Thus far in 2016, Myrtle Beach Pelicans third baseman Jason Vosler is quickly making a name for himself as one of the most exciting young prospects in the Chicago Cubs organization.
Despite a recent mini-slump that has seen the 22-year-old stumble against a steady dose of southpaws, the team’s starter at the hot corner seems to have figured out the key to consistently play at a high level throughout the daily grind of a full minor-league season.
Vosler has started in all but one of the team’s games this year, leading the team in average with his .296 mark.
In his third year in pro ball, Vosler says there are plenty of reasons why he is much improved from last year, where he hit just .238 in 107 games between Myrtle Beach and South Bend.
“I think it’s being more aggressive in my zone,” he said when asked what has clicked throughout the early portion of the season. “Last year I would take a lot of pitches and get too deep into counts. I think this year, I’m just focusing on hitting pitches earlier in the counts and being ready for that pitch earlier.”
This season, Vosler is returning to his prime form that developed during his college years. He spent two seasons starting at Northeastern University in Boston, where he hit .300 over 108 games, driving in 84 runs in the process.
He says that the college-to-pro transition was a difficult one, a major leap that was marked by a major shift in his day to day schedule.
Gone are the days of having ample rest between outings. At this level, he says, nobody can hide from the steady grind of minor-league baseball.
“In college, you played three or four times a week but you would always have a day off,” he said. “I’d say playing every single day, it’s a good thing and a bad thing… If you have a good game, you have another game right away and it’s the same thing if you have a bad game. It can get tiring and taxing on your body.”
As he currently hits at a clip of .296/.373/.408, there’s one thing Vosler is thankful for that doesn’t have to do with the time he puts in on the field.
Above everything else, the left-handed hitter is grateful for a key tool the Cubs give him for off-field preparation: a mental skills coach. The Chicago organization is known for being forward-thinking in all of their approaches at each level — Vosler notes that the dynamic help the Cubs offer on the mental side is just as important as on-field coaching.
“Mentally, focusing on hitting, it’s really tough to forget about that last at-bat and to keep moving forward and not worrying about your [batting] average,” he said. “That’s a tough thing to get over. They try to teach us to stay pitch-to-pitch, day-to-day, and not worry about things you can’t control…
“It’s huge. A lot of us come from places where we didn’t struggle too much. And when you come here, everybody is going to… so, it’s a tough adjustment for a lot of people, and it’s still tough. But... learning how to forget about those bad at-bats and focusing on the next one is huge.”
Now more than ever, Vosler is learning to analyze his performance in a unique fashion, stepping back and taking a look at the bigger picture.
During times where he can’t seem to find any holes in the outfield, he takes a glass half full approach. And while that isn’t always the easiest mindset throughout the course of a 100-plus game season, Vosler knows that the recent results he’s seen stem from keeping the level-headed mindset.
His manager, Buddy Bailey, couldn’t speak highly enough about the impressive results he’s seen from his third baseman already this year.
Just over 40 games in, Bailey is sold on the idea of Vosler turning into a legitimate big-league player.
“In time, he’s going to be a solid player,” the skipper said. “Nobody works harder than that guy, he’s really locked in and has concentration and intensity in everything that he does, and that’s what you have to do to get good at anything in life - he really brings that.”
Hitting .342 on the road and .289 against fellow left-handers, the former New Englander is on pace to shatter his numbers from last year.
And as the weather along the Grand Strand heats up, it’s more than possible that Vosler gets hot enough to earn a promotion by the time his third pro season comes to a close.
All stats as of Tuesday, May 24.