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When the Chicago Cubs drafted Dan Vogelbach in the second round of the 2011 draft, the first baseman’s power was as legendary as his size. Which is to say, folks were always looking for charitable ways to say he was overweight.

Coming into last season, we heard bits and pieces about Vogelbach getting into better shape and losing some weight, and, indeed, he did look to be a little more fit in 2013. But he was still a big dude, listed in the 250lbs range and 6’0″, each of which was probably fudged a bit.

Then we heard that he came into camp this year having dropped another 30 pounds, and that fans were asking each other, “Who’s that guy?”, without realize it was Vogelbach. I’ll confess I was skeptical that the change could be that dramatic, but man-oh-man, you’ve gotta see the picture Gordon Wittenmyer just tweeted out:

For reference, check out this baseball card from shortly after Vogelbach signed with the Cubs. Heck, look at this picture from last Spring Training. Wittenmyer has more on Vogelbach’s transformation, including more pictures, here.

That doesn’t even look like the same guy. If Vogelbach can keep his power and his excellent approach at the plate, then the added athleticism his new-found size should afford him could improve his game all around.

  • Jon

    Does anyone else think Jorge Soler looks a bit like former Chicago Bears safety Chris Harris?

    • Matt

      Yes, great call there.

  • blairkrm

    Amazeballs!

  • mjhurdle

    wow, an “I’m arriving to camp in the best shape I’ve ever been” that is probably 100% true.
    Hopefully it doesn’t hurt his power, but I have to think it helps defensively.

    • CubFan Paul

      I doubt his baby fat and non-cardio were the source of power.

      • Tremendous Slouch

        If you read the article it’s actually quite the opposite…

        From the man himself: “I got stronger as I lost weight. I kept lifting, and I kept working out,” he said. “I feel like I’ve got more power because I’m a lot looser, and my hands are more free. I’m not as stiff up there.”

        Noice!

        • JacqueJones

          Not that I doubt him, but what else is he gonna say? “Yeah I probably won’t be as good of a hitter.”

          • IA_Colin

            I dont see any reason to post this conclusion of “what else would he say”. It’s not he’s trying to puff up a bad situation. He spent the off season working out losing fat and adding muscle, I’m no kinesiology major but I’m fairly postive that’s how you add power.

  • Featherstone

    Just wondering here, but is there any chance whatsoever that he ever gets to the point where you can close your eyes and trot him out in LF ala Kendry Morales style?

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

      Only if the Cubs really, really want his bat in the lineup. I don’t expect Vogelbach will ever be even as good as below average in the outfield.

      • Featherstone

        I fully get your point, but I have to laugh and say that even classifying Morales as below average in the OF is pretty generous. The GIFs of his “defense” over the last few years is near legendary.

        • IA_Colin

          I just happened to be browsing the Matt Stairs fangraphs page. In 1999 the A’s played him in the OF for 139 starts. He was -31.8 defensive runs saved. LOL. Not saying its a perfect comparison but something to think about when you force a bat into the lineup. That would’ve been a 4 war season if he played league average defense.

      • Tremendous Slouch

        So where do we stand on that whole DH in the NL issue any way? :)

        • BenRoethig

          NEVER EVER

      • Napercal

        As a point of reference, how do you think his defense in left field projects to, say, Dave Kingman or Adam Dunn?

        • Kyle

          Worse than Kingman, equal to Dunn.

          • Napercal

            Can’t get worse than that. That’s a category unto itself.

            • Rich H

              Pete Incaviglia. He made Dunn look like a gold glover.

          • Bill

            No chance. Nobody was worse fielding than Kong.

      • salesguy

        That’s why there is a whole industry built around this, ala the defensive replacement. Plus if he continues on this fitness track, I think the defense comes around, at least somewhat. I also sure like the combo of Almora in CF, Soler in RF, and Vogs in LF, assuming (big assumption I know) that this is how it plays out. Plus I think Soriano showed us, improvement is possible if you want to put the work in.

    • hansman

      If you REALLY wanted his bat in the lineup (and you want to keep Rizzo/have no one better for LF), you’d put Vogelbach at 1st and Rizzo in LF.

      You’d end up with an average defender at both positions.

      • Jason P

        Eh, I don’t know about Rizzo being average in left.

      • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

        I’d keep the potential gold glover at first, myself.

      • D-Rock

        Kind of reminds me of what the Cardinals are doing with Matt Adams and Allen Craig. It’d be a nice problem to have.

  • jrayn

    Uniform size down from Prince Fielder to young Matt Stairs. That’s how they list uniform sizes in MLB…I know it.

    • JacqueJones

      Sizes range from Tony Campana to Prince Fielder

  • Corey C

    He could lose even more weight, but solid!

