This offseason, it seemed clear from the get-go that the Mariners had a glaring hole at first base. So it came as no surprise when Jerry Dipoto made a move to acquire Ryon Healy way back in mid-November. After all, who else would we put at first?
And when the Rule V draft came along in December and the Mariners took Mike Ford, a New Jersey-educated player in the Yankee system, they were just adding some competition for Healy. I mean, the Mariners weren’t going to go into the regular season with just Ryon Healy, right?
The next idea, of course, has been to move Robinson Canó to first base and find a new second baseman. This might be a year or two down the road, sure, but you need to plan for the future eventually. Do you have a better long-term answer at first than that?
Well, sure. Enter Dan Vogelbach.
You probably forgot about him, didn’t you? He doesn’t exactly blend into the background, but it sure seems like the front office has basically entered him into the Witness Protection Program just a year-and-a-half since the M’s dealt Mike Montgomery for this squat, slugging savant.
To wit: There are precisely four pictures of Dan the Man in the photo editor from all of last season. Three of them are from Picture Day in spring training, and only one is from actual game action.
Vogey played in 16 games in 2017. Six came in April, when he went 2-14. One came in May against the White Sox, in which he was 1-3. And the final nine came at the close of the season in September, when the Florida native was 3-11. Not exactly the stat line of a superstar in the making.
It’s strange, then, isn’t it, that Daniel Vogelbach has been completely and thoroughly written off by most in and around the organization. Oh, there’s an argument to be made that Vogelbach is a classic AAAA tweener, good enough to mash in AAA (and he did so last year, to the tune of .290/.388/.455 with 17 homers) but not good enough to be an MLB regular.
Example A: This one guy (listed as 6’2”, 230 lbs., not too far from Vogelbach’s 6’0”, 250 lb. frame) from the mid-2000s. Let’s call him Player X. Player X hit .269/.382/.490 in 246 PAs in AAA at age 24. The next season, he mashed to the tune of .302/.378/.528 in 104 games, but just .223/.261/.385 in the majors. The year after that: .352/.428/.698 in AAA, .235/.287/.384 in the bigs.
Or we could use Player Y as an example; this outfielder had five AAA seasons with an OPS above .850 before he turned 30 and only 796 career major league at-bats. Clearly, both of these players are good enough to mash AAA and never quite good enough to get hits off the best of the best.
“But wait!” you cry, which is weird since I’m writing this article and none of you are in my apartment at the moment. “You can’t be saying that Dan Vogelbach is the next Nelson Cruz!”
He’s not. I’m sure of that. But are we really that sure he’ll never contribute to a major league ball club? We’re talking about a player with a grand total of FORTY major league at-bats. Seems to me it’s premature to count him out until he gets more than just a cup of coffee in the major leagues.
I’m quite glad we’re not relying on Dan as our first baseman this season. He’s a far cry from a sure thing. Heck, he’s a far cry from a maybe thing. But he’s still just 25 years old. That’s a year older than I am, and I think I still have potential! (note: rhetorical question, please don’t answer that.)
So, Dan, just keep hitting and keep plugging away and keep getting better. Maybe (probably) we’ll see you in September, or you’ll get the call-up if Healy and/or Ford go down. Perhaps not even then. Your stock may have fallen precipitously since we gave up our beloved MiMo for you, but you’re still a lottery ticket folded up in our collective wallet. And somebody has to win the lottery.