Meet the Mesa Solar Sox: Position Players
This is the first of two articles highlighting the players who will be taking part in the 2014 Arizona Fall League, which begins on October 7. Today, the CCO will be looking at the position players the Cubs have assigned to the Mesa Solar Sox.
Jacob Hannemann, OF
With several potential run producers being developed in the system, Cubs management went looking for a table-setter in 2013 and came up with OF Jacob Hannemann in the third round.
The athletic Hannemann went on a two-year Mormon mission as part of his commitment to Brigham Young University, and was a defensive back for the Cougars’ football team. Hannemann played only one year of baseball, batting .344 in 51 games with five home runs, 29 RBI, and 14 stolen bases. The Cubs wasted no time in signing Hannemann and assigning him to Short-Season A Boise in the hopes of fast-tracking him. However, things did not turn out like they had planned as Hannemann suffered an arm injury and had to be shut down. Between Boise and the AZL Cubs, Hannemann hit .268/.288/.437/.724 with five doubles, two triples, a home run, seven RBI, and four stolen bases in 17 games.
After spending some of his off-season in the Fall Instructional League, it was a little bit of a surprise to see the 23-year old left-hander open up at Low-A Kane County in 2014. Cubs’ management was playing it conservative with Hannemann, perhaps due to his lack of overall baseball experience. Hannemann had mixed results and batted only .254/.321/.377 but he drove in 39 runs while stealing 32 bases in 88 games for the Cougars. Hannemann was promoted to High-A Daytona in late July. Hannemann struggled with the increase in talent level, sliding to a .241/.299/.345 slash line with nine doubles and five stolen bases in 36 games. Overall, Hannemann hit .251/.315/.368/.682 with 23 doubles, five triples, eight home runs, 51 RBI, and 37 stolen bases in 124 games for Kane County and Daytona. Hannemann also had to serve a suspension in the Midwest League for pushing an umpire.
Defensively, Hannemann is a mixed bag. His great speed and athleticism help him to cover a lot of ground, but he has only been able to field at a .974 rate, far below average for an outfielder. While some may point to his 14 assists in two seasons, others will contend that Hannemann has more chances than most due to an arm that has been considered by some to be average to below average. The Cubs admit that Hannemann is very raw in his baseball skills, and are hoping that the repetitions he will be getting in the AFL will help polish those skills.
Bijan Rademacher, OF
If there is a word that can describe OF Bijan Rademacher, it is underappreciated. The 23-year old lefty has put consistent numbers throughout his career, often picking up the slack for much more ballyhooed prospects.
Selected in the 13th round of the 2012 draft as a pitcher and outfielder from Orange Coast College in California, Rademacher is a rarity in that he is ambidextrous. Prior to the draft, Rademacher was clocked in the mid-90s left handed and upper-80s right handed. Although he saw a few innings as a “bullpen saver” for Kane County last season, Rademacher has strictly played in the outfield as a professional.
Rademacher made somewhat of a splash after signing in 2012 by batting .396/.411/.566 in 14 games for Boise before coming back to earth and hitting .221/.280/.295 in 35 games for Low-A Peoria. For the season, Rademacher hit .278/.320/.396/.716 with 14 doubles, a triple, two home runs, 20 RBI, and four stolen bases in 52 games. It was back to Low-A for Rademacher to start the 2013 season, this time with Kane County. As in 2012, Rademacher quickly adapted to his level. Rademacher batted .303/.374/.378 in 55 games and earned a promotion in late June. High-A Daytona did not seem to be much of a problem for Rademacher as he hit .276/.338/.407 in 42 games. For the 2013 season, Rademacher went .291/.358/.391/.749 with 15 doubles, three triples, four home runs, 38 RBI, and eight stolen bases in 97 games.
In 2014, Rademacher was back in Daytona where he took a back seat to several high profile prospects. Rademacher moved over to the relatively unfamiliar position of left field and ended up batting everywhere from leadoff to eighth. When the D-Cubs were struggling in the first half of the season to produce any offense, Rademacher was installed as the clean-up hitter and hit .306 with three homers and 19 RBI in that spot. Rademacher was also an excellent clutch hitter, batting .365 with runners in scoring position. All totaled, Rademacher batted .281/.363/.448/.811 with 22 doubles, six triples, 10 home runs, 56 RBI, and four stolen bases in 111 games.
The numbers don’t tell the story for Rademacher defensively. With a style of play reminiscent of former Cubs outfielder Jim Edmonds, his .957 fielding average reflect more a player trying to make plays rather than one who can’t play. His strong arm plays well in right field, where he has 12 of his 18 career assists. However, he has yet to learn to control it in left, as many of his eight errors came on overthrows.
Throughout his career, Rademacher has had to play in the shadows of such prospects as Dan Vogelbach and Albert Almora. Originally assigned to the AFL as a full-time player, Rademacher has been switched to the “taxi” squad in favor of Jacob Hannemann, meaning he can only play on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Hopefully, he can use those opportunities to show he no longer should be in the shadows.
Addison Russell, INF
In a return engagement for INF Addison Russell, he will once again have the billing of an organization’s top prospect, and all the pressure that surrounds that label.
