The Cubs have one of the strongest systems in baseball, but a top prospect is never guaranteed to succeed. What do the current crop of Cubs prospects need to improve upon? Let’s take a look at the notable first basemen in the system: Dan Vogelbach, Rock Shoulders, and Dustin Geiger
2014 Goal: Improved Pitch Selection
2013 was, by most measures, a very successful full-season debut for Dan Vogelbach, who slashed .284/.375/.449 with 19 bombs across two A-ball levels. Vogelbach’s power numbers were down a bit from what we expected out of him, but I think there’s a pretty good reason for that, and I don’t think it has anything to do with his weight loss.
In Kane County, Vogelbach would often get into a swing-heavy approach early in counts, and he’s a natural enough hitter to make contact with most of the pitches he sees. Unfortunately, a lot of the pitches he ended up swinging at were pitcher’s pitches that he would have been better served letting go.
As a result, he popped up and weakly grounded out surprisingly often for someone with his tools at the plate. You can see some of that in the embedded video below.
In 2014, I would like to see Vogelbach continue to improve in his pitch selection. He improved his walk rate and strikeout rate with each month in 2013, and his groundball rate was significantly lower late in the season as well. However, Vogelbach’s popup rate (the weakest contact in baseball) was between 8% and 11.5% throughout in every month after April. His line drive rate, which ended up at 16.7%, also left a lot to be desired.
To make it as an MLB 1B/DH, these are the things Dan Vogelbach will need to improve upon. And if he can learn to lay off of pitcher’s pitches, his batted ball & overall results will certainly improve.
2014 Goal: Learn Left Field and Cut Down on Strikeouts
Rock Shoulders has been a fan favorite since he was drafted because, well, he’s named Rock Shoulders, and that’s a freakin’ sweet name.
Unfortunately for Rock, he’s blocked in the system at first base by Rizzo and Vogelbach, and he doesn’t have the bat to compete with either. He is decent athletically, and handled left field last season admirably for someone who likely doesn’t belong there. It’s a long shot that he’d ever be remotely competent there, but the bat just might play in the outfield.
The bat wasn’t great last season (.258/.352/.445), but he works the count well and hits for good power. His biggest problem has been the strikeout, as he’s been punched out at least 28% of the time at each stop in the minors. If he can cut down on the Ks and make more contact, and possibly add a bit of positional versatility, Shoulders could give himself a fighting shot to stay interesting into the upper minors.
2014 Goal: Start Hitting RHP
Overall, Dustin Geiger’s 2013 was juuuust strong enough to keep him on Cubs fans’ radars, as he posted a respectable .281/.365/.458 line.
Unfortunately, Geiger’s line against right handed pitching was a paltry .231/.294/.361, which won’t cut it at any position, let alone first base. For Geiger to make it to the majors as even a bench bat, he’s going to have to significantly improve against righties to justify his job. No team carries a 1B-only type who can only hit lefties. 25 man roster spots are just too valuable to carry that kind of guy.
Stats courtesy of MLBFarm.com and @darenw
Type your email address in the box and click the "create subscription" button. My list is completely spam free, and you can opt out at any time.