Results tagged ‘ Dan Vogelbach ’

From the Pages of Vine Line: The Arizona Fall League is back

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A lot of eyes will be on the Cubs’ top pitching prospect C.J. Edwards this fall. (Photo by Roger C. Hoover)

The prospect-laden Arizona Fall League kicks off Tuesday. Be sure to follow the Vine Line blog all AFL season for recaps on how the Cubs prospects fared the night before. The following story can be found in the October issue of Vine Line.

The Arizona Fall League has always been a launching pad for major league careers. Every fall, organizations send their top prospects to the offseason showcase. Javier Baez hit four home runs in 14 AFL games in 2012, and Kris Bryant took home league MVP honors in 2013.

This year, the Cubs will send a new batch of up-and-coming farmhands to Arizona to see how they fare against the best players the minor leagues have to offer.

Addison Russell will headline the group—and could very well headline the league, as he’s baseball’s No. 6 prospect, according to MLB.com. Despite missing the early part of the season with a hamstring injury and adjusting to an early-July trade, the 20-year-old never missed a beat, hitting .295/.350/.508 (AVG/OBP/SLG) with 13 homers over 68 games, all while playing elite defense at shortstop. This will be his second appearance in the AFL, as he represented Oakland last year.

Injuries derailed much of right-handed pitcher C.J. Edwards’ Double-A season, but he was lights out once he returned to action in late July. Baseball’s No. 56 prospect finished the year with a 2.35 ERA in 58.2 innings, striking out 54 batters.

First baseman Dan Vogelbach got off to a slow start, but picked things up as the season progressed. The slugger, who slimmed down in the offseason, hit .268/.357/.429 with 16 homers and 76 RBI for High-A Daytona.

Right-handed pitchers Ivan Pineyro and Zach Cates, lefty Gerardo Concepción, and athletic outfielder Jacob Hannemann have also been invited to the AFL. Outfielder Bijan Rademacher will serve as a member of the taxi squad, which means he’s available to play only twice a week.

Checking in on the Cubs top 10 prospects

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Kris Bryant is ripping the cover off the ball in Double-A. (Photo by Stephen Green)

We’re more than two months into the minor league season, so it seemed like a good time to check in on some of the organization’s top prospects. While a few have struggled this year, others are exceeding expectations and could be in line for a promotion in the near future. Here is an update on how MLB.com’s top 10 Cubs minor leaguers have fared thus far in 2014.

1. Javier Baez, SS
Triple-A Iowa

Baez entered 2014 as possibly the most talked about prospect in baseball. And a stellar Spring Training left people wondering when the club’s top prospect would make his way to Wrigley Field. But his free-swinging approach looks to have caught up with the 2011 first-round pick at the moment, as nearly 35 percent of his plate appearances have resulted in strikeouts.

There’s no denying his power though, as he still has nine homers and 10 doubles. His .225/.285/.430 (AVG/OBP/SLG) will need to improve, but as he gets better adjusted to Triple-A pitching—the closest replica to what major league arms have to offer—the closer he gets to being a regular on the North Side. Mind you, Baez started last season slowly too, and he has shown signs of breaking out lately. Plus, he doesn’t even turn 22 years old until the offseason.

2. Kris Bryant, 3B
Double-A Tennessee

Frankly, there isn’t a whole lot more Bryant can prove in the Southern League at this point. The 2013 first-round pick has destroyed everything Double-A pitchers have to offer, and the stats show he is the best hitter in the league—and maybe in all the minors. He currently is the SL leader in all three slash line categories (.359/.461/.717), home runs (22), RBI (56), hits (85), total bases (170), walks (40) and OPS (1.178).

It’s unclear what the Cubs have in store for Bryant as we reach the halfway point of the season. He could see a position change to the corner outfield, where many believe he’ll see the most time once he reaches the majors. But a promotion of some kind is likely in the works in the near future.

