Prospect Watch: Cubs see big things for Vogelbach

Prospect Watch: Cubs see big things for Vogelbach
January 12, 2014, 8:30 pm
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Tony Andracki

Daniel Vogelbach doesn't get the same attention as the Big Four.

Cubs fans know all about position-player prospects Javier Baez, Kris Bryant, Albert Almora and Jorge Soler. But at 21, Vogelbach already has one quality that’s getting harder to find -- power.

As the Cubs head into Year 3 under Theo Epstein's front office, the organization's top prospects have dominated the headlines. Leading into spring training, will look toward the future and run down the potential impact players in the system.

Vogelbach hit .284 with 19 homers, 76 RBI and an .824 OPS in A-ball last season, splitting his time between Kane County (114 games) and Daytona (17 games). He was a 2011 second-round pick, 59 spots behind Baez. 

[State of the Cubs: First base]

The big question surrounding the 6-foot, 250-pound first baseman is if he can hold his own defensively.

"He's a guy that has always been a bat-first player," said Jason McLeod, the vice president of scouting and player development. "That's what got him drafted where he went. 

"He's someone that we feel down the road will be hitting in a major-league lineup -- left-handed with power and can control the strike zone. The frame and the defense are always going to be something he has to work hard on every day, like he does in all parts of his game."

With Anthony Rizzo locked up through his prime, the Cubs appear to be set at first base, prompting analysts and bloggers to toss Vogelbach’s name in trade rumors. But if the National League adopts the designated hitter in the next couple years, the Cubs would have a spot for Vogelbach, assuming he continues to develop.

For most of 2013, fans got an opportunity to see Vogelbach play at Kane County, which is located just 40 miles from Wrigley Field. The Fort Myers, Fla., native hit 17 homers and 21 doubles in 502 plate appearances, anchoring the middle of the lineup.

[The Foundation: Vogelbach leaves his mark on Kane County]

"He was tremendous," Cougars GM Curtis Haug said. "We all knew he had the 'hitting gene' and he definitely showed it on the field. He was consistent. He was like the iron man. He was always out there, working hard."

The Cubs love Vogelbach’s makeup. He’s an intense competitor on the field and a clubhouse leader with a sense of humor. 

"The great thing about Danny is he's one of those 'baseball rats,'" McLeod said. "He loves being at the park. He's kind of the team clown, almost. He keeps everybody loose in the clubhouse and the dugout.

"I have no concerns in terms of how hard he's going to work. The defensive side is going to be the side he's going to put a lot of time into if he's going to play first base in the NL. But we're really excited about the bat and what the future holds for him."

The Cubs have a handful of young position players knocking at the door of the big-league club, but Vogelbach figures to be at least a couple years away from reaching Wrigley Field. The young slugger is trying to not look too far ahead.

[MORE: Baez, Bryant highlight Top 20 Cubs prospects rankings]
"We're in this moment. You can't control what happens up there [in the major leagues]," Vogelbach said. "[The Cubs] are your big-league club. You want to know how they're doing.

"But it's not something you worry about, because, quite frankly, you can't control what they're doing up there. Just like you can't control what somebody is doing one level ahead of you. 

"All you can do is go out each and every day, go about your business and play hard. If you do that, everything is going to take care of itself in the long run."