We continue our grading of the 2019 Seattle Mariners players, this time focusing on first base.
In the first article of the series, we focused on Mariners catchers Tom Murphy and Omar Narvaez and both received excellent grades for their work in 2019. Today, we take a look at a position that isn’t quite as clear; first base.
Let’s start right here, a large portion of starts at the position went to Edwin Encarnacion and Jay Bruce, who are no longer with the team. Therefore, they aren’t eligible for grading. That leaves just 2 players to grade, so let’s get started.
Grading Daniel Vogelbach almost requires 2 separate grades: first half Vogey and second half Vogey. First half Vogelbach likely earns close to an A grade, slashing .238/.375/.505. Second half Vogelbach is probably no better than a D, slashing .172/.301/.374. We have to be careful not to overweigh the second half due to recency bias, but man has Vogelbach been bad since the All-Star break.
Overall, Vogelbach has still shown power and on-base skills in his first full season with the big club and the strikeout rate isn’t unreasonable. Even his defense has been passable. If he was even 80% of what he was from April to June, he probably gets an A grade who we are considering a stable part of the Mariners future.
But with Evan White right around the corner, it looks as though Vogelbach is headed to a DH or bust role with Seattle, which means it is that much more important that his bat is not just okay but above-average to great.
There really isn’t any reason to give up on him yet, but 2020 will be a huge year for him. Either the Mariners need to know they have a DH going forward or they will have an open spot to rotate players through and Vogelbach will need to find work elsewhere. I am still optimistic, but time is running down on Cornelius.
Austin Nola may be the best move GM Jerry Dipoto made. Okay, that is a little bit of hyperbole, but for signing as a minor league free agent, Nola may have forced himself into the future plans of the Mariners. Most prospects don’t breakout as 29-year-old rookies, but Nola has done just that.
He can play a 50-grade catcher, plays well above-average at first base, and can handle himself at second and left field. And, his offensive profile appears to be sustainable. He hits the ball hard, understands the strike zone and has a surprising amount of pop.
Nola went from an afterthought, backup catcher for the Rainiers to playing himself into a significant role for the 2019 Mariners and beyond. I don’t care who you are or how you feel about the Mariners, but that right there is some A-grade work.