Jason Vosler closed out the 2017 Double-A season pretty much the way started it. In between, the Chicago Cubs minor league third baseman put himself on the fast track and, even with the late-season swoon at the plate, still got an invite to the Arizona Fall League.
He didn’t improve much in his months in the desert, and finished up his fall league campaign with a .21o batting average and .323 on base percentage. Last season looked like the year Vosler would break through, at least as possible trade bait for another team. After stalling out late in the season, it’s clear the 24-year old third baseman has a ways to go.
— Baseball Census (@BaseballCensus) December 3, 2017
That’s not to say I’m down on Vosler, just that any quick trip through the Tennessee Smokies isn’t going to happen. I spoke to Vosler last May, a couple of months before the season ended for him and the Kodak, Tenn. based minor league franchise. At the time he was coming off a mid-season Southern League All-Star selection and batting .268 with 10 doubles, two triples, 14 home runs and 55 RBIs. His RBI total was leading the Southern League. Needless to say, the kid was excited.
“I had a pretty good spring training and didn’t struggle,” Vosler said. “I think at the beginning of the season I just tried to do too much. I wanted to start off with a bang or something like a home run. I got into a rut, but I worked on it and got back on track.”
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) October 19, 2017
Part of the reason Vosler was basking in his performance was because of how poorly he opened the season. He started April 0-for-18 at the plate, but when that first hit bounced into the outfield, they started showing up in bunches.
“You definitely want to get that first one out of the way quick. It was tough for me, mentally,” Vosler said. “When I got past it and got that first hit out of the way, it just took off from there. Most people are going to go through an 0-for-15 or 0-for-20 in the course of a season, so I got mine over with early. That’s the way I look at it now.”
A few games later, Vosler put on the best performance of his life Against the Chattanooga Lookouts on Apr. 26, Vosler hit three, two-run home runs in a single game.
“I think that was the baseball gods repaying me for 0-and-18,” Vosler said. “It’s hard to describe a night like that. Even when you’re feeling good out there, for something like that to happen was truly special. We won the game too. That’s a day I’ll never forget.”
— MiLB.com (@MiLB) April 27, 2017
The Cubs drafted Vosler in the 16th round of the 2014 MLB draft out of Northeastern University where he primarily played shortstop. Once in the Cubs’ farm system, Vosler bounced around the infield early, but has built a house on third base for the last two seasons. It’s where they kept him when he played in the AFL.
“I like having a position that I would call home, but I do want the people in the organization to know I’m versatile,” Vosler said. “If you go about your business day by day, you don’t have to worry about it too much. All I care about is getting up there (to the big leagues) and helping them win. It doesn’t matter where they put me.”
There’s a monster-sized problem with Vosler’s home and its name is Kris Bryant. Bryant is simply the best third baseman in baseball and one of the game’s best players, period. He batted .295 with 73 RBIS, 38 doubles, four triples and 29 home runs last season. He’s still playing on his first deal and making $1.05 million a year, a record for a pre-arbitration player but still chicken feed for what he’s worth to the team and the league. The dude has a $300 million deal in his future and, my guess is, it’ll be with the Cubs. Of all the things blocking Vosler from making his major league debut, none looms larger than Bryant.
“You look up there and have arguably the best player in the league playing third base,” Vosler said. “He (Bryant) is playing every day and he’s playing unbelievable. You try to just show up every day and take care of your own business and hope good things happen. It helps when you see all those guys up there were here just a few years ago and all went through the system.”
— Stephanie Lynn (@SRL590) November 29, 2017
Up until last season, Vosler had cruised through that same system. He skipped rookie ball altogether and spent his first half season after getting drafted in Short-A Boise. In 2015, he opened the year in Low-A South Bend, before finishing up in High-A Myrtle Beach.
The next year repeated that process. He spent 93 games in High-A, but finished out the final 29 games of the season in Double-A Tennessee. Last year was the first of his minor league career where Vosler didn’t jump a league. After his final month of the season, it’ll likely be the first level he ever has to repeat. He finished the 2017 season with a .241 batting average and .341 on base percentage. His power numbers were great, with 18 doubles, two triples, 21 home runs and 81 RBIs. It was just his consistency at the plate, especially late in the season, that tripped him up. In his final 10 games, he was 4-for-40 with one RBI, 11 strikeouts and a .100 batting average.
It’s something Vosler knew was possible as the season wore on. It had happened to him before.
“I want to stay strong,” Vosler said in May. “For my first couple of full seasons, I think I trailed off a little bit toward the end of the season. I think that had to do with playing 140 games in a season. This being my third year, I think I’m more prepared, not just for the length of the season, but how to keep my body ready to go every day. I stay in shape, get my rest, and try to stay consistent.”
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) October 21, 2017
Cubs spring training begins Feb. 15, with pitchers and catchers reporting. Vosler still has plenty of potential and is ranked just barely outside the Cubs’ Top 20 prospects. There’s no reason he cant’ turn the middle stretch of his 2017 season to a full season in 2018. If Vosler can do it, he’ll be worth plenty to a franchise as a player, and to the Cubs as a bargaining chip.
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