Some tempered enthusiasm regarding Dan Vogelbach

The Mariners traded for Dan Vogelbach today, and I want to talk about it. I’d like to clear some things up first though.

I don’t write anymore. It’s not completely because I don’t like it, but partially because I don’t like it as much as I used to. I started a podcast, and I started doing stand up comedy. If you haven’t checked either of those things out, it would be cool if you did now. I probably won’t write more often, and nobody else really writes for this website anymore. Why are you even reading this basically-dead website?

The Mariners traded for Dan Vogelbach today. He’s a hitter who has been extremely successful in the minors, and does a lot of the things that modern stats point to as important for future big leaguers. His strikeout rate is manageable (lower than 20 percent) and his walk rate is really good (15.1 percent). All of this as a 23 year old in Triple A. He’s young for his level, and he hits the hell out of the ball. He has a .230 isolated power.

The problem is that he’s basically a bat only. The Mariners have had problems with these kinds of players in the past half decade. They’ve gone through Jesus Montero, Mark Trumbo, Logan Morrison, Justin Smoak, Adam Lind, John Jaso, Kendrys Morales, Mike Sweeney, Milton Bradley, and Russell Branyan with limited success from the beginning of the Jack Zduriencik era to present regime run by Jerry Dipoto. They also have Nelson Cruz, who has been an amazing hitter since joining the Mariners, but who remains an enormous defensive liability.

And Vogelbach has a bad body. A really bad body. Cue the Jesus Montero comparisons. But he’s performed well at a high level, which is something Montero never truly did. Nonetheless, the body probably limits Vogelbach’s upside.

But the team gave up Mike Montgomery for Vogelbach. Montgomery is a sub-elite LOOGY with a background as a starter, and Vogelbach is a flawed, perhaps fatally flawed hitter. This is the appropriate price to pay for that kind of hitter. The Mariners paid substantially more, either in prospects or real live American dollars, in the transactions that brought all of the aforementioned players to the Mariners (except my beloved John Jaso, who they traded for in exchange for Josh Lueke).

Vogelbach is a young, controllable, ostensibly MLB-ready hitter. But he’s a limited value asset. He need to be a very good hitter to stick at first base or DH long term. Every hitter the Mariners have trotted through those positions has been a good hitter for stretches at a time. Not playing defense well, or at a position that matters defensively, makes it very difficult to be a good MLB player.

If Vogelbach was a quality defender at a meaningful position, this deal would be a slam dunk. Of course, if Vogelbach could play the field he’d be a much higher-rated, and more valuable prospect, and the Mariners would have to trade a lot more than Mike Montgomery for him.