  • InTheoWeTrust

    Where is the picture with him and the blonde girl? That picture is better.

    • Norm

      His sister?

  • C. Steadman

    Vogs is the only reason i want NL to adopt DH, the sole-Vogel reason

  • V23

    If he can maintain that and produce, that makes Rizzo an excellent trading chip.

    • C. Steadman

      “If he can maintain that and produce” Vogs is a excellent trading chip, Rizzo is a few singles away from allstar status

      • hansman

        Nonsense, if out proven sub-25 year old stars regain awesome status, we trade them immediately for prospects.

      • Jon

        In terms of qualified first baseman in the national league last year(8 players), Rizzo was 7th behind GoldSchmidt, Votto, Freemman, Belt, and Gonzales and Craig.

        The BABIP fairy may make him better than Craig and Gonzales, but I don’t see it making him bette than than those top 3. Not an all star 1st baseman.

        • C. Steadman

          true, allstar status may have been an exaggeration…or he’d only have to beat out all the cubs players to be the lone cubs rep for 2014! :)

  • Eternal Pessimist

    It’s very hard for me to believe that a player can lose 60-70 pounds and maintain his power. Can’t wait until the Cubs ask him to put on some weight again.

    • hansman

      Eh, it’s not like he went from 220 to 160.

    • Carew

      He can still generate a lot of power if he has fast and strong hips and really strong wrists

  • Steve

    I have been an athlete my whole life, and from experience, I can say loss of weight can be detrimental to your power tool, yet the weight he was carrying was not “good” weight.
    This could be the beginning of something special…as he has relied on his pure talent his whole playing career….now, add that talent with a fit body….VOGELBOMB BABY!!!!!

    • http://bleachernation.com woody

      To ask the rhetorical question ” what if ” Rizzo never hits lefties and increases his BA, but his power numbers stay the same or fall? Isn’t the ” what if “game fun to play! It will be great to see what Vogelbomb can do this year. Maybe Anthony will be hearing foot steps behind him like Castro is. That’s the beauty of having a stacked farm system. Nobody can rest on their laurels.

  • Chad

    Dear MLB,

    Please adopt the DH in the NL by 2017. Thank you.

    • dumbledoresacubsfan

      Can we make that 2015? haha

      • Chad

        Nah, I’d rather have it ready for the first year Vogelbach could be in Chicago and not have to plug someone into the DH role. Maybe 2016, but not 2015.

        • bbmoney

          I’m not that worried about it for Vogelbach specifically. I’m just really getting annoyed with all the big time FA hitters signing in the AL because they can just DH them at the end of the deal so they can be offered more.

          • half_full_beer_mug

            This right here 1,000 times. One of the largest hindrances (IMO) in a NL team signing a position player on a long term FA contract is that they don’t have the luxury of knowing they can play said player as a DH in the last couple of years, when him being in the field would probably result in well below average production.

  • Ballgame17

    That blonde in the pic is his sister. Dude is super family oriented (based on Twitter) and seems to be really focused. Him showing up to camp like this only vaildates the fact. If he says he feels stronger, I take his word, plus he’s saying he’ll be able to get to balls he wouldn’t have otherwise been able to..He could be a hitting machine. He doesn’t strikeout either. I know this is probably beyond far fetched, but would Rizzo be able to play LF or could Voges learn enough to at least be an average LF? We’re a year or two away, but it’s about to start gettin exciting…

    • http://fullcount1544.blogspot.com FullCountTommy

      I highly doubt they’d move Rizzo off first, given that he is a gold glove quality first baseman already. I think Luke answered the Vogelbach to LF question in the comments a little bit above this

    • Eternal Pessimist

      “Plus he says he’s able to get to balls he otherwise wouldn’t have been able to”

      …because they were buried in a fat roll? Sorry, I couldn’t help myself!

  • Ballgame17

    That’s what I’m basically saying. If Vogelbach isn’t good enough for LF, but he could be an average+ 1B and Rizzo could possibly be an above average LF if he’s gold glove caliber at 1B, right? I know Rizzo’s speed isn’t good and his arm is a “?”, but I’m just hoping there’s a way to get Vogelbach in there…

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

      Vogelbach will likely be somewhat below average at first, at best.

      Rizzo I doubt would be even average in left. The skill sets needed to be a very good first baseman and a somewhat good left fielder aren’t all that closely related.

      • Blackhawks1963

        When you are as good defensively at 1st base as Rizzo is, there is zero percent chance a move to the outfield is in your future. That’s just silly talk. IF Vogelbach continues to progress and becomes a true intriguing prospect, then the Cubs will have a decision to make. But that decision would be a trade of one or the other.

