When Daniel Vogelbach walked to the plate on International Women’s Day at Citi Field to Kelis’s “Milkshake,” the entire stadium erupted in cheers. It was a perfect song to go along with Vogelbach, a new Mets addition that looked to inject some life into their dormant designated hitter spot in the lineup.
Initially, the trade from the Pirates for reliever Colin Holderman did just that. In his first month in Queens, Vogelbach was exactly as advertised: a very patient hitter with a good eye and some serious power who crushes right-handed pitching. However, some ‘high hamstring discomfort’ limited Vogelbach’s production down the stretch. A 139 OPS+ with six home runs, nine doubles, and 33 walks in 183 plate appearances is nothing to sneeze at, but when Vogelbach’s power dried up for the final five weeks of the season, you can’t help but try to dream on what he could’ve done if healthy.
A ridiculously affordable $1.5 million team option meant that Vogey was most likely going to be a Met in 2023, and the Mets did, indeed, pick up that option.
On March 21, the SNY broadcast picked up Vogelbach saying “I can’t buy a fucking hit” as he grounded out to the right side of the infield. He wasn’t wrong; this spring, across 43 plate appearances, Vogelbach collected just eight hits, two for extra bases. Even his good eye at the plate wasn’t really on display, with him walking just twice against 12 strikeouts. With the ban on the shift going into effect this spring, Vogelbach looked to be the prototypical beneficiary of some extra hits due to the limited defensive options opposing teams could field against a pull-heavy lefty. That simply didn’t happen, at least not enough to bust him out of his Grapefruit League slump.
A slow spring is not reason to really panic about an established Major League hitter, but after the tail end of Vogelbach’s season was ineffective, too, and so a little bit of concern is not unmerited. It is far, far too early to worry about his production, but is something worth keeping an eye on as the season progresses. This is especially true since Billy Eppler is on record as not wanting his bench filled with folks who have power (and body hair), and therefore there isn’t really someone else in the organization who makes sense to spell Vogelbach if his struggles continue.