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dan vogelbach cubsWhen looking at the Cubs minor league organization as a whole, we see a very deep system. When looking at the catchers, though, we don’t see that depth. In fact, we don’t see much at all. Catcher was the only position that did not appear in the Bleacher Nation Top 40, and not one catcher in the system was particularly close to making that list.

But the situation may not be quite as bad as it appears at first glance. Catchers are generally among the slowest developing prospects, and, while the Cubs lack any good catching prospects today, the system does have a number of players with potential who could develop into that status. Even so, there is nothing comparable to Almora and Baez behind the plate anywhere in the farm system. The catching crop today is a very sparse crop indeed.

The best of the field might be Chadd Krist. He is certainly one of the best defensive catchers in the organization, and, while his batting stats in the low levels of the system were not particularly impressive for a hitter drafted out of college, they weren’t bad either. He doesn’t look like a high average guy, but I think he has the potential to emerge as a Koyie Hill with better defense and more power. (Ed. – Note, that’s intended as a compliment.)

Rafael Lopez got some at bats with the major league team in Spring Training this year, but he’ll hit Tennessee for the first time this year in his age 25 season. Barring a tremendous breakout, he looks more like organizational filler at this stage.

At the younger end of the spectrum we have Justin Marra, Willson Contreras, and Carlos Escobar. These three were all teenagers in Boise last season, and all three could appear in Boise or Kane County this year. I like the potential in all three, but all three are years away from the majors.

And that just about covers the system. Michael Brenly, if he can improve his defense a little, looks like a possible major league backup and should see some at bats in Iowa. Micah Gibbs is an excellent defensive catcher, but so far his switch hitting has not translated to the professional game. Taylor Davis has looked good at times, but I right now I don’t see much major league potential there. There has been talk of moving one or more of the Cubs excess of infielders behind the plate, but I don’t think we need to give that much credence until it happens over a sustained stretch.

Fortunately, the Cubs have time to let their youngest crop of catchers develop. Welington Castillo and Steve Clevenger just reached the majors last season; if they work out the Cubs should have young, cost controlled catchers for a few years yet.

Meanwhile, although the catching picture is bleak, first base offers plenty to get excited about.

Josh Vitters posted a career year as one of the youngest players in Triple A last season, and his lack of a glove could yet push him to first base full time. Joining Vitters in Iowa will likely be two more big first base bats – Greg Rohan and Justin Bour. Rohan is a right handed slugging utility guy who can play corner anything and has hit at every level where he has been given a chance. Bour is a huge left handed masher who was a walking RBI machine in Tennessee last season. None of these guys are likely to challenge Rizzo for the major league job long-term, but any of them could ably hold the position down for a week or two should Rizzo wind up on the DL one day.

Deeper in the system we find Paul Hoilman and Dustin Geiger, two sluggers who have shown flashes of potential in A ball. Geiger (who has also played some third) probably has more power than he is generally given credit for; keep an eye him.

Still lower in the system we find Rock Shoulders. His bat is not as awesome as his name, but so far this 1B/OF has hit well enough to keep him on my radar. Trevor Gretzky was extremely raw last year, but there is a lot of projectable power in his frame. He should get a chance to play everyday (probably in Boise) this season and could easily be one this year’s low-level breakouts.

There are plenty of other players who could have plenty of potential at the plate and who could be forced to first base for defensive reasons (Jeimer Candelario, for example). Until that crop plays their way over to first, though, I will continue to note them at their current positions.

And then we have Dan Vogelbach. Any discussion of the best bats in the farm system has to include Vogelbach. He has a chance to hit for prodigious power as well as for average, and there is very little chance of him moving off first base. He is still a few years away, but it is possible that one of these days the Cubs will have to pick between Rizzo and Vogelbach. That is not a bad thing in the slightest.

  • ETS

    Is Gretzky only a 1b prospects? I have seen him listed as an OF in some places, I think?

    • ETS

      “a first base only prospect?”* (That’s a little less ambiguous and more readable)

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

      He’s played first, third, and left since he was drafted. I honestly don’t know where the Cubs are going to put him long term, but I think there will be more at bats in Boise at first this year, so I’m guessing he primarily winds up there.

  • itzscott

    Seems like when D. Lee declined, the Cub brass tried to load up on draftees who might be able to take his place. Ultimately Rizzo became available.

    I’d expect the Cub brass to do the same with catchers.

    • TheDynastyStartsIn2016

      Jeremy Gonzales (sp) would be a great pick with 2nd pick. Think of the catching version of Albert Almora.

    • terencemann

      Teams don’t draft based on need in the MLB depth chart. I don’t really see it with the Cubs in their recent history.

      • TheDynastyStartsIn2016

        This is bit of an urban legend. Sure, if there is a clear cut ‘best available’, they’ll take him, but later in the draft, teams do pick to organizational needs. Do you really believe in the 2012 draft all the pitchers the Cubs took in the first ten rounds was a function of those players being best available?

        • Drew7

          The further down you get in the draft, the more you see drafting to need. You wouldn’t do it in the first round though – especially at #2.

          • TheDynastyStartsIn2016

            Absolutely ! Unless there 2 players you rate the same, you always go best available before organizational needs. In lower rounds, the difference between players isn’t as obvious, so drafting to need is acceptable.

  • Chad Thomas

    Kyle Lohse to the Brewers.

  • johnr42

    Rizzo is going to be in Iowa eh? Might want to proofread that.

    • Bilbo161

      I think he meant joining the list of 1st basemen.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

      I explicitly refer to Rizzo holding the major league job. I’m not sure how you can read from that that he will be in Iowa.

      • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

        (One of the Vitters was previously “Rizzo.” Just a typo. I edited.)

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

          Ah. That makes sense. Thanks guys.

  • Bilbo161

    We will see if the Cubs care about the catching depth at draft time. Good crop of high schoolers should reach
    Our second pick.

  • PRcajun

    If only Vogelbach could play backstop.

  • Zach

    I know that he is pretty young, but what do you think about Neftali Rosario. He was the Cubs 6th round pick in 2011.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

      Should have made the list. He hit well in 2011, struggled a little in 2012, but he warrants mention.

    • Cedlandrum

      Spriggs says he can’t play behind the plate. That said he is extremely young and raw and has a pretty good shot to hit. So really who knows.

  • Tommy

    Did anyone see Trouble with the Curve? Did the stud hitter they ended up drafting remind anyone else of Vogelbach, or was it just me?

    Rhetorical question smart asses.

    • DarthHater

      Too busy watching Amy Adams to pay much attention to anything else. ;-)

    • terencemann

      You mean the “5 tool player” lol. Someone should have explained to someone in the casting department what tools are.

      • Edwin

        yeah, they didn’t do too well at understanding baseball in that movie. The “showdown” at the end of the movie makes no sense. I also thought it was funny that the 5-tool stud prospect spent almost every line he got in the movie telling his teammates to shut up because he was busy trying to picture all the chicks he was going to bang.

        Also, if you look at one of the scenes in the sports bar, it looks to me like there is a Wisconsin Badger Hockey game on tv. Which makes no sense, because I’m assuming the movie is taking place around the draft, in which college hockey would have been over since April. Also, why would a Wisconsin Badger game be on in that part of the country anyways?

    • Edwin

      Yes! I thought the same thing!

  • dan

    too bad vogelbach can not catch!!

  • terencemann

    My favorite line about the Hefty Lefty in this write-up:

    “..there is very little chance of him moving off first base”.

    Not unless you have a bulldozer…

    • DocPeterWimsey

      Pudding pops tied to strings could probably do it…..

  • cubchymyst

    What about Bruno? I remember reading that they cubs were testing him out at catcher. Any updates about him (is the conversion still be tried or did they give up on it) or what you think his relative success might be?

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      I believe Bruno was one of the guys Luke was implicated when he said the Cubs had maybe considered moving a positional guy behind the plate, but I’ve not heard of anything serious with respect to Bruno there.

  • http://www.survivingthalia.com Mike Taylor

    I was so glad when we drafted Chadd Krist last year (one of only 3 positional players drafted that year). It was hard to watch when the Mariners took Zunino 3rd. I think if he was available 6th slot, it’s possible we would’ve taken him.

    • TheDynastyStartsIn2016

      Unfortunately, unless Seattle took Almora, there was no way the Cubs were going to take Zunino. Zunino will be the best player from that draft, but the Cubs didn’t like him.

      • Drew7

        “…but the Cubs just didn’t like him.”

        Based on what? Of course the FO is going to say Almora was at the top of their Draft Board. What are they supposed to say, “well, we wanted Zunino, but he was gone, so we had to settle for this guy.”?

        • DarthHater

          As I have said here before, there were numerous reports several days BEFORE the draft that the Cubs had Almora at the top of their draft board. I have no way of knowing what evidence those reports were based on, but they cast doubt on the notion that the FO’s subsequent statements about Almora were just the usual after-the-draft spin.

          • Drew7

            Fair enough.

            I don’t recall seeing those reports. Given the way this FO operates though, I find it unlikely that they were based on anything concrete.

          • Edwin

            I counted two reports, and it’s possible that one of those two was referring to the other. If I recall, the languauge of the reports was from an un-named exec saying the Cubs might have Almora at the top of the draft board, not that he WAS at the top of their draft board. At the very least, it was a soft statement, much closer to what Drew is talking about.

  • @cubsfantroy

    “he has the potential to emerge as a Koyie Hill with better defense and more power. (Ed. – Note, that’s intended as a compliment.)”

    I am really glad that you added that note in there. I was a little worried for a second.

  • Ash

    What am I missing here? If Rohan is an option at either corner, and has hit well at every level, why is he not being groomed as the 3B of the future?

    • DarthHater
    • SVAZCUB

      Rohan’s defense at 3B doesn’t cut it as a full-time guy. And he’s not really a (fill-in-the-blank)-of-the-future because 2013 is his age 27 season. So, he’s four years older than Vitters, and currently a worse hitter and equally poor fielder.

      Despite all of that, I was a bit surprised that, given the Cubs’ needs, they didn’t make Rohan an NRI this spring.

      • laffertydanielhappy

        Rohan has been on the DL all ST

    • AB

      790 OPS in the PCL for corner IF/OF 26-year old isn’t hitting well.

  • RoughRider

    I think I remember In the scouting reports after the draft that Gibbs was suppose to be a good hitter but his defense was in question.

  • Cheryl

    Do we know that Vogelbach can’t catch? Has he ever been tried at that position? He probably would be pretty good at blocking the plate from what others have said.

  • SVAZCUB

    Vogs doesn’t have the arm to go behind the plate. It’s either a mediocre 1B, a very bad LF, or DH for him, I’m afraid.

  • praying the cubs get ready to win

    I see we are very week at 3rd base, any chance between Rizzo and Vogelbach one plays 1st base and one plays 3rd our lineup would be more threatening.

    • cedlandrum

      0.05 percent chance. Not no chance, but no chance.

      • sclem21

        ill take the under on 0.05%

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