  • Javier Bryant

    This could also make his trade value go up. Instead of him probably only being dealt to an AL club, an NL club could be more convinced he can stick at 1st and not be a DH only

  • ruby2626

    I’d like to see Vogelbach get a little more loft to his swing. I saw him hit a couple of wicked line shots last year at Kane splitting the gap, those are great hits but I’d rather see a HR than a 2B. Let’s face it with below average speed and defense he really needs to eventually jack 25 to 30 homers a year at the MLB level to be successful. Really nice guy too, my kids got his autograph and he even laughed at my John Kruk lookalike joke which was probably the 10,000th time he’d heard that one. Love the batting eye, small sample size but his obp at Daytona was over .450. I still say he is not blocked by Rizzo, Rizzo is definitely athletic enough to trot out to LF some day. Of course best case scenario would be a total breakout year and then be a major piece in a Price or Stanton trade.

  • johnnyp

    Ok. Awesome that he lost weight, now just tweet out a video of him mashing the ball so we can all feel a little less nervous.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

      I don’t think there is any reason to be nervous. Power and plate discipline are the cornerstones of his game, and getting in better shape is not going to cause either of those to go away.

      • JacqueJones

        Losing weight could affect his power. Not saying it will, but it definitely could.

        • Head and Heart

          When I was a kid I was a decent ball player. Then I let myself go after high school. I used to weigh 330 pounds. I was VERY fat. I now weigh 235 pounds. I never hit a home run over a fence in slow pitch. Now I do it at least once a game. I also added 20 yards to my drive and hit my irons longer as well.

          Now I am not an elite athlete or a doctor and this is completely anecdotal. But in my experience losing fat and adding muscle can only add power.

          • Chad

            You gained a lot of flexibility and fast twitch response by losing that much weight. Good for you by the way, I’m sure that was not easy.

            Even if he gained 0 strength and stayed exactly the same in that area, the simple loss of weight will help him be more athletic and be a better hitter, likely with more power.

            • Head and Heart

              It’s actually pretty interesting. It turns out that if you eat healthy and work out you won’t be a fat slob anymore. Who knew?

              My understanding is that whenever someone losses weight they will be adding some muscle. But maybe not with an athlete who obviously already had some underlying strength and muscle mass since he hit the ball so hard.

              All in all I don’t think there is anything but positives coming from this story. He’s going to be a better ball player and it also shows he is a dedicated professional with a good work ethic!

  • Blackhawks1963

    There is plenty to like about Vogelbach. And I’m certainly very impressed with his commitment to self-improvement and the game of baseball.

    That said, I’m going to wait and see what he does in 2014 before I hop on the bandwagon. I’m still not sure what to make of Vogelbach. Is he going to be a Billy Butler type (which would be an outstanding development), or is simply a novelty act or is the truth somewhere in between? I don’t know the answer yet. To be honest, his 2013 campaign didn’t shed a ton of light on his major league potential.

    I’m hopeful. But I reserve judgment for now.

  • Jr 25

    I said this last yr and ill say it again. In 15yrs when their careers are over Vogelbach will have had a better overall career than Rizzo.

    • Blackhawks1963

      Good grief. Rizzo, in a sophmore slump year and with awful lineup protection, still managed to deliver nearly 40 doubles and 25 HRs while playing elite defense at 1st base. Yet you’ve already replaced him with Dan Vogelbach???

      • Jr 25

        No one said anything about replacing/writing Rizzo off. Whether the NL gets the DH and Vogelbach stays or he has a nothing monster yr or 2 in the minors and gets traded to an AL team in the end I’m just saying in my opinion he will have a better overall career! But I do find it funny on a lot of posts from diff sites cause of Castro’s one bad yr everyone has written him off or wants him traded and we are talking about a 2 time All-Star with 1 200hit season under his belt and he’s still only 23.

        • Jr 25

          Sorry ANOTHER monster yr or 2

        • JadeBos

          You remember Rizzo’s AAA numbers? 336/405/670! = 1.075 OPS

          It was 1.101 at Iowa for the Cubs

          In 163 games at AAA Rizzo had 52 doubles 49 HRs 163 RBI

  • Coop

    As CubsFanPaul pointed out earlier this morning – position redundancy is a good thing. I very much doubt that the front office labels one guys as the future and one guy as the trade chip. I think they hope everyone plays to their maximum ability, and then they make the tough call on who to keep and who to trade. And it isn’t simply is Rizzo better than Vogs. The equation is closer to: (Rizzo + guy we trade Vogs for) vs. (Vogs + guy we trade Rizzo for); whichever of those combinations looks better is where we end up.

