MLB Prospect Watch is profiling one prospect from each organization per day throughout the months of November, December and January. You can find all of the player profiles here and the schedule for when each team is profiled here.
Normally when I profile a prospect it requires discussing all aspects of his game, breaking down his hitting ability, defensive skills and base running prowess. Unfortunately, Dan Vogelbach doesn't really have either of the last two.
Vogelbach is fat and slow, and he's only 20, which doesn't bode well for his development. Luckily for Vogelbach, he rakes.
The Cubs selected Vogelbach in the second round in 2011, but they brought him along slowly, keeping him in short-season ball for the entire 2012 season. That's not a knock on Vogelbach as much as it is an organizational philosophy they have used with many prospects.
Vogelbach is stuck playing first base and that's not changing, which means the bar has been set very high for him to be a productive major leaguer. It's not, however, a bar that Vogelbach can't reach. In his first year of full-season ball in 2013, Vogelbach hit .284/.375/.449 with 19 home runs split between Low and High-A ball.
In addition to plus raw power, Vogelbach also has strong bat-to-ball skills and an advanced eye at the plate. That will allow him to continue to have value with the bat even if he struggles to make contact as much against more advanced pitching. There aren't serious concerns about Vogelbach's ability to make contact, however, and perhaps the most impressive part of his season was that he hit for the power he hit for while only striking out 89 times.
The biggest obstacle for Vogelbach may be the roadblocks ahead of him in the Cubs system. Anthony Rizzo is signed through 2019 and is essentially the face of the franchise. Both play first base. Additionally, even if Rizzo is moved on, the Cubs have a number of corner infield prospects, at least one of whom could shift over to first base and would provide better defense to go with comparable offense.
These, of course, are the types of problems that work themselves out over time and are of little concern to the Cubs right now. At the moment, they're happy to watch Vogelbach continue to rake and will figure out what to do with him when the time comes. Vogelbach finished up the 2013 season with a 17-game stint in the Florida State League and will probably head back there to begin the 2014 season. He could be ready for the majors by the end of 2015 but 2016 is a more likely time-frame.
Vogelbach likely profiles best on an American League team where he can DH at least a portion of the time. He can play first base, but he'll never be terribly good at it unless he manages to transform his body. The Cubs will figure out how best to use him, whether it's as their first baseman or as trade bait once they're ready to add veterans, but for now, he's as refined of a hitter as they have in their system.