by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
Last season the Mariners employed Adam Lind and Dae-Ho Lee as their primary first basemen, though the combination yielded a middle of the pack .446 SLG and among the worst OBP at the position (.304). Making an overhaul at the spot made sense, and heading into 2017 a pair of moves have led the team with a new combination:
- Dan Vogelbach (acquired from Chicago as part of the Mike Montgomery trade)
- Danny Valencia (acquired on Saturday from the Oakland A’s for Paul Blackburn, ironically the other piece acquired in the Montgomery trade)
We all knew that Valencia needed to be traded away from Oakland, after his clubhouse incident late in the year. While he didn’t show such a dramatic split last season (he hit .275 with 10 HR against RHP last season), look at his career split:
- vs. RHP – .246/.288/.394
- vs. LHP – .321/.373/.500
Vogelbach, on the flip side, slashed .339/.451/.563 against right-handed pitching last season while at Triple-A. There are questions in regards to his defensive ability at first base, which could lead to him ultimately being utilized as a DH, and maybe he gets some time there in ’17 to help get both bats in the lineup. That said, it’s hard to imagine it happening immediately.
As for Valencia, he also could see time in the outfield as a way to get both players AB. While the numbers were solid last season (.287 with 17 HR over 517 PA), there are some warning signs that could indicate a regression is in his future.
His strikeout rate was consistent with his career marks (22.2% vs. 19.5%), but his SwStr% was a career high 12.0% and has been on the rise for four straight seasons. Couple that with an inflated popup rate (14.0%) and a potentially unsustainable BABIP (.346) and the average will likely fall.
His 17 HR last season was solid, but it paled in comparison to the 18 he had in ’15 in just 345 AB. It’s a much more believable mark and certainly doesn’t separate him from the field.
Throw in the potential to be on the short side of the platoon and there isn’t reason to get overly excited. In the right spot he’ll certainly have value, but in most cases Valencia isn’t going to hold much appeal. There’s simply far too much risk in regards to his AB and the possibility of a regression, so consider him nothing more than a late round flier and AL-only option.
As for Vogelbach, he could prove to be a better selection as someone on the favorable side of the platoon and is just starting to tap into his power. As a late round flier, he’s worth the gamble.
Source – Fangraphs, MILB.com