The Curious Case of Dan Vogelbach

PEORIA, AZ - FEBRUARY 21: Daniel Vogelbach
PEORIA, AZ - FEBRUARY 21: Daniel Vogelbach /

After being acquired from the Cubs at the 2016 trade deadline, 1B Dan Vogelbach’s path seemed clear. The tandem of Dae-Ho Lee and Adam Lind were set to depart in the offseason and the first base job was up for grabs. But then the Mariners made a trade for 1B/OF Danny Valencia and Vogelbach fell into a platoon position at best.

Fast forward to the Mariners 2018 Spring Training, and Vogelbach finds himself in the midst of a position battle.

Vogelbach began his career with the Chicago Cubs after being picked in the 2nd round of the 2011 draft. He excelled through the minors and arrived in AAA for the 2016 season. The Cubs, however, had a first basemen by the name of Anthony Rizzo.  Vogey’s path to the majors was blocked. Defensively, Vogelbach would likely be better suited for a DH role but due to National League rules, that was not an option.

When the Mariners made the trade for Vogelbach in 2016, Ill be the first to admit that I was not thrilled. Mike Montgomery was a valuable piece to give up. After reading up on Vogey however, I became slightly more optimistic. A young first baseman that has had success in the minors seemed like a better idea than having players on the wrong side of 30 on one year contracts manning the position.

Even after trading for Valencia, I still had my hopes up. While platoons aren’t ideal, a Valencia/Vogelbach platoon didn’t seem like the worst scenario. But then, after just a handful of at bats, Vogey was sent back to the minors. Valencia was given the everyday 1B job.

It’s not as if Valencia was crushing the ball prior to Vogelbach’s demotion. A .148 AVG in the first month of the season left a bad taste in the mouths of M’s fans. I remember hearing Valencia booed in the first few weeks of the season when he stepped to the plate. Vogelbach had a total of 17 at bats in the first two months of the season.  Valencia had 170. Vogelbach wasn’t even given a chance to play.

The Mariners have stated that the reason for his lack of playing time on his lack of defensive abilities. Shouldn’t his bat should more than make up for that? Dae-Ho didn’t win any awards for his athleticism over there.  Injuries to pitchers greatly contributed to his demotion. Since so many payers were going down, the team couldn’t afford have an extra roster spot taken up in a platoon so Valencia was tasked with the day-to-day.

During his time with Tacoma in 2017, Vogelbach made the All Star team and represented the Rainiers in the Home Run Derby at Cheney Stadium. I got to watch the raw power he displayed firsthand as he made it to the final round against eventual winner Bryce Brentz. The amount of baseballs that he launched towards Foss High School beyond the right field fence made it easy to get excited for the future.

The now 25-year-old was recalled in August. He played through the remainder of the season, hitting .223 in limited at bats. Valencia and Yonder Alonso both hit free agency. Thus, Vogelbach once again became the number one option for the Mariners first base job.

Then Ryon Healy came around. And then Mike Ford. All of a sudden, Vogelbach again found himself as the odd man out in Seattle. Ford has to remain of the 25 man roster, otherwise he will be sent back to the Yankees. Healy, once he is healthy again, will be the starting first baseman.

That basically leaves Vogey as the starting first baseman down in Tacoma. He has nothing left to prove theere though. Vogelbach has more time than Ford does at AAA. Unless the Mariners can swing a deal with the Yankees that would allow Ford to stay a Mariner, Ford is going to be on the roster.

In the wake of Healy’s injury, Vogelbach and Ford are going to be battling all Spring for a chance to crack the 2018 roster and will both be given long looks. But just when Vogey is finally given a shot, he gets hit in the foot and is going to be out for a few days with a foot bruise. He did stay in the game and hit a double soon after but even missing a few days is a big deal for someone trying to earn a spot. Also, yes, I’ve seen the picture of the HBP. It wasn’t one of his finer moments. Stop picking on him, darn it.

So why is it that Vogelbach is not being given a chance? He has 270 career at bats at the major league level. For a guy that posses as much talent with a bat as he does, it doesn’t make sense to keep blocking him. Healy is under control for the next five years with the Mariners so it would seem that first base is locked up.

Of course Healy is not a sure thing, however he has had success at the major league level and will get the bulk of the playing time at least in 2018. Maybe the M’s are waiting for the departure of Nelson Cruz to move Vogelbach to a full-time DH. If that was the case, I would think that the M’s would want him to have some kind of experience in the majors first. It’s frustrating to watch Vogelbach spend most of his time in Tacoma and never be given a chance.

The Mariners have so many question marks both now and in the future, none more confusing than the organizations distaste in the former Chicago Cub. I’m biased. Vogelbach has become one of my favorite players.

Next: A Battle Brewing at First Base?

I believe that he needs to be given a chance. If not with the Mariners, then with another team but it needs to happen. It needs to happen soon. His career is being wasted in AAA Tacoma. I’m not sure anybody understands exactly why Vogey has been written off, maybe not even Jerry. 2018 may be the most important year of Vogey’s career to date. It’s time to give him the opportunist to succeed.