Slugging Cubs prospect Dan Vogelbach thinking big
BY GORDON WITTENMYER September 12, 2013 10:32PM
Updated: October 15, 2013 7:18AM
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — The Cubs’ ‘‘Big Four’’ have been connected at the hyphen for months.
Javy Baez-Jorge Soler-Albert Almora-Kris Bryant.
But if history means anything, not all of these can’t-miss prospects will hit. And if the Cubs’ multiyear rebuilding process is going to mean anything, they’re going to need a lot of other guys from the system to make impacts.
Meet Dan Vogelbach, a boulder of a left-handed hitter, who has a knack for clobbering pitches in the strike zone and ignoring pitches out of it — and who somehow gets left out of the Big Four conversation.
“You know, that’s the big thing my mama always tells me,” says the Cubs’ second-round pick in 2011 and the organization’s minor-league player of the month in July. “She’s told me since I was little, worry about what you can control.
“I can’t control what people think about me or say about me.”
One look, and it’s hard to believe Vogelbach was ever little. He’s listed at 6-feet, 250 pounds. The only thing bigger might be a force of personality that draws teammates and makes organization officials think of him as a potential clubhouse leader.
But he’s got to find a way to that big-league clubhouse first, and that’s not a smooth path, even if he keeps hitting like he did this year and pushing his way up the minor-league ladder. He had a successful final-month finish for advanced-A Daytona, where he hit a home run in his first game, one of 19 this season.
“It’s a big offseason for me,” said the work-in-progress first baseman, who’s built like a designated hitter and hasn’t played anywhere but first in his life. “I’m going to come back in better shape, just like last year and hit spring training running and have another huge year and see what happens after that.”
His shape is “something I’m always going to fight,” he said, and the winter work is as much about needed improvement around the bag. “I want to be a first baseman that the infielders trust over there.”
If all goes as planned over the next couple of years for the 20-year-old prospect, the Cubs could have a dilemma of a roster fit, or an intriguing trading chip.
Vogelbach took more notice than most when the Cubs traded for Anthony Rizzo six months after drafting Vogelbach and then they signed Rizzo to a seven-year contract while Vogelbach was at Class A Kane County in May.
“It all goes back to worrying about what I can control,” he said. “I can’t control what Anthony Rizzo does or what the front office does with Anthony Rizzo. He’s a great guy. He’s a great ballplayer. ... They’ve got a plan for me, and my goal is just to keep going and get there as fast as possible.”
Then there’s this — the collective bargaining agreement expires in 2016, and there are rumblings in the game that the National League could adopt the designated hitter.
Either way, Rizzo says he understands. He had veterans supposedly “blocking” him as he rose through the minors in three organizations.
“The biggest thing I tell all my friends in the minor leagues is there’s no one blocking you to the big leagues,” he said. “When he’s ready to be in the big leagues, there’s going to be someone who wants him. He’s not playing for Daytona. He’s playing for 30 major-league teams. In the minor leagues, you showcase yourself in front of scouts every single day.”
Now he’s got to get that far.
“He’ll probably have to be a guy that proves himself every year,” scouting executive Tim Wilken said. “But he likes to prove people wrong.”