The Cubs have Anthony Rizzo and that’s about it when you talk about first base. Daniel Vogelbach will likely start 2015 in AA but is still two years away from making an impact at the major league level. Mike Olt is likely the backup corner infielder in 2015 and the Cubs could add a minor league free agent first baseman to keep in reserve in Iowa. NorthSiders Report takes a look at first from Wrigley to the VSL.
Cubs 40-man roster
Anthony Rizzo is under contract until 2019 and with two more club option years, could be penciled into the lineup until 2021. After struggling in his first full MLB season, Rizzo made the adjustments, moving closer to the plate, and has turned in an All-Star season for the North Siders. After batting .233/.323/.419 in 160 games last year and drawing questions of his future as a major leaguer, he’s responded with a a career-high 31 homers and a slash line of .281/.380/.517 after 137 games. When Rizzo hurts his back in late August, Chris Valiaka and Mike Olt filled in......... Olt’s future with the Cubs may be as a bench player and a corner infielder but he needs to improve his defense at first. He started the year at third but really struggled (.139/.222/.353) despite leading NL rookies with 12 HR. Olt was sent back to Iowa, changed his approach, stance, and swing, and hit .302/.348/.585 in 28 games before being recalled in September. In 16 games since his return, Olt is hitting .270 and looks more conformable at the plate....... Valaika showed his versatility playing every infield position after being called up August 1. In 43 games he’s batting .231/.283/.342 with 3 HR and 13 RBI.
Eight different I-Cubs played first with Valaika leading the way with 52 games. Lars Anderson started the year in Iowa but was sent to Tennessee the second half to get Mike Olt at-bats and playing time. Cubs will likely add a minor league free agent with first basemen experience.
After a breakout year in 2013 in the Florida State League, Dustin Geiger struggled at AA, batting .223/.305/.376 with 12 HR and 47 RBI in 448 plate appearances. He lost playing time when Anderson was sent to Tennessee and saw some time at third at the end of the year. Geiger is eligible for the Rule 5 draft........Lars Anderson was signed as a free agent and started the year in AAA but was sent down to Tennessee in late July after batting .287/.370/.483 in 34 games for the I-Cubs. The 26-year-old played 37 games in AA and finished with a slash line of .315/.390/.468, splitting time between first (23) and left field (17). Anderson is a free agent and the former Red Sox farm hand could return with the Cubs.
Daniel Vogelbach is the top first base prospect in the Cubs system but the progression through the minors has been slow for the slugging first baseman. The 21-year-old spent the entire season in Daytona, hitting .268/.357/.429, all career lows. He slugged 16 homers and smacked a career-high 28 doubles. He’ll start his fifth pro season in Tennessee and the jump to AA will be a good test for the Florida native.........Rock Shoulders split his time between first, the outfield and DH in his 91 games for the D-Cubs. He hit .260 with seven homers and a OBP of .408 over the final two months but a slow start hurt his final totals .223/.341/.397 12 HR, and 42 RBI in 367 plate appearances.
If they handed out team MVP, it would have been hard not to give the award to Jacob Rogers— one of the mainstays of the best team in the minors. In his first full season, the 25-year-old led Kane County in hits (120), homers (16), RBI (67), walks (64), runs (76) and was also a major asset in the field with his glove. His leadership on and off the field doesn’t go unnoticed by the Cubs organization. Rogers played 127 games at first while catchers Benjamin Carhart (9) and Cael Brockmeyer (6) were the only other ones who saw action.
Danny Canela was a catcher in college but made the switch to first base in his first pro season. Canela played 14 games with Kane County but was sent back to Mesa and eventually assigned to Boise. He started 56 games at first for the Hawks with a .984 fielding percentage and 31 assists. He hit .295/.350/.426 with six homers and led Boise with 48 RBI.......A shortstop at Charleston Southern, Alex Tomasovich played more games at first (18) than any other position in his first year of pro ball. The 20th round pick didn’t make an error at first in 163 total chances and also played 2B (10 G), SS (1 G), and 3B (3). He showed ability to make contact at the plate, hitting .311/.372/.371 with 18 RBI and 18 R in 132 at-bats.
Roney Alcala logged 245 innings at first base (32 G) in the Arizona Rookie League in his first stateside season. The 20-year-old started out slow (.214 over first month) but had his average up to .280 before ending the year with a slash line of .242/.294/.355. A switch-hitter, the Venezuelan hit a pair of homers and had six doubles and a triple in 124 at-bats. Catchers Alberto Mineo (15 G) and Tyler Alamo (10 G) also saw time at first.
Jose Paniagua spent most of his time at first base (47 games) but also played 27 games in outfield, most in right. The 20-year-old third-year pro had a breakout season after struggling to keep his career average about .200 his first two years. The 6-foot-2 right-hander hit .305/.396/.511 with six homers, 40 RBI, 44 runs and 20 stolen bases. A trip to Mesa is in his future, Jhonny Pena played 10 games at first and hit .220/.371/.260 in his 4th DSL season. And if you’re seeing a trend here, catchers Yohan Matos and Antonino Valerio both played ten games at first.
Miguel Rico spent time between first (35 G) and third (23 G), and in his third pro season, reached career-highs in average (.252) and OBP (.362). The 21-year-old hit five homers (10 last year) and knocked in 33 runs, also a career-high. Leonardo Gonzales batted .152/.209/.177 in 31 games, 13 at first, in his third pro season.
Cubs Organizational Depth