The story is a little bit Hollywood, even if the lone player who will be representing the Mariners in the 2019 All-Star Game is unmistakably a Florida boy. Drafted in a 2011 2nd round that will have two other first-time All-Stars this year (Pittsburgh’s Josh Bell and the White Sox’s James McCann), Daniel Vogelbach will be an All-Star for the Seattle Mariners in Cleveland next week.
Despite flagging enthusiasm for the Mariners dragging down his vote totals, Vogelbach was both an obvious choice for Seattle’s rep and the most deserving DH by a wide margin. He’s hitting a Giambi-esque .248/.383/.528 with 20 HRs and a 146 wRC+. That wRC+ is 12th in all of baseball and 4th in the AL, behind only Mike Trout, Alex Bregman, and Carlos Santana.
It’s an extraordinary achievement for a guy who tallied over 1400 AAA PAs before his first 150 in the bigs. Part of what makes baseball brilliant is the ability for players with all sorts of styles and skillsets to excel, and an undeniable portion of his portion of his popularity is that which draws fans to Bartolo Colón, John Kruk, and many other broad-bodied athletes. But Vogelbach deserves more than a token appreciation - he has adjusted, maintained, improved, and at long last thrived. A year and a half ago, after scuffling in 2017, Vogelbach learned to let loose with joy in the AAA Home Run Derby. Then, in the 2018-19 offseason, he began to adjust once more. His swing plane shifted to the heavens without sacrificing his keen eye.
The player he’s become is the wildest dream of who Seattle might’ve acquired from the Cubs back in July of 2016. Only Félix Hernández and Kyle Seager have been on the Mariners 40-man roster as long, but not until now has he been given the chance to shine. Nobody swings less, yet few can match what he does when the bat comes off his shoulder. His compact swing has helped him handle modern heat better than anyone in baseball, as his .583 wOBA on 95+ mph pitches is the best of any player by over 60 points (min. 40 PAs).
He’s been steady.
He’s been clutch.
He’s been the guy the Mariners want up when it matters most.
He’s been a proactive mentor to players like Jarred Kelenic who represent the future of the Mariners franchise, but also to guys with merely a puncher’s chance at a big league call-up like Ian Miller. Andy McKay is typically effusive of any and every player who looks like they might even be wearing Mariners gear at a distance, but considering the consistency to the stories we’ve heard of how Vogey has aided and delighted his teammates with his attitude and performance, the farm director’s praise is understandable.
And now, for all the world to see, he is an All-Star. His skillset remains limited by his defense, but with over 300 PAs under his belt he’s been around the pinnacle of what a DH can be. Between Edgar Martinez, Nelson Cruz, and Edwin Encarnacion, few teams have seen better DH play than the Mariners. Now, after years of grinding PCL pitching into dust, Vogelbach has gotten his chance, and he has earned his due.