Playing for the Solar Sox this fall, the 21-year-old Vogelbach has hit .229/.364/.286 in his first 11 games, showing off his patience at the plate with eight walks. He's sharing Mesa's first-base job with Matt Olson (Athletics) and also getting some time at DH.
Olson and Vogelbach are two of the best first-base prospects in baseball. While playing on the same team, they've developed a mutually beneficial relationship.
"Matt and I have become pretty close," Vogelbach said. "He's awesome and we get along pretty well. I've tried to pick up on a lot of stuff he does, like around the bag, because he's a very good first baseman. At the plate, if he sees something, he'll point it out. He always tries to help."
A Florida high school product, Vogelbach earned his large bonus with his left-handed power, but he's more than just a masher. He works counts, uses the whole field and keeps his swing under control, so he should post solid batting averages and on-base percentages against more advanced pitching. He hit .268/.357/.429 with 16 homers in 132 games at Class A Advanced Daytona this year.
The biggest questions he faces are how he'll crack the Cubs' lineup down the road with All-Star Anthony Rizzo entrenched at first base and whether he can handle the defensive responsibilities of the position. At 6 feet and 250 pounds, Vogelbach is a well below-average runner and some scouts question whether he can become an adequate defender. To his credit, he has worked hard to improve his conditioning -- he topped 280 pounds at one point in high school -- and his glove work.
"I can play first base," Vogelbach said. "I'm trying to get better at it every single day. I'm going to continue to work and continue to get better. My goal is to play first base in the big leagues, not to DH."
Cubs hitters in the AFL
• Outfielder Jacob Hannemann took three years off from baseball to go on a Mormon mission and play football at Brigham Young, then returned to the diamond in 2013 and earned $1 million as a third-round pick in the '13 First-Year Player Draft. A premium athlete with raw power and well above-average speed, he batted .251/.315/.368 with 37 steals between two Class A stops in his first full pro season.
• Though Bijan Rademacher featured a low-90s fastball as a left-handed pitcher at Orange Coast (Calif.) JC, the Cubs paid him $100,000 as a 13th-round pick in 2012 to be an outfielder. He shows a feel for hitting as well as average power potential and speed, and he batted .281/.363/.448 with 10 homers for Daytona this year.
• Shortstop Addison Russell batted just .196 during his three weeks in the AFL before leaving in late October, but he homered twice in his final three games and didn't diminish his status as one of the game's top prospects. The 11th overall pick in the 2012 Draft out of a Florida high school by the Athletics, he has solid or better tools across the board and came to Cubs as their key piece in the Jeff Samardzija trade in July. Russell missed much of the first half of the season with a hamstring injury and batted .295/.350/.508 with 13 homers in 68 games, mostly in Double-A.
Cubs pitchers in the AFL
• A 2010 third-round choice by the Padres from Northeast Texas CC, right-hander Zach Cates joined the Cubs as part of the Rizzo/Andrew Cashner trade in January 2012. Turned into a full-time reliever this year, he has a hard sinker that reaches 94 mph and a slider that shows signs of becoming a plus pitch. He had a 4.08 ERA and 40 strikeouts in 53 innings between Daytona and Double-A Tennessee in 2014.
• Left-hander Gerardo Concepcion was shelled in his pro debut after signing a $6 million contract in March 2012 and missed most of 2013 with back issues, but he fared better this year as a reliever with a 3.32 ERA and 55 strikeouts in 59 2/3 innings (mostly with Class A Kane County). His curveball is his best pitch and gives him a chance of becoming a lefty specialist.
• The crown jewel of the trade that sent Matt Garza to the Rangers in July 2013, right-hander C.J. Edwards is a former 48th-rounder (out of a South Carolina high school in 2011) turned top pitching prospect. He has an electric fastball that can reach 97 mph, as well as an above-average 12-to-6 curveball. Shoulder inflammation limited him to 53 2/3 innings this summer (mostly with Tennessee), during which he had a 2.35 ERA and 54 strikeouts.
• Another trade acquisition, Dominican right-hander Ivan Pineyro came to the Cubs from the Nationals in a July 2013 deal for Scott Hairston. He missed much of 2014 with a forearm strain and had a 5.55 ERA with 50 strikeouts in 60 innings, mostly with Tennessee. But when healthy, he has a low-90s fastball and a promising changeup.