Yes, the 2019 Mariners are bad. Exactly like they told us they would be. And while many refuse to acknowledge the player is more valuable than the team record this season, there is one concern to monitor going forward.
Well, clearly there are a lot of concerns going forward in the Mariners rebuild. Actually, there are a lot of concerns in every rebuild, but since most Seattle fans have never been through a true rebuild (you haven’t. Sucking isn’t rebuilding. It’s just sucking for no cause) that may be news to some.
But while we have focused on the positives in the minor leagues and celebrate the positives of a few bright spots on the roster right now, there is one trend with two potential future assets worth watching for the rest of the season and beyond.
The other day, I asked the question, “how many players on the 25 man roster right now are likely to be here on Opening Day 2021?” I speculated as few as 2 and most people landed in the 4-5 range. Two players who showed up in most list were Daniel Vogelbach and J.P. Crawford.
Personally, I agreed on Crawford and had Vogelbach as a close 50/50 call. But both players have one area where there needs to be some growth going forward; hitting against same-handed pitchers.
Both Crawford and Vogelbach swing left-handed and both have struggled mightily against left-handed pitching. Vogelbach entered Sunday’s game slashing just .174/.276/.380 against LHP in 105 PA’s, which has dragged down his overall numbers.
Thankfully, Vogelbach has been a force against RHP, slashing .248/.380/.531, which has kept his overall numbers in the solid range of above-average.
Crawford hasn’t faired much better against LHP, slashing a measly .188/.293/.203 in 75 PAs against them. I don’t have to tell you how bad that is. But we should also mention that when facing RHP, which is about 60% of the time, Crawford is hitting .268/.344/.476. For a middle infielder, that is more than good enough.
Whether you think both are feature players on the 2021 team aside, there are a few things to consider. First, we are still dealing with relatively small sample sizes. These numbers don’t mean that either player will never be able to hit LHP, just that it is a major hole in their game today.
Second, the ability to hit LHP is significantly more important for Vogelbach than Crawford. Crawford has the ability to make up for this deficiency with his base-running and solid to an above-average glove. Vogelbach… well let’s just say he doesn’t.
If Vogelbach is just a platoon bat, it doesn’t mean he is worthless, he is just worth less. As somebody who should likely be a full-time DH, it is tough to use an extra roster spot on a platoon partner at DH. The Mariners would like to get away from the full-time DH and use the spot like most teams do now, a rotation to keep as many guys as fresh as possible.
The Mariners have no reason not to keep running both of these guys out there on a daily basis, but this off-season could be telling, particularly for Vogelbach. If the Mariners bring in a veteran right-handed bat or still think Ryon Healy holds some value, it could mean they are ready for a full-time platoon.
Only time will tell, but as we continue to dream in 2021, don’t forget to watch for real changes and improvements this season and next.