Vogelbach loses weight to increase opportunities
Cubs prospect lost 30 pounds in offseason hoping to shed 'DH only' label
MESA, Ariz. -- Daniel Vogelbach heard the so-called experts say he wasn't a good enough athlete to play first base and would be limited to a role as designated hitter.
They should take a look at Vogelbach now.
He reported to the Cubs' Minor League mini-camp this week 30 pounds lighter than one year ago, and ready for a successful sequel to last year when he was part of Class A Advanced Daytona's run, which ended with the Florida State League championship.
"A lot of people have given me compliments," Vogelbach said about his new physique. "It makes you feel good that your hard work paid off. In the long run, I didn't do it for compliments, I did it to help me with baseball. The season this year is big and I'm ready to roll."
Vogelbach, 21, the Cubs' second-round pick in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft, began last season at Class A Kane County, and batted .284 in 114 games with 17 home runs, 21 doubles and 71 RBIs. He was bumped up to Daytona in August, and batted .280 in 17 games with two home runs, two doubles and five RBIs. He started at first in seven games with Daytona, and was the DH in the other 10 and didn't like that.
"In the offseason, I really took it seriously to get myself in shape so there was no question about whether I could play first base or am I only going to be a DH?" Vogelbach, who ranked No. 10 among the Cubs' Top 20 Prospects in 2013, said. "I want to play first base, I want to be on the field. That's the type of player I am, I want to be on the field at all times."
How did he lose the weight? It helped that his brother is an athletic trainer and could guide him. Vogelbach did one hour of cardio every day. Last November at a Cubs mini-camp, he met with a nutritionist.
In the first month, he lost 15 pounds. He dropped seven more in November, and lost 10 more during the holidays. He eliminated bread from his diet, drank lots of water, and ate an overload of grilled chicken, black beans and rice. He's not a big fan of vegetables, so the nutritionist recommended vitamins that would fill that void. Breakfast was either a hard boiled egg or a protein shake.
"It's easier when I'm home with mom cooking," he said. "On the road -- it's easier than you think. There are ways to eat healthy."
The cardio exercise was key. If he wasn't on an elliptical machine, he was on a treadmill or he'd go on a run with his sister in their Florida neighborhood. Every Wednesday, he added a yoga workout, which helped his flexibility.
"It's easy to find an excuse -- 'Oh, I'll do it tomorrow,'" Vogelbach said. "That was my goal, to wake up and do something to make yourself better today."
He didn't ignore baseball. Vogelbach wanted to improve his arm strength, so he started doing exercises in December. In January, he amped up his hitting.
The biggest concern was that Vogelbach would lose power if he lost weight. He belted 17 home runs in the Minors in 2012, 19 last season.
"I think I gained power," Vogelbach said. "I got a lot stronger with Doug [Jarrow, Cubs strength coach] and being home lifting a lot. I'm a lot looser with losing the weight. I can move better, not only in the field but swinging. I actually feel better at the plate than I usually do."
Desi Wilson, Double-A Tennessee's hitting coach, has seen Vogelbach at the mini-camps, and can tell that the core work has improved the infielder's hitting and ability to play first.
"He hasn't lost anything," Wilson said. "He hasn't lost his bat speed or anything. [Getting in better shape] just shows what type of kid he is. He hasn't lost anything -- he's gained."
Vogelbach didn't need anyone to tell him what to do.
"I motivated myself," he said. "I knew I needed to get better at first base, and the first thing I needed to do was lose the weight and get more athletic. That was something I took to heart and that was my goal from the day after we won the championship, to get in shape and get more athletic and come back better this year."
Vogelbach still has some photos of his "before" physique. So does Jarrow, who keeps one on the door of his office at the spring complex.
"He was on an individual nutritional plan and exercise plan, and he went above and beyond everything," Jarrow said. "He was amazing this offseason."
There's only one downside, and it's that Vogelbach's grandmother, Carolyn, isn't around to see him. She passed away this offseason.
"Grandma, she was close," Vogelbach said. "My mom's mom and dad, when they passed away, I was younger and I didn't get to develop a relationship with them. Grandma came to every high school game, she was always there, whether it was in a wheelchair or not. The goal was to let her watch me play on TV one time, and she didn't do it, but I know she's got the best seat in the house now."
Vogelbach comes from a strong family. His mother helped with meals, his siblings helped him train. Now, he's back with his second family, the Cubs, and is a new man. Sure, he helped win a championship last season. That's over with.
"I don't want to win one," he said. "I want to keep going and win a lot. When I get to the big leagues, I want to win a World Series, and I want to win multiple World Series."
His grandmother and the Cubs will be happy to hear that.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.