Chicago Cubs prospect watch: Daniel Vogelbach
Albert Pujols has it. Mark McGwire had it. Sammy Sosa and Ken Griffey Jr. had it, too. Barry Bondshad it so much that ESPN would interrupt programming just to show it. Certain players make you stop whatever you are doing and command all eyes on them when they are batting. You don’t want to be the one who missed out on the “oohs and aahs” of the crowd as you are ordering a beer or standing in line for the restroom as a moon shot puts out a window across the street. Even if some of those players had their “oohs and aahs” enhanced, stop-and-watch power is a rare thing, especially these days.
The Chicago Cubs were looking for some power in the 2011 draft. With their first pick, they got one of the best all around high school bats in Javier Baez, a third baseman who draws offensive comparisons to Aramis Ramirez. They were also looking at a kid from Bishop Verot High School in Fort Myers, Florida. A 6’-0”, 250 lb first baseman named Daniel Vogelbach. When the second round came along, and the name was still on the board, they pounced. Vogelbach’s asking price was high as he had a strong commitment to play for the University of Florida and teams shied away, causing him to slip to the 68th overall pick. The Cubs, determined to shore up their depleted farm system, and out spend everyone else, gave him a $1.6MM signing bonus to lock up arguably the best power hitting prospect in the draft.
As a senior at Bishop Verot, a powerhouse that has had 12 players drafted in baseball, Vogelbach hit .467 with 19 HR/54 RBI and a .571/.1.239/1.810 slash line over 34 games. He drew 27 walks while only striking out eight times. While he has plus/plus power to all fields, he isn’t a one-dimensional player. His quick wrists and exceptional bat speed allow him to never get cheated at the plate. His plate discipline is far advanced for his age, and even with his long swing, he has the patience to lay off pitches out of the zone. He also is one of those players that the ball just sounds different coming off his bat, once he connects, you just know.
Growing up in Florida as a baseball player has its advantages. Aside from year-round baseball weather, the state houses many of the top prep events in the nation. Vogelbach was able to display his talents to a national audience by participating in 19 Perfect Game events over three years, including the 2010 Perfect Game Power Showcase, a home run derby that pitted 99 of the top power hitters in the country. He won the event by putting dents all over Chase Field en route to a record-setting total of 30 home runs, including a 508-foot bomb, another record.
A major concern that has followed Vogelbach over the years is his weight. As a junior, he topped out at 288. He changed his diet and workout regimen between his junior and senior seasons and lost a whopping 40 lbs. This is not a kid you can slap a “lazy” tag onto. He eats, sleeps and breathes baseball. Linus had his blanket, Vogelbach has his bat. He has a love for the game, and a confidence at the plate that draws people in. Because of that, along with his size and his left-handed power stroke, he obviously draws comparisons to Prince Fielder. The three-time All-Star for the Milwaukee Brewers has averaged 40 HR/113 RBI over the past six seasons while only missing 10 games. His weight hasn’t effected him.
Vogelbach made his pro debut for the Cubs Arizona Rookie League this fall. Over six games, he hit .292 with three doubles, one home run and six RBI. He walked twice and struck out twice over 24 at bats. At the team’s instructional league in Florida, he hit .261 over 16 games. He had two doubles, a triple, one home run, seven RBI and two stolen bases, showing good instincts on the base paths. He also showed off his plate discipline by walking 10 times, good for a .393 OBP.
He will most likely start this season at either short season Boise or Class A Peoria. At just 19 years old, and with the Cubs recently acquiring 23-year-old prospect Anthony Rizzo, they can afford to be patient with him. But in a couple of years, when he is coming up to bat, you better have your beer in hand and butt in your seat.