Dan Vogelbach has to be excited for 2019. A 2011 draft pick by the Cubs, Vogelbach was traded to Seattle for Mike Montgomery in 2016 and now looks to be now on the verge of everyday playing time with the Mariners. That wasn’t going to be the case for him in Chicago due to his defensive liabilities and the presence of a guy named Anthony Rizzo blocking him at the MLB level.
But things could be changing for hitters like Vogelbach now that it looks like Major League Baseball will be bringing the designated hitter to the National League in the next few seasons. Though it won’t have an immediate impact on scouting and draft strategy, the advent of the DH is going change the way the Cubs approach those matters.
Since taking the reins of player development, Jason McLeod and his staff have shown a penchant for pursuing athletes who can play multiple positions, have a solid approach at the plate, and have some semblance of a floor. As a result of that strategy, the system is missing a lot of power guys right now. Much of that is also because those big hitters are either already in Chicago or have been traded for pitching.
By adding the DH, the Cubs could draft more one-dimensional hitters than their modus operandi has allowed for to this point. Players they may have previously passed over due to defensive issues could be snagged without a second thought. And when you consider that most draftees will take a little time to develop in the minors, the likelihood of the DH starting with the 2022 season could factor in who the Cubs select at No. 27 this year.
Just looking at MLB Pipeline’s Top 50 draft prospects for 2019, big-time bopper Michael Busch, who is ranked No. 25, is suddenly is on the Cubs’ radar because of his bat. He may not have been on the board for them at all in the past because his defense at first leaves a lot to be desired. The same is true for outfielder Will Robertson (48), who the Cubs would never draft because of his below-average speed.
Adding the DH is not going revolutionize how the Cubs scout players or what kind of players they covet. They will still prioritize athletic, versatile position players. Instead, it’s a matter of keeping more doors open when it comes to projecting talent. The Cubs have always said they will draft the best player available, who now could be someone with only 20 speed but 60-70 power.
So don’t think of this as anything monumental, though we can expect to see a few new wrinkles in the way McLeod and his scouts go about their business moving forward.