3. Albert Almora, CF
High-A Daytona

Almora’s season has been up and down, as he’d surely like to improve his .250/.273/.332 line. The defensive standout has been as advertised this year, committing just one error in 152 chances. Though he doesn’t have the power of the first two guys on the list, the 2012 first-round pick benefits from not striking out nearly as much (12.4 K%).

Almora’s batting average on balls in play is down 85 points from last season, and it’s well below his career average. This suggests he might be having some poor luck as well. He has still managed to drive in 29 runs this year, already more than his injury-plagued 2013, which means that his hits have been somewhat timely.

4. C.J. Edwards, RHP
Double-A Tennessee

The mid-June report on Edwards could only be summed up as incomplete, as the thin right-hander hasn’t pitched since April 20, following inflammation in his right shoulder. In four starts and 20.2 innings pitched, Edwards has a 2.61 ERA and an 8.7 K/9 total.

Edwards shot up most prospect charts late last season. He dominated at Daytona after coming over in a trade for Matt Garza from Texas.

5. Jorge Soler, OF
Double-A Tennessee

Soler has been unable to remain healthy in 2014. He began the season dealing with a stress fracture in his leg and is currently rehabbing his right hamstring. In seven games this year, the Cuban-born outfielder has hit .333 in 27 plate appearances.

Soler’s got the build of a future middle-of-the-order bat, and the Cubs hope he can get back onto the field quickly and remain there. For Soler, it’s all about reps.

6. Arismendy Alcantara, IF
Triple-A Iowa

Alcantara is making a nice case for a call-up to the major league level. The middle infielder recently made his first start in the outfield—a likely destination in the bigs—and is hitting .273/.309/.515 with eight homers, 30 RBI and 10 stolen bases.

His ability to play multiple positions definitely bodes well for the future, but he needs to cut down on his 25 percent strikeout rate. He definitely has top-the-order potential.

7. Pierce Johnson, RHP
Double-A Tennessee

The 2012 supplemental first-round draft pick enjoyed a ton of success in 2013 as one of the key members of the High-A Daytona Cubs FSL championship team. The 2014 season has been a bit of a struggle for Johnson, as calf injuries have kept him off the field since mid-May. He currently has a 4.39 ERA and a 1-1 record in six appearances (five starts).

Johnson’s 7.43 K/9 rate is still solid for a starter.

8. Arodys Vizcaino, RHP
Double-A Tennessee

Vizcaino was the prize of the Paul Maholm haul in a 2012 deal with the Braves. When he joined the Cubs, he was rehabbing from Tommy John surgery, but he had a setback that caused him to miss all of 2013. The right-hander returned this season and after a solid start in High-A Daytona, was promoted to Tennessee. He’s pitched only 11.2 innings in the Southern League, but has been impressive for his new club, posting a 3.09 ERA and a 10.0 K/9 rate. He’s also cut his walk rate in half from his time in Daytona.

Vizcaino still needs to play more regularly, but it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him coming out of the Cubs bullpen sometime later this season.

9. Jeimer Candelario, 3B
High-A Daytona

Candelario is still a raw prospect with the Cubs, as his .194 average in High-A indicates. But he’s on the younger end of prospects in the FSL, and his ability to draw walks (9.9 BB/9) is just what the organization is looking for. He’s getting a lot of experience in a league notorious for its pitching, which will be nothing but good for the young Candelario.

10. Dan Vogelbach, 1B
High-A Daytona

Vogelbach has had a decent season at Daytona this year, despite a slight drop in his power numbers through the first half. For a middle-order bat, he’s managed to cut down on an already-impressive strikeout rate, while maintaining his walk rate. His five homers are down from last year, but he has 25 RBI and his .267/.352/.406 line is right on par with his career numbers. The 2011 pick managed to drop some weight heading into the season, which will bode well for his long-term prospects.

Cubs farm system ranks second in baseball

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Kris Bryant is a big reason why the Cubs have one of the best farm systems in baseball. (Photo by Stephen Green)

The Cubs haven’t fared that well on the field at the major league level for a few seasons now, but they’ve still earned a well-deserved pat on the back for the transformation that’s taken place at the minor league stages. On Wednesday, Baseball Prospectus ranked the Cubs the second best farm system in the game.

