Bright future awaits powerful Vogelbach
Slugging first baseman ranked as Cubs' 10th-best prospect
When a fly ball was caught with the outfielder's back against the fence, legendary Chicago Cubs broadcaster Harry Caray used to say something along the lines of, "If he only had one more biscuit at breakfast, that ball would have gone over the wall."
The Cubs have a first-base prospect in Dan Vogelbach who has been trying to stay away from that extra biscuit at breakfast. In fact, he's been working hard to keep his weight in check.
Vogelbach, a huge left-handed hitter, doesn't need that extra biscuit. He can hit a ball out of any park. The 6-foot, 250-pound Vogelbach has tremendous power to all fields. He is a good old-fashioned wide-bodied power hitter, reminiscent of former Baltimore Orioles star Boog Powell.
The Cubs selected Vogelbach out of Bishop Verot High School in Fort Myers, Fla., in the second round of the 2011 First-Year Player Draft. He hit .551 with a .655 on-base percentage in his senior year at Bishop Verot.
Vogelbach has played three seasons in the Cubs' system. Last year, he played most of the year at Class A Kane County, where he hit .284 with 17 homers in 500 plate appearances. Vogelbach finished the year at Class A Advanced Daytona, hitting another two homers and batting .280. He drove in 73 runs for the season. Most importantly, Vogelbach made very good contact, striking out only 89 times in his 566 trips to the plate. That's extremely impressive for a big power hitter.
My most recent looks at Vogelbach, who is ranked No. 10 on the Cubs' Top 20 Prospects list, took place this year at Spring Training. He hit .308 in 13 at-bats spanning eight games -- with a home run among his four hits.
Vogelbach makes very good use of the strength in his trunk area to generate "light tower" power. With a short, compact swing, he can get his hands through the ball very quickly and generate both loft and backspin. Vogelbach's stroke is effortless and easy. He doesn't fall into a trap of becoming aggressive or trying to hit a five-run home run every time he's at the plate. To the contrary, Vogelbach's mechanics are quiet and exude self-confidence. A tough out, he has enough plate discipline and fairly good pitch recognition to make pitchers work.
If Vogelbach is vulnerable to any particular pitch, I have seen him go after high-velocity fastballs up in the zone that look tempting but are difficult to catch up with.
Clearly, Vogelbach will have to hit his way to the Major League club. He is working hard on his defense, but he is not the most lithe or smooth-fielding first baseman on the planet. But Vogelbach continues to make strides with his overall footwork and agility at first base. His range is improving, but it is still not the best. Vogelbach will face a constant battle to improve his defense, while keeping his weight down and gaining the confidence of his coaches.
Vogelbach has little, if any speed, but his maximum effort on the bases accompanied by good "baseball sense" should keep him from being a base-clogger.
In a Cubs system that boasts the likes of Javier Baez, Kris Bryant, Albert Almora and Jorge Soler as a future core, a player like Vogelbach can easily be forgotten in the conversation. However, he has enough explosive firepower in his bat to be a game-changer any time he comes to the plate.
Given a reduction in power-hitting first basemen in recent Drafts, the acquisition of Vogelbach may be as meaningful as any selection made by the Cubs in recent years. Provided he keeps his weight in check, his coaches, fans and the baseball community may need a new tape measure.
Bernie Pleskoff has served as a professional scout for the Houston Astros and Seattle Mariners. Follow @BerniePleskoff on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.