dan vogelbach daytonaIf there is one position that Cubs fans pondering the future do not worry about, it is first base. Anthony Rizzo, still just 24, is coming off a Gold Glove caliber season and is one of the best young left handed sluggers in the Majors. It is entirely possible that the Cubs already have their first baseman for the next ten years.

And that is a very good thing, because the Cubs have a surprising lack of first base prospects. First base is, however, the position of last resort for third basemen, catchers, and outfielders who have the bat to advance up the system but lack the defense to stick elsewhere, so a system lacking in talent at first is not all that concerning. The Cubs have no shortage of bats that could play first or who might wind up there one day, and those players will be discussed at the position they currently play. Today is all about the current crop of first basemen, and that will prove to be a fairly short list.

The Versatile Bat

Greg Rohan missed nearly all of the 2013 season with injuries, but he should return to Iowa in 2014 with his versatile, corner-everything bench bat projection intact. Rohan is a right handed hitter who can play first, third, or either corner outfield slot in a pinch. At the plate he doesn’t strike out a lot and hits for enough power to be an asset off the bench. He could prove to be somewhat redundant if Josh Vitters claims that role in the majors this year, but for now he stays on the list as the Cubs nearest term organizational help at first.

The Breakout Guy

Coming into the 2013 season, only those who closely followed Cubs prospects were familiar with Dustin Geiger. As we enter the 2014 season, though, he should be on every fan’s watch list. Geiger hit 17 home runs as part of a career best season with High A Daytona, a season that saw him finish with a line of .281/.365/.458 with a walk rate of 9.9% and a strikeout rate of just 19.1%. Against lefties he was even better, posting a merciless OPS of .956.

Geiger is a former third baseman, but it appears his future home will be at first. He should move to Tennessee this season and, although he is overshadowed by the monster bat lurking one level behind him, he is a quality major league prospect in his own right. If he continues to hit well as a member of the Smokies I would not be surprised to hear his name crop up as an extra piece in some trade talks this summer.

The Monster Bat

Dan Vogelbach might be the best pure hitter in the farm system. Not only does he feature a mountain of left handed power, he is also patient, disciplined, and is willing to hammer the ball to all fields. If you had to list the characteristics you were looking for in an ideal hitter, Vogelbach would probably have most of them.

And that’s good, because while he is a first baseman, he certainly isn’t a very good one. His best path to the majors as a Cub involves the DH coming to the National League, but if he continues to hit he will reach the majors with someone.  His bat is so potentially good, though, that he could be an absolute butcher at first and still be a very valuable commodity for a lot of teams.  Vogelbach will also be a guy other teams ask about, but the Cubs are probably not going to be in a huge hurry to move him.  Eventually the team may have to pick between Vogelbach and Rizzo, but that day is probably at least 16 months away.

And that’s it

No, really, that’s it. As I said in the introduction, there are plenty of other players who could wind up at first base down the road (Rock Shoulders, Jeimer Candelario, Mike Olt, Josh Vitters, to name a few), but right now all of those players are projecting at other positions. The organizational talent pool at first is surprisingly shallow in numbers.

Thanks to the presence of Rizzo in the majors, though, that really is not a concern. And even though there are only three names on this list, one of them has a very high ceiling and the other two project to be quality bench pieces at worst. From a quality perspective, the Cubs are not in bad shape at all. Even though the Cubs are lacking in quantity at first, I do not see any reason for concern.

  • MightyBear

    Luke, thanks again. Is there any word on Justin Bour? Is he going to stick at whoever Rule 5 drafted him?

    • fortyonenorth

      I *believe* that Bour, like Matt Cerda last year, is non-returnable because he was selected in the MILB portion of the Rule 5 draft.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

      He was taken in the minor league portion, so I doubt he is returned.

  • http://www.dylanheuer.com Dylan

    Any words on Lars Anderson? And should we expect a rotation of some sorts at first base for Iowa? Vitters, Rohan, Anderson, etc?

    • Noah_I

      I’d expect to see Vitters almost exclusively playing LF, with Rohan and Anderson splitting 1B/DH duties (presuming that Olt starts with the MLB club).

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

      There will be some challenges in finding at bats for everyone in Iowa, but there is enough flexibility there that it shouldn’t cause any problems.

      As for Anderson himself, he was very well regarded at one time, but for now I’m not really considering him a prospect.

      • http://www.dylanheuer.com Dylan

        Oh I’m not considering him a prospect too. Just a minor league filler but I just like to know who is playing where

        Thanks for the info! Great work, Luke.