To put that into perspective, the list Baseball Prospectus unveiled during the 2011 Spring Training—the last before baseball president Theo Epstein and General Manager Jed Hoyer’s arrival—had them ranked No. 23.

In the 2014 list, the Cubs trail only the Twins for the best farm system. Here is what they had to say about the club:

2. Chicago Cubs
Farm System Ranking in 2013: 12
2014 Top Ten Prospects: Link
State of the System: Thanks to a strong draft, clever trades, an aggressive acquisition plan in the international market, and developmental progress from some of the big names in the system, the Cubs became one of the strongest systems in the game.
Top Prospect: Javier Baez (4)
Breakout Candidates for 2014: Jeimer Candelario and Paul Blackburn
Prospects on the BP 101: 7
Must-See Affiliate: Double-A Tennessee
Prospects to See There: Kris Bryant, Albert Almora, Jorge Soler, CJ Edwards, Pierce Johnson, Dan Vogelbach
Farm System Trajectory for 2015: Up. While its likely that several of the Cubs’ top prospects will get a taste of the majors in 2014, the majority of the talent will remain eligible for next season’s list, and if you add to the mix a high draft pick this June and an extreme amount of young depth ready to make their stateside debuts, the system could take over the coveted rank of number one in baseball.

From the Pages of Vine Line: 2014 Minor League Prospectus, Ready to Break Out

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Duane Underwood has one of the highest ceilings of all the Cubs arms. (Photo by Scott McDaniel)

For many Chicagoans, February means cold weather. At Vine Line, it’s all about the Cubs minor league prospectus. In the February issue, fans can check out frequent contributor Sahadev Sharma’s player breakdowns for more than 45 of the organization’s top prospects, from teenagers like Eloy Jimenez to elite talents like Javier Baez. This is our final online installment. For more information, pick up the February issue of Vine Line.

Also from the Series:
2014 Cubs Minor League Prospectus – The Elite
2014 Cubs Minor League Prospectus – Close to Big Leagues
2014 Cubs Minor League Prospectus – International Impact
2014 Cubs Minor League Prospectus – Pitching Depth

READY TO BREAK OUT

Not every name in the Cubs system sits atop prospect lists like Javier Baez and Kris Bryant. But the best organizations not only have top talent and balance, they also have players not everyone has heard of who have a chance to blossom into very good major leaguers.

Whether they’re lacking the flashy tool that garners headlines or are just a little raw and haven’t yet put everything together, there are definitely names worth watching in the Cubs system. And many of these prospects could become much more familiar to fans over the next nine months.

STEPHEN BRUNO
DOB: 11/17/1990
POSITION: 2B
HIGHEST 2013 LEVEL: DAYTONA
2013 STATS: .362/.436/.478 (19 GAMES)

There’s no two ways about it, this kid can flat-out hit. With a front-to-back stroke, Bruno uses the whole field, attacks the fastball and has the ability to stay on the breaking ball. Unfortunately, his season ended early with an elbow injury that required Tommy John surgery. If not for that, it wouldn’t have been a surprise for Bruno to hit his way up to Double-A.

He likely won’t be ready by Spring Training, but the hope is he’ll be able to get on the field early in the minor league season. When he does, expect him to once again hit line drives all over the field.

ROCK SHOULDERS
DOB: 9/26/1991
POSITION: 1B
HIGHEST 2013 LEVEL: KANE COUNTY
2013 STATS: .258/.352/.445 (117 GAMES)

The man with the best name in the system mashed at a tough park for hitters in Kane County early on, earning organizational Player of the Month honors in April. A full-figured kid, Shoulders is more athletic than many realize. He played third base as an amateur, and there are those in the Cubs organization who believe he could have some value in the outfield.

With a winning combination of patience and power, the bat will always be enticing. Now it’s a matter of developing versatility on defense or finding one place to play and really focusing on it.