Drafted by the Oakland A’s as the 11th overall selection in the 2012 draft as a high-schooler out of Pensacola, FL, Russell had an immediate impact. Russell blistered the competition on the Arizona Rookie League, batting .415/.488/.717 with four doubles, five triples, six home runs and 29 RBI in 26 games before moving on to Short-Season A Vermont in the New York-Penn League. It didn’t stop there as Russell hit .340/.386/.509 with two doubles, two triples, a home run and seven RBI in 13 games and was soon off to Low-A Burlington. As a member of the Bees, Russell went .310/.369/.495 with four doubles, two triples, nine RBI and five stolen bases in 16 games. For the abbreviated season, Russell was a combined .369/.432/.594/1.027 with 10 doubles, nine triples, seven home runs, 45 RBI, and 16 stolen bases in 55 games … astounding numbers for an 18 year old.
In his first full professional season, Russell showed in 2013 that his gaudy numbers from the previous year were no fluke. Assigned to High-A Stockton in the California League, Russell became an extra-base hitting machine. Of his 118 hits for the Ports, Russell had 29 doubles, 10 triples, and 17 home runs in route to batting .275/.377/.508/.885 with 60 RBI and 21 stolen bases in 107 games. Russell was given a “cup of coffee” with Triple-A Sacramento at season’s end, then it was off to the Arizona Fall League were he batted .282 with a home run and five RBI in 21 games.
Russell opened the 2014 season with Double-A Midland of the Texas League, but played only two games before suffering a hamstring injury. Russell was sidelined until early June, when he did a five game stint with Stockton before returning to RockHounds. Russell remained for only 11 more games as he was part of a blockbuster deal that brought him to the Cubs’ organization along with RHP Dan Straily, OF Billy McKinney and a PTBNL for RHP Jeff Samardzija and RHP Jason Hammel. Back to 100 percent, Russell torched Southern League pitching with Double-A Tennessee. Russell hit .294/.332/.536 with 11 doubles, 12 homers and 36 RBI while going a combined .295/.350/.508/.858 with 14 doubles, a triple, 13 home runs, 45 RBI, and six stolen bases in 68 games.
As impressive as Russell is offensively, he is equally so on the defensive side. His three-year career fielding average of .968 borders on superior. In 47 games at shortstop for the Smokies, Russell made two errors in 210 chances for an out-of-this-world fielding percentage of .990.
Addison Russell has shown that he can perform well in the spotlight, but now the heat will be turned up as he nears the threshold of the major leagues.
Dan Vogelbach, 1B
A prospect at the crossroads, first baseman Dan Vogelbach will now get to show against the game’s elite prospects that he is ready to take his game to another level.
Selected in the second round of the 2011 draft, a protracted contract negation made Vogelbach late for the party for that season as he played only six games for the AZL Cubs and batted .292/.370/.542 with three doubles, a home run and six RBI. Vogelbach was back in the rookie league to start the 2012 campaign and was part of an elite squad that included OF Jorge Soler, OF Trevor Gretzky, and OF Shawon Dunston Jr., INF Carlos Penalver, and RHP Paul Blackburn, RHP Ryan McNeil, and RHP Duane Underwood. In excess of 300-pounds on his on his 6-foot frame, Vogelbach was a powerful force for the A-Cubs, hitting .324/.391/.686 with 12 doubles, two triples, seven homers and 31 RBI in 24 games. Promoted to Boise near the end of July, Vogelbach also ran roughshod over the Northwest League. In 37 games, Vogelbach batted .322/.423/.608 with nine doubles, a triple, 10 home runs and 31 RBI to run his season totals to .322/.410/.641/1.051 with 21 doubles, three triples, 17 home runs, 62 RBI, and a stolen base. It was interesting to note that both the AZL Cubs and the Boise Hawks made the playoffs that season.
Vogelbach slimmed down to between 250 and 275 pounds for the 2013 season which began for him at Low-A Kane County. Vogelbach wasn’t as wildly successful as he was the previous season but was steady in hitting 17 home runs and driving in 71 while batting .284/.364/.450 in 114 games for the Cougars. In mid-August, Vogelbach was added to High-A Daytona’s team as they were making a push to the playoffs. With Vogelbach and Kris Bryant at the corners of the infield, the D-Cubs went all the way and won the Florida State League Championship. For the year, Vogelbach was .264/.375/.449/.824 with 23 doubles, 19 home runs, 76 RBI, and five stolen bases.
There were more personal changes for Vogelbach in 2014 as he dropped his weight to 230 pounds as he returned to Daytona. However, Vogelbach struggled mightily, hitting only .259 with five home runs in the first half of the season. Vogelbach picked up the pace at the end of the season, batting .297 over the final ten games in order to finish at .268/.357/.429/.787 with 28 doubles, a triple, 16 home runs, and 76 RBI. Once again, Daytona made the FSL finals but lost in the championship.
Vogelbach’s defense can be categorized as average at best. His fluctuating weight (now back up to 250 pounds) and general lack of athleticism limits him solely to first base. There, Vogelbach boasts a career fielding average of .991, knocking at an above average rating. However, Vogelbach is considered more of a stay-at-home type of first baseman, lacking the range to make plays and the athleticism to save bad throws.
Supporters will point out Vogelbach’s dedication to the game, and shown by his willingness to shed nearly 75 pounds and bouncing back for a poor first half in 2014. They also correctly identify that Vogelbach has always been a part of winners. Detractors state that Vogelbach’s numbers have declined in each rise up the system and that he will be limited to only first base in the National League. It is interesting to note that Vogelbach’s 2014 season numbers were all below Daytona’s 2013 first baseman Dustin Geiger. Geiger did not receive an AFL invite following that season and struggled greatly in Double-A this past year. How Vogelbach compares remains to be seen.
The Arizona Fall League will be the first chance for Vogelbach to show which direction his career will turn, as the player that began the 2014 season or the one that ended it.