  • Wilburthefirst

    Just wanted to say thanks. Enjoy your articles …

  • SenorGato

    If Vogelbach helps land a high quality arm then this crop has done its job. Rizzo could last more than a decade here.

    • Darth Ivy

      that’s my feelingon Vogelbach, too. Unless the NL adapts the DH by the time he’s ready to play in the bigs, they might as well develop him as much as possible then trade him to an AL team. Obviously, right now it makes sense to want a pitcher. But by that time rolls around, who knows what the organization will look like.

  • SenorGato

    Btw not super sold on Vogelbach having a huge ceiling. Id like to see qhat his power is like in the meat of the minors starting this year.

  • Ron

    When is the next CBA so the DH can come to the national league? 2019?

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

      2016, I think.

    • Adventurecizin Justin

      I want the DH. It would save bullpens, remove a black hole from the lineup, and allow pitchers to focus on pitching & fielding aka what they are truly paid to do. Hitting and running the bases have no bearing on what they are paid as along as they can pitch. It is unwise to me to put pitchers at more risk…a DH is a no-brainer for me.

      • Edwin

        I also like that the DH gives a GM and a manager more flexability with their team and lineup construction.

        • bbmoney

          It’s a big advantage for AL teams in free agency. It’s frustrating.

      • Funn Dave

        So all the years they’ve spent learning how to bat were just wasted effort? Good pitchers like Z who can both pitch and hit will just be that much less valuable? F that.

        • terencemann

          Most pitchers stop working on hitting as early as high school but no later than when they reach professional ball. There are a few rare occurrences of pitchers who can hit but, overall, it hurts the NL not to have the DH.

        • Adventurecizin Justin

          Pitchers as a whole hit below .200. Tells me they never learned to hit and will not going forward. They are paid to pitch at the majors…not hit. It makes no sense to have them hit if they aren’t going to be adequate at it.

        • http://www.friendly-confines.com hansman

          You mean the Carlos Zambrano of the vaunted .636 OPS?

          He wouldn’t even be a decent hitting SS.

          HA, just saw that he had a career 1.3% BB rate and a 32% K rate.

    • blublud

      Here we go again.

      • Adventurecizin Justin

        Yeah, you NEVER go on ad nauseum. Except for multiple topics.

  • ssckelley

    Luke is Kelvin Freeman on the radar at all? Although he did not hit any homers in Arizona last summer he displayed quite a bit of power in college.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

      Yes, but on the very edge for now. I need to see more and at a higher level before I start to get too excited.

      • ssckelley

        ok, I was wondering from your “that is it” statement. I thought maybe you had forgotten about Freeman or maybe he had already been cut.

  • http://BN Sacko

    Considering The AL is giving contracts exclusively to the DH, I wish it would change b4 2016.

    • JakeMac

      I’m actually all for the DH, but hope they don’t bring it in until at least 2016. Any time before that, and it just ends up being another offensive position where the Cubs will struggle.

      2016 or after, and you have some nice internal possibilities, at the least.

  • Darth Ivy

    One pro-DH argument is to take that disadvantage from NL teams in interleague play

    • Sandberg

      The argument that finally convinced me is the massive disadvantage that NL teams have when offering contracts to free agents. While my preference has always been to eliminate the DH entirely, that’s never going to happen. So, the second best choice is the NL adopting it.

      • DocPeterWimsey

        Of course, the Yankees are going to be lobbying for 3 or 4 more DH slots in another 5 years after their recent signings! :-)

      • terencemann

        Exactly, the versatility the DH gives you is huge. Just look at Oakland where they can rotate outfielders, 1B and DH. The Yankees and Red Sox have also been using the DH to add versatility for years.

      • Orval Overall

        It’s not that clear of an advantage. The other side of the coin is that on most elite AL teams, the DH is an expensive salary player that reduces the payroll available to spend on 8 traditional position players. In AL-only play, that’s fine because every team allocates their resources that way. When the World Series or interleague play roll around, the AL teams often have a $15 million player sitting on the bench or playing badly out of position elsewhere. The NL team, meanwhile, can have 100% of the starters it allocated payroll towards out on the field.

        In addition to which, of all the arguments in favor of adopting the DH in the NL, we really shouldn’t place much weight on “we’ve got a great candidate playing A+ ball.” When the switch happens, it will be permanent. Dan Vogelbach might be here a very short time, or not at all.