There's no shortage of infield talent in the Chicago Cubs' farm system, and one of 2017's most intriguing prospects could be found playing the hot corner in Kodak, Tennessee.
Smokies third baseman Jason Vosler enjoyed a breakout season this year, arguably making him the strongest third base prospect in the system.
Previously known for being more of a ground ball hitter, Vosler became a power threat in the Southern League, tying for second in the league for home runs (21), as well as coming in second for RBIs (81). Conversely, he hit a total of three home runs last season between High-A Myrtle Beach and Double-A Tennessee and racked up 51 RBIs between the two teams.
There was no specific tweak the West Nyack, New York native made to his approach at the plate to improve his batting; he simply focused on not hitting weak ground balls.
“I never set out to change my swing to become a fly ball hitter,” Vosler told me. “I made some adjustments that were needed, so I would be able to drive the ball into the gap more consistently.”
Although the 24-year-old showed an impressive amount of strength this season, he doesn’t consider himself to be a power hitter as that is not his goal when he steps up to the plate.
“My goal is to have a competitive at bat and to put the barrel on the ball as often as possible,” he explained. “If it goes over the fence, that’s awesome, but the main goal is to hit the ball hard every time and do what I have to in order to help the team win.”
The competitive bat he strived for made Vosler one of the Smokies' top players this season. He lead the team in runs scored (70), home runs (21), and RBI (81). He also lead the entire Cubs' farm system in home runs. Additionally, he was named to the Southern League All-Star team and named the 2017 Southern League All-Star Third Baseman of the Year for his successful season.
The Northeastern University product credits current Cubs’ then minor league hitting coordinator and current major league assistant hitting coach Andy Haines with his success at the dish while working with him over the past two seasons.
“He works hard on understanding what goes into the swing and is very good about relaying that information to us,” Vosler said of Haines.
Vosler also praised Tennessee hitting coach Jacob Cruz for his help throughout the 2017 season, as well as his time in the Arizona Fall League. “He has seen just about every at bat that I have taken this season, so he can always steer me back in the right direction whenever something goes wrong with my swing.”
The Cubs’ coaching staff also helped Vosler improve his fielding, decreasing his fielding errors from 16 in 2016 to just seven in 2017.
“Working with all the coaches during spring training, instructs and throughout the year has really helped me improve in the field,” Vosler said. He told Cubs Den in an interview in May 2016 that he felt defense “wasn’t one of his stronger points,” but it is evident his hard work has paid off since then.
A strong regular season earned Vosler a spot on the 2017 Arizona Fall League from October into November where he posted a slash line of .210/.323/.333. While he didn’t put up quite the numbers we saw during the regular season (.241/.343/.429), Vosler found his time in the AFL to be a good experience, especially having the opportunity to play with a variety of talent on the field.
“It’s been fun to play alongside and against some of these great players who you don’t necessarily get to play against during the season because of the different leagues and levels," Vosler said.
Looking ahead to 2018 where one would assume he will make the jump to Triple-A Iowa, Vosler is still striving for improvement in his overall game. “I don’t think you can ever stop trying to improve in any area of the game,” he said.