DUANE UNDERWOOD
DOB: 7/20/1994
POSITION: RHP
HIGHEST 2013 LEVEL: BOISE
2013 STATS: 54.1, 4.97 ERA, 36 K, 27 BB (11 STARTS, 14 APPEARANCES)

Outside of C.J. Edwards and perhaps Pierce Johnson, Underwood may have the highest ceiling of any pitcher in the organization. Unfortunately, he came into Spring Training in less-than-ideal shape, which led to inconsistent performance throughout the season. The hope is that he learned his lesson and will prepare appropriately this offseason so he can come into the spring ready to take off.

As far as the stuff is concerned, when he’s on, the fastball is 92-96 mph, and he has a knee-buckling curve. But consistency is an issue, and he didn’t get as many whiffs as you’d expect from a guy with his stuff.

“He’ll come into next season as a 19-year-old, and we’re just waiting for the light to come on,” McLeod said. “His upside is as high as anybody we’ve got.”

CHRISTIAN VILLANUEVA
DOB: 6/19/1991
POSITION: 3B
HIGHEST 2013 LEVEL: TENNESSEE
2013 STATS: .261/.317/469 (133 GAMES)

Already a big league-caliber defender at third, Villanueva showed some pop for the first time in his career in 2013, hitting 41 doubles and 19 home runs. There are some swing mechanics the Cubs will continue to work on with him, and they’d like to see him improve his plate discipline as far as controlling the strike zone. But Villanueva has the profile teams look for at third base, especially if the power output remains at the level he showed this season. Defensively, his hands and feet are as good as anyone’s.

DAN VOGELBACH
DOB: 12/17/1992
POSITION: 1B
HIGHEST 2013 LEVEL: DAYTONA
2013 STATS: .284/.375/.449 (131 GAMES)

Vogelbach grew up playing baseball in the Florida sun, so the cold late spring in Kane County was a shock to his system this past season. Many balls that normally would have cleared the fence or fallen for doubles became easy outs. However, his struggles in a cold and rainy April helped him grow immensely as a player. By the end of the year, his numbers were solid, and he’d done enough to earn a promotion to Daytona.

The bat has always been a plus for Vogelbach, as he shows light-tower power and can drive the ball to all parts of the field. Of course, the biggest question will always be his body and whether it will keep him from sticking at first base. While he’ll never be mistaken for slender, there have been some positive signs of late.
“He was probably the best I’ve ever seen him look [in November for instructs] in Arizona,” McLeod said.

McLeod pointed to next season as being a huge year for Vogelbach. He’ll have to continue to stay in shape and prove his bat can carry him to the bigs.

GIOSKAR AMAYA (2B) – Amaya had an up-and-down 2013, but he has bat speed, power for a second baseman, solid plate discipline and the speed to steal a base here and there. He’s a very hard worker, but he can be too tough on himself from time to time. Still, he’s an intelligent ballplayer with tools and plus-makeup.

SHAWON DUNSTON JR. (OF) – Dunston grew up a lot in 2013 after struggling early in his professional career. He had a strong first half in Boise but fell off toward the end. He has all the tools, drew a lot of walks and can steal bases. The Cubs are working on his bat path, as Dunston tends to get a little pull-happy.

KEVIN ENCARNACION (OF) – Encarnacion hit for average and power, drew walks and stole bases in a strong year at Boise. He’s a switch-hitter with a corner-outfield profile. Though he was a little old for the Northwest League, his confidence improved this season after a strong performance. He shows a fluid swing with a very good idea of the strike zone.

DUSTIN GEIGER (1B) – This streaky, big-bodied power hitter mashes lefties and holds his own against righties. Geiger should move into a hitters’ park in Tennessee next year, so he needs to keep putting up offensive numbers and improving defensively.

JACOB HANNEMANN (OF) – Hannemann was a surprise third-round pick in last summer’s draft. He flew under the radar because he hadn’t played for a few years due to a Mormon mission and commitment to the BYU football team. He has a strong left-handed bat and a good feel for the strike zone. From a tools standpoint, he’s a dynamic guy with tremendous speed, a Jacoby Ellsbury-type body and athleticism. He’s raw because of limited playing time, but the Cubs are betting on his upside.

