The Chicago Cubs Dan Vogelbach seems like he’s been around forever. While the emergence of Anthony Rizzo left him in the cold, he still will have a place in the building of a winner in Chicago.
For the Chicago Cubs, Dan Vogelbach was their Kyle Schwarber before..well, Schwarber. This week Vogelbach was added to the 40-man roster, in turn protecting him from the Rule 5 draft. He’s a stocky, slugging first baseman who doesn’t really have the ability to play anywhere else on the diamond. He’s worked out at other positions, but game experience is strictly at first base and DH. So why would they protect a guy that doesn’t really have a place to go on the MLB roster?
Simple. First, he’s a safety net. If something was to happen to Anthony Rizzo (God forbid), the Cubs have a viable option to call up. We’ve seen them tinker with other position players in small samples, but Vogelbach could be the next man up in a worst-case scenario. The second is potential. Not in the field or at the plate, but as a trade chip. And even more so with an American League team.
Last season, Vogelbach made his way to Double-A Tennessee. In my mind, the young man seems like he’s been around forever. In a way, he has since he began with the Cubs at age 18. A short stint in the Fall League helped introduce him, and from there he dominated the low-A ranks. He hits for power, but doesn’t strike out like a prototypical power hitter. He takes his walks and has slugged .473 in five season in the minors.
He hit for a high average early on in his career, but he’s leveled out around .275-.280–which is still respectable for a player with his power potential. He’s been as impressive as any of the heralded rookies that have made their way to Chicago with the bat–but his inability to play any other positions (and some question any PERIOD) has left him with an uncertain future.
But the Cubs see what could be, even if it might not be with the Cubs. He’ll turn just 23 in December, and Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer know that he would be gone in an instant in the Rule 5 draft. So protecting him is the smart thing to do–even if it seems odd.
Unfortunately for Vogelbach, the Cubs made the trade for Rizzo the winter after he was drafted. His path to the Cubs was officially blocked, and it doesn’t look like that’s going to change. But his part in the Cubs rebuilding–which is ahead of schedule–will still be a critical one as he could be part of a trade either this winter or next summer.