  • Jon

    I have no idea why people are worrying about this anyway. Vogelbach will start the year in high A, maybe he gets a AA promotion this year. So next year he is in AAA. When he is tearing up AAA with no position to go to in the bigs, then you deal with it. But let him progress in the minors(and raise his trade value as well)

  • Edwin

    At first glance, it looks like Vogelbach lost a lot of power in 2013. ISO went from .250+ in 2011/2012 to an average around .160 last season. Is this an actual concern, or is there another reason for this (league factors or something else)?

    • bbmoney

      The MWL is a pitcher’s park for the most part. And it sounded like he was really focusing on his overall approach and hitting to all fields. I wouldn’t read too much into the lower ISO.

      • bbmoney

        *League….not park….grumble.

        • CubFan Paul

          “he was really focusing on his overall approach and hitting to all fields”

          Same for Rizzo. The should have better 2014s if the development continues.

  • Medicos

    Rizzo is the Cubs 1st baseman for next decade. Vogelbach will open the season playing Double AA ball and should be taught to be a catcher. The Cubs minor league system is devoid of any top catching prospects.

    • Edwin

      I don’t think catching is so easy that you can just start learning it in AA. Plus, we don’t even know if Vogelbach has the skill set needed to play catcher.

      • http://fullcount1544.blogspot.com FullCountTommy

        It’s actually probably the hardest position to learn

        • DarthHater

          [img]http://mlb.mlb.com/images/4/9/6/61691496/Moneyball_0i273w63.gif[/img]

  • Serious Cubs Fan

    How is Vogelbach’s dramatic weight loss going to affect his power number? Part of his power was supplied by his body mass…could become a concern

    • Cubsin

      I don’t see any sumo wrestlers or offensive linemen hitting in either MLB or the JPL. Power comes from solid contact and bat speed.

      • Serious Cubs Fan

        I’m sorry but that is just false. Yes you need contact skills and bat speed but the rotation of your hips during the swing is key component of a swing and generates momentum which supplies part of a hitters power

        • Mike

          Subtracting dead weight and replacing it with strength will potentially allow him to generate more torque with his hips. Therefore, technically, we could see more pop. It’s nonsense to think that his fat was the source of his power. If that was the case wouldn’t everyone have been eating cheeseburgers instead of taking roids?

        • ClevelandCubsFan

          Momentum is mass x velocity. Lowering his body mass while maintaining muscle mass means he’ll be swinging faster. The loss of dead mass is compensyated for by an increase in velocity. If his weight loss included a gain in muscle mass (as he claims and almost certainly must be true), it should be a net positive on his momentum.

          All that said, the majority of the important mass in question I believe comes from the bat and the arms. The body helps create momentum in the swinging elements, but it’s the bat (stabilized by and on the same plane as the arms) that makes contact.

      • Serious Cubs Fan
        • MightyBear

          If that’s from the big U, it is correct. Go Illini!

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

          From that pdf you linked:

          “Adair goes on to suggest that the energy E provided by the batter is proportional to the muscle mass Mm of the batter, where Mm = fM and f is the fraction of total mass that is muscle.”

          The rest of the paper operates under that assumption and concludes with a theoretical correlation between muscle mass (not mass, muscle mass) and bat speed.

          In other words, losing fat is not going to hurt Vogelbach’s power. Adding muscle will help his power. Looking at his pictures last season it is very evident that a sizable percentage of the weight he lost was fat. By working out enough to lose that kind of weight, he almost certainly added some muscle. Therefor, according to your own source, he actually added power as a result of his off season workout program, not lost any.

          Worrying about Vogelbach losing power as a result of getting into better shape honestly looks like worrying for the sake of worrying. This is just about as good of a good thing as we could have expected to see from Vogelbach this spring.

          • Mike

            Exactly Luke. You articulated it much better than me.

            • JadeBos

              And Baez.

          • Eternal Pessimist

            …though to think someone is going to lose that much weight without also depleting some muscle mass is probably hoping for too much…possible, but unlikely (unless he looks like a muscular hulk…which I didn’t get from the picture).

            • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

              Not if he was working out under the direction of a professional trainer (and he was).

              Vogelbach is fine. Being in shape is a good thing. He isn’t losing his power. There no need to worry.

              • hansman

                First rule of Cubs Fan…

                WORRY ABOUT ALL THE PROSPECTS!!!!!!!!!!

                Second rule of Cubs fan…

                BITCH ABOUT EVERYTHING CUBS

                • mjhurdle

                  i thought the first rule was that (insert current owner here) was just taking advantage of the loyalty of us Cub fans to line their own pockets!!!

                  • hansman

                    That’s an unwritten rule.

          • Serious Cubs Fan

            Luke,

            I am Cubs fan. That is what we do. Worry for the sake of worrying lol

  • Diehardthefirst

    Uggla has proven ML power- cant say that about most players on Cubs 25

    • JacqueJones

      are we just naming good power hitters now? Miguel cabrera too!

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