CARLOS PIMENTEL (RHP) – Recently named the Dominican Winter League Pitcher of the Year, this strong-armed reliever has proven to be a tough match-up. He’s a short-arm guy, and hitters often have a tough time picking up the ball. He has been up to 94 mph with the fastball, which he complements with a slider and a solid change-up. His command and control can waver, but he’s a pitcher who gives opponents an uncomfortable at-bat.

IVAN PINEYRO (RHP) – Acquired in a trade with the Nationals for Scott Hairston, Pineyro is a strike thrower with an impressive change-up. He’s not a stuff guy, but the belief is he can end up at the back end of a good major league rotation.

—Sahadev Sharma

Cubs prospects all over Pleskoff’s Dream Team

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Dan Vogelbach is one of baseball’s top minor league first basemen. (Photo by Aldrin Capulong/Daytona Cubs)

Over the last few weeks, multiple baseball outlets have unveiled their respective prospect rankings, but the fun hasn’t stopped there. Some scribes are now taking things a step further.

As Vine Line documented yesterday, ESPN insider Dan Szymborski used his stat projection system known as ZiPS to show some love for Cubs uberprospects Javier Baez, Kris Bryant and Arismendy Alcantara.

On Wednesday, MLB.com’s Bernie Pleskoff unveiled another unique way to look at baseball’s best minor leaguers. He created a National League ‘Dream Team’ of prospects, naming his top player at each position.

Four Cubs farmhands claimed a spot in his starting lineup. Here’s what he had to say about the future North Siders:

First Base: Dan Vogelbach, Cubs, 21 years old

This is not a very deep position in the NL.

Vogelbach can flat-out hit, and he has produced at every level of play. He is a wide-bodied guy at six feet and 250 pounds. Vogelbach’s fielding leaves something to be desired, but in a slim group of first baseman, he gets my nod.

Shortstop: Javier Baez, Cubs, 21

I saw Baez hit some of the longest home runs ever struck in the Arizona Fall League. He has lightning-quick hands through the ball. Baez will be an offensive force.

Third Base: Kris Bryant, Cubs, 22

I am not convinced Bryant will continue as a third baseman. He’s a big man at 6-foot-5, 215 pounds. Bryant may be best suited using his outstanding arm in right field.

Bryant is a power hitter with a sweet stroke. He has advanced hitting ability with a chance to fly through the organization.

Outfield: Albert Almora, Cubs, 19

Almora has the ability to play an outstanding center field without great fanfare. He’ll hit. He’ll run. He’ll play outstanding defense. Almora is a complete player with knowledge of his role. A line-drive hitter, Almora knows how to use the entire field as his personal playground.

Cubs prospect Baez tops projected ZiPS ranking

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(Photo by Stephen Green)

Prospect rankings generally spark great debate and are subjected to a significant level of scrutiny.

Last week, ESPN insider Keith Law unveiled his top 100 prospects in the game, which included six Cubs. Fellow insider Dan Szymborski decided to put Law’s rankings to the test, utilizing Szymborski’s projection system, known as ZiPS.

As described on fangraphs.com, ZiPS attempts to project a player’s numbers using weighted averages from four years of data and adjusting for aging by looking at similar players and their aging trends. Szymborski ran his system for all the players on Law’s list, and found that Cubs top prospect Javier Baez is projected to have the highest career Wins Above Replacement total.

As its top pick, ZiPS selects Javier Baez of the Chicago Cubs. Part of the projections calculated by ZiPS involves translating minor league statistics and comparing those to previous players’ numbers. ZiPS translates Baez’s 2013 performance in the minors at .248/.293/.472, and while that OBP is slightly on the low side, that’s a phenomenal offensive season for a 20-year-old shortstop. ZiPS compares Baez to names such as Cal Ripken, Alex Rodriguez, Tony Batista, and Danny Tartabull.

