect in this new Cubs organization. The new brass has little tolerance for showboating or arrogance – it’s the “Cubs’ way” or the highway.
His stat line isn’t overly exciting. The 6-foot, 250 pound Vogelbach went 2-for-4 with a pair of singles in a 7-2 loss to the Houston Astros’ Class-A affiliate, the Quad Cities River Bandits – who boast several top prospects on its roster, including last year’s number one overall pick, shortstop Carlos Correa. But for anyone who was at the game, and watching Vogelbach, it’s clear that he has real power – evidenced by the fact that according to Baseball America, he’s the top power prospect in the entire organization.
Last season with the Boise Hawks and the Arizona League Cubs, Vogelbach clubbed 17 home runs in only 61 games, while posting a .322 average and .410 OBP. Furthermore, he averaged more than an RBI per game, totaling 62 over the course of the season. Despite these successes, one major question remains for the standout 20-year old. What position will he play in Chicago?
With Anthony Rizzo coming off a very successful rookie campaign with the Cubs, Vogelbach has no clear path to the big leagues. However, Major League Baseball has been talking more and more about bringing the designated hitter to the National League, and a recently Theo Epstein told USA Today, “…‘hopefully we’re just a few years away.’’ (from the designated hitter in the N.L.)
However, not everyone in the Cubs organization is onboard with that proposal. Manager Dale Sveum is a proponent of the National League way of things, which, if it remains in place, could spell the end of a very promising run for Vogelbach with the Cubs. No doubt, if he continues his hot hitting throughout the minors over the next few years, Vogelbach could be included in a trade package that would fetch a handsome price.
Only time will tell what the future holds for the young slugger, but if you’re in the Chicagoland area, be sure to get down to Fifth Third Bank Ballpark early in the season to check out Vogelbach and the rest of his Cougars’ teammates. Seven of the top 30 prospects in the entire organization are beginning the year with Kane County, and as the new signage at the ballpark states: “A, AA, AAA – MLB. It all starts here.”