Let’s Everyone Shout About Dan Vogelbach

It’s rare that the scouting community, projections wonks, and enthusiastic fans all possess more or less the same opinion about a player. More commonly, a player comes up and drives some kind of wedge between certain crowds. So Dan Vogelbach, guy who fans like more than scouts, isn’t necessarily rare in that regard. In Vogelbach’s case, however, the difference of opinion are more pronounced. And in Vogelbach’s case, the stakes are higher — in more ways than one.

Vogelbach doesn’t own the biggest difference between the Fans projection and the depth-charts version. That honor belongs to Jeff Sullivan’s Keon Broxton. He’s not even the 10th- or 20th-most loved by the Fans, even though the Fans give him more than a win over the Depth Charts’ meager 0.6-win outlook.

What everyone’s favorite adult son does own is a difference that’s more remarkable when you compare him to like players. Here he is among players projected by the Depth Charts to be produce less than 0.8 wins next year. Here he is on the fringe — and yes, the Fans do like him more than most of the other 57 players in this part of the pool.

The Role Players the Fans Like Most
Name PA OBP SLG Fld WAR WARfans Diff
Brandon Drury 400 0.311 0.409 -2.8 0.3 2.6 2.3
Yoan Moncada 189 0.315 0.370 -0.8 0.2 2.4 2.2
Joey Gallo 112 0.309 0.450 0.0 0.2 2.1 1.9
Guillermo Heredia 126 0.328 0.338 -0.1 0.1 1.5 1.4
Andrew Toles 289 0.304 0.399 2.4 0.6 2.0 1.4
Hunter Renfroe 575 0.283 0.426 2.4 0.6 2.0 1.4
Albert Almora 364 0.298 0.396 1.6 0.6 1.9 1.3
A.J. Reed 70 0.318 0.426 -0.1 0.1 1.3 1.2
Whit Merrifield 168 0.301 0.365 0.8 0.3 1.5 1.2
Jurickson Profar 504 0.322 0.382 -0.1 0.5 1.7 1.2
Dan Vogelbach 301 0.334 0.408 -0.2 0.6 1.7 1.1
Mallex Smith 273 0.307 0.340 1.7 0.3 1.3 1.0
Danny Valencia 518 0.314 0.426 -3.9 0.5 1.5 1.0
Tyler Flowers 303 0.306 0.382 -2.6 0.6 1.5 0.9
Victor Martinez 616 0.332 0.433 0.0 0.3 1.2 0.9
All stats except WARFans are projected by depth charts.
All players projected for less than .8 wins by the depth charts included (n=58)

Basically, the depth-chart projections think he’s a replacement-level player; the fans, meanwhile, regard him as a major-league regular. What you’ll notice on this list of similar players is the preponderance of young players. (Carson Cistulli found a similar development on Monday when also looking at fan vs. depth-chart projections.) Not only is it hard to figure out what Yoan Moncada will do this year, but it’s also hard to find out how often he’ll play in the big leagues.

On a rate basis, the difference between Vogelbach’s fan and depth-chart projections isn’t as significant. Prorating all players to 600 plate appearances, Vogelbach drops to 17th on the list of role players. But playing time is a huge part of this. Moncada doesn’t need to play in the bigs this year. Vogelbach, on the other hand, is expected to have starting role with a club that’s competing for the playoffs. Other than Brandon Drury and Andrew Toles, there probably isn’t a young player among this top 15 who has a better hold on a job as of now. Yes, Joey Gallo and Whit Merrifield may solidify bigger roles this spring, but they have a fair amount of risk — and a lower floor for playing time, if you will.

If we introduce the third estate, the scouts, we start to manufacture a consensus. Sort of. Eric Longenhagen said his opinion on Vogelbach hadn’t changed much since July last year:

He’s not a good athlete and has issues with range, footwork, flexibility and throwing accuracy. He’ll make the occasional, spectacular-looking, effort-based play but hasn’t shown enough technical refinement in his five pro seasons to convince scouts he can play a position. … Vogelbach has plus raw power but it comes at the expense both of effort and swing-and-miss when he really cuts things loose. He’ll hit some impressive blasts to his pull side and muscle some balls out the other way but, in general, the game power plays beneath his raw because Vogelbach’s approach to hitting is often of the Take What You’re Given variety and he sprays contact all over the field. The physical tools for contact are here. Vogelbach has good bat control, hand-eye coordination, the bat speed is good and he’s shown that he can recognize ball and strikes. The issue here has been his footwork, which would get clunky and leave Vogelbach’s weight way out on his front foot against offspeed stuff.

In sum, Longenhagen hung a 45 future value on Vogelbach, a number that suggests below-average but regular future work, the sort of thing Mike Napoli did last year with his one-win performance. Longenhagen thought there was decent agreement in the scouting community on that prognosis, and even Chris Mitchell’s KATOH, which gave the slugger around six wins in his first six seasons, seems to agree.

You’ve got one projection for nearly replacement-level work, a scout’s feeling that he’ll be a useful but below-average regular, another scout-type projection for one win, and then the exuberant fans giving him nearly two wins. This is all for a player who has a high floor in terms of playing time, so the one win feels about right for a player with his flaws. And yet, as the lefty, he could easily push Valencia aside and end up with close to two wins in two-thirds of the year.

This isn’t some deep, divisive schism between prognostications. But, given the way the depth charts have worked in Seattle, there’s a decent amount on the line.

With the worst version of Vogelbach factored in, the Mariners are tied with three teams in their own division for the second Wild Card according to our projections. If they get the scout’s version right away, they might eek past their competition. If Seattle gets the fan’s version of Vogelbach, it might be the difference between making the playoffs and not.

All of this is relevant to one free agent on the market: Pedro Alvarez. He’s projected to be ten percentage points better with the bat than Vogelbach next year, and so most of the systems have him as the more valuable player in 2017. Given his significant body of work in the majors, he’s definitely easier to project. If the Mariners end up with the worst-case scenario Vogelbach and barely miss the playoffs, they’ll probably wish they had picked up the flawed Alvarez. It just depends where the Mariners find themselves on the Vogelbach spectrum, now and later.





With a phone full of pictures of pitchers' fingers, strange beers, and his two toddler sons, Eno Sarris can be found at the ballpark or a brewery most days. Read him here, writing about the A's or Giants at The Athletic, or about beer at October. Follow him on Twitter @enosarris if you can handle the sandwiches and inanity.

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Mario Mendozamember
5 years ago

Wonder much Montgomery-regret factors into SEA decision to pick him over Alvarez

Anonymous
5 years ago
Reply to  Mario Mendoza

I would hope that sunk costs are irrelevant in 2017