Cubs prospect Kris Bryant also cracks the top 10 in ZiPS projections, coming in at No. 9, six spots higher than where Law ranked him.

One of the biggest discrepancies between Law’s list and Szymborski’s related to five-tool Cubs infielder Arismendy Alcantara. While Law ranked him at 72, ZiPS projections moved him all the way up to 13.

Going down the ZiPS rankings, you see the first large disagreement in ranking in the form of another Cubs infield prospect, Arismendy Alcantara. A 21-year-old shortstop/second baseman putting up an OPS north of .800 in Double-A would have gotten a lot more attention if he was not in the same organization as Baez and a boatload of other prospects. ZiPS sees Alcantara regularly hitting in the .260s with 15-20 home runs a year, but with hitters like Michael Young, Barry Larkin, and Robin Yount high up in his offensive comp list, there’s the possibility that he’s even better.

There’s also a section discussing first base prospect Dan Vogelbach, whose player comparison is John Kruk, who had a similar build.

Vogelbach doesn’t have the body of someone seen as a prospect, looking more like Bartolo Colon, but he also more than held his own in a full-season league just two years out of high school. Vogelbach’s top ZiPS comp? John Kruk.

Below are the Cubs prospects in the top 100 ZiPS projections, with Law’s ranking in parenthesis:

1. Javier Baez, SS (7)
9. Kris Bryant, 3B (15)
13. Arismendy Alcantara, 2B (71)
24. Albert Almora, CF (28)
40. Jorge Soler, RF (26)
53. C.J. Edwards, RHP (67)
97. Dan Vogelbach, 1B (NA)

Baseball Prospectus names Cubs top 10 prospects

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(Photo courtesy of Daytona Cubs)

Inside baseball website Baseball Prospectus has spent the offseason cataloging each organization’s top 10 prospects. This morning, they finally released the Cubs cream of the crop. And if you needed another reason to trust in what the team is doing, this breakdown might just be it.

Prospect guru Jason Parks raved about the impact talent in the system, starting with the organization’s “Core Four” of Javier Baez, Kris Bryant, Albert Almora and Jorge Soler.

Through the amateur draft, trades, and the international market, the Cubs have built one of the strongest systems in baseball, with high-impact talent that everybody knows and better depth than people might realize. The farm will rank no. 2 in the minors, just behind the Twins and just ahead of the Pirates,” said Parks in his parting thoughts.

The content is for subscribers only (and if you love baseball, it’s well worth the cost of a subscription). Here’s a brief summary of how Baseball Prospectus ranked the Cubs talent. We list each player’s strengths, but there’s much more good stuff in the article. They also list an estimated time of arrival in the big leagues, and nine of the 10 Cubs prospects are expected to arrive in 2014 or 2015.

1. SS Javier Baez
Strengths: Elite bat speed; elite hands; plus hand-eye coordination; can make hard contact to all fields; natural ability to barrel the ball; raw power is elite; game power could play to elite; arm is plus-plus; actions are easy plus in the field; baseball instincts; superstar profile.

2. 3B Kris Bryant
Strengths: Excellent size and present strength; good athlete; elite raw power; game power could play plus-plus or better; highly leveraged swing built for over-the-fence production; some bat-to-ball ability and hit tool utility; plus arm; glove should play to average; fringe run but good athlete and coordinated for size.

3. CF Albert Almora
Strengths: High level baseball skills and instincts; natural bat-to-ball ability; can make hard contact to all fields; hit tool projects to be plus (or better) tracks well and shows advanced approach; has above-average raw power; swing more gap-to-gap at present but over-the-fence power could show up as he matures; glove in center is easy plus; quick reactions and proper reads help range; arm is solid-average to plus; cocky/confident player.

4. RF Jorge Soler
Strengths: Elite raw power; extreme strength and leverage in swing; game power could play to plus-plus; shows some hit tool quality; could play above average; arm is well above average; glove plays; runs well; looks the part.

