by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
Yesterday Greg Johns, via Twitter, reported:
“Mariners option Vogelbach to AAA. Surprising move.”
“Surprisimg” may not be the right word, as Vogelbach was fully expected to share first base duties starting from Opening Day. Instead an extremely poor spring showing, hitting .228 with 1 HR in 57 AB, appears to have cost him that role. While we obviously aren’t about to give up on him, you have to at least wonder…
Vogelbach struggled with strikeouts this spring, with 19 K. That had not been a problem coming up through the minors, showing a good command of the strike zone for two different Triple-A teams in 2016 (strikeout rate // walk rate):
- Cubs (365 PA) – 18.4% // 15.1%
- Mariners (198 PA) – 17.2% // 21.2%
He did strikeout 6 times in 13 PA with the Mariners, but obviously no one is going to draw a conclusion from that. We also shouldn’t get too worked up about the poor spring showing, given the sample size, though it clearly had an impact on the Mariners’ decision.
The question had always been about his ability to tap into his power, something he hadn’t truly done before playing in the Pacific Coast League last season. That question led to him receiving a C+ grade from us, placing him fifth among Mariner prospects in our 2017 preseason rankings. At the time we said:
“We will have to wait and see if he can continue tapping into his power potential, something he hadn’t shown before playing in the Pacific Coast League (which easily could have helped to skew things). There’s potential, but he needs to prove he can do it at the highest level.”
He hit 23 HR last season, though only added 25 doubles and 2 triples. It’s not to say that he can’t post a big home run total, but could it be that he’s closer to an 18-23 HR type player, as opposed to anything more? Given his Triple-A marks we’d expect a strikeout rate in the 21-22% range, and for a player without speed those two things could help cap his average into the .260ish range (at best).
As a first baseman that’s not a player we’d get excited about and the left-handed hitter could be destined for a platoon role regardless. Against southpaws he hit .259 with a .348 OBP last season.
Obviously we were always skeptical, considering the grade we gave him, and this demotion is only going to help others get skeptical. That’s not to say that we would already write him off, because he easily could figure it out and ultimately be a productive MLB player. This is a bump in the road, but there clearly is still developing to be done.
Current Grade – C+
Upside Grade – B
Sources – MLB.com, MILB.com, Fangraphs
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Grade A – Elite Prospects (aka potential future perennial All-Stars)
Grade B – Above Average Prospects (aka above average Major Leaguers, could develop into a potential All-Star)
Grade C – Average Prospects (aka solid, though unspectacular)
Grade D – Nothing More Than Roster Filler
Grade F – Move On
Make sure to check out all of our 2017 Prospect Rankings: