Cubs' Javier Baez, Dan Vogelbach Developing A Healthy Rivalry




Follow me on Twitter

If everything works out as the Cubs' hope, at some point in the future, Javier Baez will be snaring grounders at Wrigley Field and firing them across the diamond to first baseman Dan Vogelbach.

For now, the top two picks in the Cubs' 2011 draft are getting ready on the back fields of the club's facility in Mesa, Ariz., as they ready to head to low Class A Peoria together.

And as you would expect with two Type A teenagers, they don't mind a little healthy competition.

"They are working on the same field. They can push each other. It's been good for both of them. There's some healthy competitiveness for those two. They are playing with a lot of enthusiasm," Cubs senior vice president for scouting and player development Jason McLeod said.

"When they were hitting in the same group, there were times when we thought maybe we may need to split these guys up in the hitting groups. They looked like they were having their own personal home run derby."

The two have since settled down from the BP sessions that focused more on bombs than line drives. But Cubs front-office types aren't too upset to see that both Baez and Vogelbach want to prove they belong in the middle of a lineup. The two are expected to begin the season together in low Class A Peoria, and Baez has shown enough at shortstop that there aren't any plans to move him anytime soon.

"I was a guy when I saw him when I was in San Diego I thought he should immediately play third. He's actually playing pretty good over there. The plan is to leave him there as long as (he shows he can handle it)," McLeod said.

While Baez's biggest question mark for the long-term is which position he'll end up at, the squatty Vogelbach faces many of the questions that dogged a young Prince Fielder—will he stay slim enough to handle first base. After instructional league last year, the Cubs sent Vogelbach home with a nutrition and workout plan to ensure he arrived to spring training in good shape.

"He showed up in spring training having shown the fruits of his labor," McLeod said. "Lets face it, that will always be a part of his routine. He's a thicker guy. He knows he'll always have to maintain himself. He knows he has to work to be flexible and play defense and take pride in that part of that game as well."

• While Baez will play shortstop in Peoria, the Cubs are working on getting a couple of more veteran prospects some versatility. The offseason trade of D.J. LeMahieu and the loss of Ryan Flaherty in the Rule 5 draft helped eliminate some of the Cubs' surplus of third-base types in the upper minors, but even with them gone, Junior Lake and Josh Vitters give the Cubs a pair of upper-level prospects whose best position may be the hot corner.

To give them some versatility, Vitters is expected to play some first base and left field again this season, while Lake will spend plenty of time at third base this year after primarily playing shortstop last year.

• While Baez and Voglebach appear ticketed for low Class A, righthander Dillon Maples, a 14th-round pick out of a Southern Pines, N.C. high school who signed last August for $2.5 million, is not going to be joining them anytime soon.

The Cubs want Maples to work in extended spring training on improving his direction to the plate, cleaning up his delivery and becoming more consistent  with his release point. He's been slowed by a minor arm problem that has kept him off the mound for part of spring training as well, which helped ensure he'll stay back in camp when the full season clubs head out.