Prospect Update: Could Jason Vosler Be the Next Man Up?
Out of the Cubs’ everyday players, only Kris Bryant and Addison Russell were given everyday spots from the get-go. Javy Baez and Kyle Schwarber had to work their way in and fight through various demotions. The same was true for Willson Contreras, Albert Almora Jr., and Ian Happ to different extents.
David Bote’s production with the Cubs has been a very pleasant surprise this summer. He endeared himself to millions of fans by flashing power, solid approach, glove, arm, and baserunning skills. He’s going to have to keep working at AAA before he lands a more permanent spot, but he’s not the only Cubs prospect knocking on the door.
Jason Vosler’s greatest asset is his left-handed bat. Armed with a beautiful swing, power, and the ability to play first and third bases, Vosler has put togher a great two-month stretch in 2018 – first at Tennessee and now at Iowa. He’s hitting .290 in July and is currently the RBI leader for the Cubs’ entire minor-league system.
Drafted in the 16th round out of Northeastern in 2014, Vosler played at Boise that first summer. While he only hit .266, his OBP of .361 was quite good. He was at South Bend the following season, which is where I got my first look at him. He showed a good approach and had the pretty swing back then, but I didn’t take him to be an elite prospect at that point.
In fact, I was taken aback when he was promoted mid-season to Myrtle Beach. Sure, he had six dingers in 38 games, but nothing earth-shattering was going on in the box score. Sometimes, however, the stat line doesn’t tell the whole story.
Vosler displayed pretty pedestrian performance to start the 2016 season, hitting .250 with a .314 OBP and two homers over 93 games for Myrtle Beach. Still, he found his way to Tennessee for 26 games at the end of the season. He only whiffed 78 times in almost 120 games and I thought that it was only a matter of time before he began hitting for a higher average.
The next spring, Vosler found his way back to AA Tennessee. That summer of ‘17 saw his power numbers explode, as he hit 21 homers and drove in 81 to earn a trip to the prestigious Arizona Fall League. Despite those numbers, not everything was on track for a promotion. He struck 120 times in 129 games and only walked 53 while hitting only .241.
But that average was a little misleading, and not in a good way. Vosler hit .270 in the first half and .211 in the second. In addition, his power production dropped precipitously in the second half, going from 13 homers and 49 RBI to eight and and 32. He would go on to hit two home runs and drove in 13 in 23 AFL games, where he played a mix of first and third base.
The inconsistency meant that he would start the ’18 season back at AA, where things did not start out so well for him. He smacked four homers with 15 RBI in April, but hit only .182. May was not very good until something just clicked in the middle of the month. Over the next six weeks, Vosler’s average went up 50 points as he hit .273 with a very impressive .371 OBP, plus five homers and 26 RBI.
It’s easy to see why he was promoted. That approach and swing I first saw at South Bend had finally led to him producing at an elite level. Vosler has not stopped hitting in July, either. He’s hitting .290 for the month with two home runs and seven RBI. He has struck out 21 times and has yet to take a walk 14 AAA games, though, so that is something he will surely be working on the next two months.
Despite that slow start, Vosler is close to being the next man up for the Cubs. He has an excellent command of the zone and he already has the ability to hit for the power from the left side, something every franchise needs. If he can get that OBP up by drawing some more walks at the AAA level, he could get a shot to help the big league club soon.