What happened to Daniel Vogelbach in the second half?
-- Michael C., Arcadia, Calif.
Things indeed changed dramatically for Daniel Vogelbach after he was named to the American League All-Star team on June 30. Prior to that, he’d posted a .248/.383/.528 line with 20 homers in 78 games. In his remaining 66 games, those numbers plummeted to .159/.286/.332 with 10 homers.
The dramatic decline in on-base percentage seems particularly key, as Vogelbach’s bread-and-butter is his ability to be selective at the plate. His strikeout-to-walk ratio went from 69 strikeouts and 56 walks in 313 plate appearances before June 30 to 80 strikeouts and 36 walks in 245 plate appearances afterward. If I had simple answers for why, the Mariners would hire me as their hitting coach. But he seemed to lose the aggressive approach where he was hunting the fastball and finding his pitch to hit early in the season.
In situations where Vogelbach got ahead in a count 1-0, he posted a .956 OPS. After being behind 0-1, he had a .587 OPS. Almost all hitters have worse numbers in that scenario, but Vogelbach’s are particularly dramatic. He also got exposed a bit as the season progressed when the Mariners used him more against left-handed pitchers after trading Edwin Encarnacion. He hit just .161/.288/.315 against lefties on the season, compared to .225/.359/.485 against righties.
Vogelbach feasts on confidence, but he looked lost at the plate in the final weeks. A lot of baseball is about confidence and he needs to regain the Vogey swagger. But one thing I’ve learned about Vogelbach, don’t ever count him out. Nobody thought he was part of the future last spring, but he busted out with an All-Star half. It’ll be interesting to see if he can regroup and prove his doubters wrong again.
Does Ryon Healy remain in the Mariners’ plans and could he be the first baseman next year?
-- Rob L., Spokane, Wash.
Ryon Healy is rehabbing from right hip surgery that he hopes solves the back issue that wiped out most of his 2019 season and expects to be ready to go close to the start of Spring Training. However, Healy is one of several players whose contract situation might lead the Mariners to non-tender (or not offer) a contract rather than go into the arbitration process.
MLBtraderumors.com does a good job projecting likely arbitration figures for players and they have Healy estimated at $2.5 million, which might be more than the Mariners want to pay as he comes off a significant injury. Infielder Tim Beckham ($3 million projection) and outfielder Keon Broxton ($1.3 million) could also be non-tender contenders.
The Mariners have 10 arbitration-eligible players at the moment, with the other projections being Domingo Santana ($4.4 million), Mitch Haniger ($3 million), Omar Narvaez ($2.9 million), Mallex Smith ($2.7 million), Anthony Bass ($1.7 million), Matt Wisler ($1 million) and Sam Tuivailala ($900,000).
What players might we see have a solid spring, but not make the roster regardless of performance based on controllability or other reasons beyond their control?
-- A.J., Kalama, Wash.
Some of the young guns -- like outfielder Jarred Kelenic, starting pitcher Logan Gilbert and catcher Cal Raleigh -- will be long shots to make the club out of Spring Training no matter how well they perform as they had limited time in Double-A at the end of this year and that’s a big jump. The Mariners expect that group and others could be ready at some point next year, but it seems likely they’ll be given more Minor League developmental time before that call comes.
Are the Nats going to beat us to a World Series win?
-- Mary M., Seattle, Wash.
Well, they certainly have the inside track at the moment, right? But just to be clear, the Nationals and Mariners are the only MLB franchises to never APPEAR in a World Series, but there are seven teams that have never WON a World Series. That list also includes the Rangers, Brewers, Padres, Rockies and Rays.
The Nats can leave the Mariners as the last to appear on the big stage if they get past the Cardinals in the National League Championship Series, but they’ll still have some work to do after that against the Astros or Yankees to get off the no-titles list.
Do you think the Mariners will have any interest in Yokohama BayStars outfielder Yoshitomo Tsutsugo once he gets posted in December?
-- Justine D., Algona, Wash.
While Yoshitomo Tsutsugo has been one of Japan’s better sluggers, averaging 35 homers a season over the past four years and a career .284 hitter in 10 seasons with Yokohama, I’d be surprised if the Mariners get involved. Although they always seems to be linked to Japanese players and Tsutsugo will only be 28 next season, the Mariners seem inclined to give their up-and-coming outfield prospects a clear path at this point.
Tsutsugo also isn’t regarded as a very good defender and it’s hard to imagine Seattle putting up the posting fee and a serious bid for someone who might wind up being primarily a designated hitter. But as we learned with Yusei Kikuchi last winter, never say never. We’ll see how it shakes out for Tsutsugo when the left-handed hitter goes through the posting process from Nov. 1 to Dec. 5.