5. RHP C.J. Edwards
Strengths: Loose, easy delivery; near elite release; ball just explodes out of his hand; fastball very comfortable in the 92-95 range; can work higher; very good angle and arm-side life; easy release helps secondary arsenal play up; changeup projects as plus offering; very good deception and fade; curveball is bat-missing weapon at present; above-average shape and depth; pitchability; good makeup.

6. SS Arismendy Alcantara
Strengths: Plus athlete with good present strength; excellent hands; creates plus bat speed and above-average power; short, clean path to the ball; makes hard contact; easy plus run; multi-dimensional offensive threat; plus arm; above-average glove at second; five-tool talent.

7. RHP Pierce Johnson
Strengths: Prototypical starter’s body; long, lean, and athletic; very good arm strength; fastball is plus; low-90s velocity that routinely pops the mid-90s on the gun; breaking is easy plus and could end up even better if the command improves; low-80s hammer curve with serious snap; some feel for an average changeup that has some projection.

8. 1B Dan Vegelbach
Strengths: Big boy strength; big boy raw power; doesn’t sell out swing for game power; generates impressive bat speed with quick, strong stroke that is short to the ball/long through it; projects to hit for both average and power; makes pitchers work and doesn’t give away outs.

9. 3B Christian Villanueva
Strengths: Broad-shouldered with good present strength; hands are exceptional in the field; fluid actions; excellent backhand pickup; easy plus arm; can make every play in, side, or back; fast hands at the plate; shows bat speed and some power potential; very heady player with plus makeup.

10. 3B Jeimer Candelario
Strengths: Good present strength; fluid swing from both sides of the plate; shows excellent bat speed and quick path to the ball; very mature approach; tracks the ball well; has a plan at the plate; power could play above average; arm is strong; work ethic to refine with the glove.

BP also lists three prospects that are on the rise in the Cubs system (pitchers RHP Paul Blackburn and LHP Rob Zastryzny and catcher C Mark Malave) and three prospects that could potentially contribute to the Cubs this year (3B Mike Olt, RHP Arodys Vizcaino and RHP Neil Ramirez).

From the Pages of Vine Line: Put under pressure

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Dan Vogelbach had success even after a promotion to High-A Daytona. (Photo by Aldrin Capulong/Daytona Cubs)

This story originally ran in the October issue of Vine Line.

When the Cubs promoted Dan Vogelbach to High-A Daytona on Aug. 13, the slugging first baseman suddenly found himself smack in the middle of a playoff race.

The 20-year-old prospect left Low-A Kane County hitting .282 with 17 homers and a then-Midwest League-leading 71 RBI. The Cougars, however, were mired in last place in their division.

“We struggled in Kane County, but we made the best of it,” Vogelbach said. “We didn’t cash it in like a lot of other teams did. But here, everyone is looking forward to the games because we know we have a pretty good chance to win. It makes going to the park so much easier when you have something to play for.”

This year, three Cubs affiliates were in playoff position by season’s end: Daytona, which eventually claimed the Florida State League title; Double-A Tennessee, which won the second-half Southern League North Division; and Short-Season Boise, which went 20-18 in the second half to clinch a spot in the Northwest League playoffs.

Minor league coaching staffs do all they can to help athletes prepare for the big leagues, but nothing simulates the day-to-day intensity at the top like a playoff run.

“Guys get to learn how to control their adrenaline,” said Daytona manager Dave Keller, who joined the Cubs organization in 2004 and has led two minor league teams to the postseason. “They can learn how to slow the game down in pressure situations. These are things that can happen only when you’re playing in a playoff atmosphere with more at stake.”

Something else also tends to happen in a playoff push. Players who usually pay close attention to their stats—because better numbers naturally get them closer to their big league dreams—turn their focus to wins and losses.

The Cubs promoted 2013 first-round pick Kris Bryant to Daytona the same day as Vogelbach. The third baseman had been playing in Boise after finishing up his college career at the University of San Diego, where he experienced a similar team-first ethos.

