Vogelbach has had issues with hitting too many ground balls, but he might have figured out a way to get low pitches in the air.
Daniel Vogelbach has always had power potential. That much is obvious just by looking at him. He makes Franmil Reyes and Pete Alonso, the Beef Lords of San Diego and New York look svelte by comparison. It hasn’t quite materialized, however. Prior to this season, Vogelbach had just four big league homers, spread across five different stints and 146 plate appearances. His ISO in that smattering of attempts was just .118.
Even in the minors, his power numbers were a bit disappointing. In a full season at Triple-A Tacoma in 2017, Vogelbach tallied just 17 homers, a respectable total but still under where you’d expect him to be. Vogelbach changed his swing coming into the 2018 season and rode it to great success. In 378 PCL plate appearances, he slashed .290/.434/.545 with 20 bombs.
That step forward didn’t fully carry over in the majors. Whether he wasn’t given enough time to adapt to major league pitching or he was still a Quad-A hitter, he never proved that he belonged. Now, though, he might finally be doing it.
Through the first two weeks of the season, the power has come. In 39 plate appearances this year, Vogelbach has twelve hits: two singles, four doubles, and six homers. His most recent dinger came in the top of the tenth against the Kansas City Royals yesterday, and he put it out to right-center.
— Seattle Mariners (@Mariners) April 11, 2019
The low pitch is one that Vogelbach had a tendency to roll over the top of last year. Thus far, he’s done a much better job of getting those sorts of pitches in the air. Vogelbach has always been able to hit the ball hard, but he couldn’t do as much damage on the ground. Vogelbach has been more aggressive on pitches in the lower two-thirds of the strike zone, and so far it’s paid off for him.
Something that makes me think it’s not a fluke is how much better his swings on pitches low in the zone have looked. Last year, when he was putting the ball on the ground, it looked like he wasn’t keeping his swing path perpendicular with his body.
On this low changeup from Johnny Cueto, Vogelsong puts a flat swing on it. Because his upper half is leaning back toward the catcher, the path to the ball isn’t as direct and he winds up swinging down on it. He hit the ball hard but on the ground.
On a similarly placed changeup from Trevor Cahill, Vogelbach keeps the bat head down and his path is more perpendicular. This wound up being a double in the right-center gap.
These are extremely small samples, so we’ll have to see if Vogelbach is really being more aggressive and effective down in the zone. It’s something to keep an eye on because if Vogelbach has learned to command the bottom half of the zone, his breakout could be for real.
Kenny Kelly is a writer for Beyond the Box Score and McCovey Chronicles. You can follow him on Twitter @KennyKellyWords.