Cubs prospect Dan Vogelbach hoping less is more
BY GORDON WITTENMYER Staff Reporter February 25, 2014 9:37PM
Updated: February 26, 2014 2:27AM
MESA, Ariz. — Slugging prospect Dan Vogelbach’s big plans for this season started with thinking small during the offseason.
So far, the results have been huge — as in 30 pounds trimmed from his 6-foot frame.
‘‘I feel much better, looser, a lot more athletic,’’ said Vogelbach, whom Baseball America ranks as the Cubs’ ninth-best prospect. ‘‘I feel I can do a lot more things I wouldn’t be able to do the last couple of seasons.’’
That has meant more agility around the bag at first and quicker hands on his powerful swing.
‘‘I’m not tied up on some pitches I used to get tied up on,’’ said Vogelbach, the Cubs’ second-round pick in 2011, who was conservatively listed at 250 pounds last year.
The biggest upside to the dramatic downsizing might be the potential for Vogelbach to gain a firmer foothold in his long-range future with the organization.
‘‘It’s really fulfilling from tons of the coaches’ and front-office people’s standpoint because that’s what we’ve talked about with this guy for the last two years,’’ said Class A Daytona manager Dave Keller, who had Vogelbach for the final few weeks of last season. ‘‘[We wanted] to get him to understand that, at some point in time in athletics, everybody has to change their body to perform. It’s a huge credit to him that he made a drastic commitment to change. And the key word there is ‘drastic.’ ’’
A big knock on Vogelbach, 21, was his lack of defensive agility, which had some projecting his future would be as a designated hitter.
‘‘I’ve said all along I don’t want to just be a DH,’’ said Vogelbach, whose nickname is ‘‘Vogelbomb.’’ ‘‘I want to play in the field; I want to play first base. I think this helps out with infielders having confidence in me. And it gives me more confidence around the bag, going to get balls that maybe I wouldn’t go get before. And though I’ve been able to stay healthy throughout the years, this’ll help me with that, too.’’
The weight loss hasn’t cost him any strength, said Vogelbach, who still looks solid.
‘‘I got stronger as I lost weight,’’ he said. ‘‘I kept lifting, and I kept working out. I feel like I’ve got more power because I’m a lot looser and my hands are more free. I’m not as stiff up there.’’
After hitting .284 with 19 home runs in a season that began at low-Class A Kane County and finished in the high-Class A Florida State League finals, that might mean even bigger things at the plate for the smaller Vogelbach.
‘‘It’s a huge year,’’ he said. ‘‘Every year’s a huge year. . . . Last year, I had a good year; I didn’t have a great year. I want to have great years. So this is a big year for me to come out and have a better year than last year.’’
Vogelbach lost 15 pounds in the first six weeks after last season working with his brother, a personal trainer in Florida. And after spending November at the Cubs’ facility in Arizona, he returned home and still managed to lose five to seven pounds over the holidays, he said.
‘‘It’s staying focused; it’s not skipping days,’’ he said. ‘‘My brother
always says you can rest when you’re dead.’’
The last thing Vogelbach is doing these days is resting. If anything, all that weight loss gives him a hungrier look as he takes his next step in the Cubs’ system.
‘‘Everybody knows he can hit, and everybody loves to watch him hit,’’ Keller said. ‘‘But you get to a certain point in the minor leagues where it’s not just about hitting. It’s about playing the [whole] game, being able to contribute to help your team win.
‘‘And with the transformation he’s gone through, it’s really cool to watch.’’