“You get the sense that everyone wants to win, and we’re all here for one another,” Bryant said. “If I’m focusing on helping the team, it’s only going to help me be a better player.”

Ultimately, the added pressure of a playoff race is a great teaching tool, because players learn what it’s like to play high-intensity baseball.

“Every pitch and every out gets magnified more,” Keller said. “These guys may say they don’t feel the pressure, but I know they take pride in their at-bats and innings pitched and everything else.”

Keller said he expected all his players, Vogelbach and Bryant included, to dial up their intensity for the postseason. That’s because the skipper knows one day, when these prospects are playing October baseball at Wrigley Field, they’ll have that experience to draw from.

—Chris Gigley

Cubs name Dan Vogelbach, Matt Loosen Minor League Player, Pitcher of the Month

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July Minor League Pitcher of the Month, Matt Loosen. (Photo by Rodger Wood)

Kane County first baseman Dan Vogelbach and right-hander Matt Loosen were named the organization’s Minor League Player and Pitcher of the Month for July.

The hard-hitting Vogelbach carried a .330/.417/.500 (AVG/OBP/SLG) slash line with four homers, four doubles and 19 RBI in 94 July at-bats for the Cougars. He’s hitting .290 on the year with 16 homers, good for third in the Midwest League.

The 20-year-old, who was a second-round pick in the 2011 draft, owns a .302 batting average with 44 doubles, three triples, 34 home runs and 136 RBI in 171 career minor league contests.

Loosen, who started the season with Tennessee before a brief demotion to Daytona, was tough to hit in July. The 24-year-old went 3-0 with a 0.96 ERA and 33 strikeouts over six starts last month. On July 8, he recorded the D-Cubs’ first no-hitter in 17 seasons, fanning nine and walking only two. In his last seven starts at Daytona, the right-hander went 5-0 with a 0.60 ERA, allowing just three extra-base hits.

Loosen, who was called back up to Tennessee on July 27, was selected in the 23rd round of the 2010 draft.

Previous 2013 winners:

April- IF Rock Shoulders, LHP Eric Jokisch

May- IF Dustin Geiger, RHP Kyle Hendricks

June- SS Javier Baez, LHP Chris Rusin

Six Cougars selected to MWL All-Star Game

The Kane County Cougars entered the 2013 season as one of the youngest squads in the Single-A Midwest League. Apparently, age hasn’t been a factor, as six Cougars—Nathan Dorris, Felix Pena, Bijan Rademacher, Tayler Scott, Rock Shoulders and Dan Vogelbach—were all named to the Western Division All-Star team on Wednesday. This marks the most All-Stars from Kane County since 2009.

Reliever Dorris has been a solid contributor out of the bullpen, posting a 2.52 ERA in 14 appearances and striking out 25 batters over 25 innings. He was drafted in the 17th round of last year’s draft.

Right-handed starter Pena has spent some time on the DL this season, but when healthy, the 23-year-old has posted a 2-0 record with a 2.11 ERA over 38.1 innings. The Cubs acquired him as a non-drafted free agent prior to the 2009 season.

A Johannesburg, South Africa native, Scott has started 10 games for the Cougars this season. He has a 2-2 record with a 4.56 ERA over 53.1 innings. The right-hander was selected in the fifth round of the 2011 draft.

Designated hitter Shoulders leads the league in home runs with 12 and was named the Cubs Minor League Player of the Month in April. His .884 OPS is sixth in the league largely thanks to a .505 slugging percentage. The Cubs drafted him in the 25th round of the 2011 draft.

Rademacher’s .310 batting average leads the Cougars for all players with more than 100 at-bats. The outfielder also has five doubles and 15 RBI on the season. He was drafted in the 13th round of the 2012 draft.

Vogelbach will serve as the starting DH for the Western Division. The hulking first baseman has nine homers, fourth in the MWL, as well as 39 RBI. He has an .807 OPS to go along with his .282 average. Vogelbach was selected in the 2nd round of the 2011 draft.

The game will be played on Tuesday, June 18, and will be hosted by the Dayton Dragons.

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