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I Still Believe In Stephen Vogt

Don't forget about last year's fan favorite so quickly.

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Me, writing about Stephen Vogt on January 28th, 2015:

"Even a modest progression from last year's totals would have Vogt matching the All-Star caliber numbers Derek Norris gave us last season."

"At worst, he should offer solid totals as a second catcher. At best, he could continue to improve and maybe crack the Top 12-15 at his position."

The full article is here, but you can already sense the general timbre of the piece. Stephen Guy Vogt was an All-Star and produced a .261/.341/.443 line with 18 home runs, 58 runs and 71 RBI. I, like many other Vogt owners, rode the wave of his blistering first half but was eventually forced to find a stopgap at catcher for the second half of the season. Personally, I think that comes with the territory if we are discussing the catcher position. I am not overly concerned about the second half fade.

Remember that Vogt sustained a painful groin injury from a foul tip on September 6th of last year, one that cost him a full two weeks of playing time and seemed to hinder him for the remainder of the season. When he returned, Vogt played in only 12 games before the season's end, which is precious little time to readjust. Let's take a look at Vogt's monthly production in the chart below, and identify the "outlying" months:

APRIL 21 66 23 4 .348 .429 .606
MAY 28 83 25 7 .301 .398 .614
JUNE 26 91 24 2 .264 .361 .385
JULY 21 80 13 1 .163 .193 .225
AUGUST 24 76 21 4 .276 .341 .526
SEPTEMBER 14 40 8 0 .200 .289 .275
OCTOBER 2 9 2 0 .222 .300 .222

What I see above is torrid, torrid, normal, slump, normal, hurt, hurt. It is interesting to me that the Vogt skeptics keep citing the second half fade, but no one is talking about his August "rebound." Sure, July was ice cold, but Vogt doesn't get any credit for righting the ship in August? And no one thinks the groin injury that sidelined him for two weeks in September impacted him negatively for the remainder of the season?

I do not believe Stephen Vogt is a .217 hitter like he was over the second half of 2015. The man was a career .305 hitter in the minor leagues prior to his first cup of coffee with the Tampa Bay Rays in 2012. Granted, Vogt did not register his first MLB hit over his paltry 25 at-bats that season. But in the three ensuing MLB seasons his average and BABIP have been pretty steady:

2013 .252 .286
2014 .279 .297
2015 .261 .290

I am inclined to believe that his average is a plus when you consider the festering wasteland that is the catcher position. For instance, do you know how many backstops hit double-digit home runs and had a batting average .260 or better in 2015? Only five: Buster Posey, Salvador Perez, Travis d'Arnaud, Nick Hundley, and Stephen Vogt. Shout-out to this guy for that statistic. I won't dive into it here, but we could easily talk roster construction at this point. Either you want a catcher who can contribute in the average category and still give you some power, or you want to punt average altogether and draft a guy who can offer tons of power (compared to Vogt) at the catcher position. That much is up to you. What I am contending is that Vogt is still useful, while many seem very eager to cast him aside.

As for the issue of Vogt's power, perhaps the skeptics are onto something. In 2015, Vogt's Home Run to Fly Ball Ratio (HR/FB) was inflated to a mark of 12.5 percent, which is higher than his career mark of 9.8 percent. Also, in 2013 and 2014 Vogt managed marks of 8.2 and 8.3 percent, respectively (albeit in limited duty). Still, Vogt's true potential may lie closer to 8 or 9 percent, which means that his power is probably closer to average than it is above average.

Also, Vogt's Fly Ball Percentage in 2015 was 40.4 percent, or the lowest that mark has been in his professional career. However, as stated above, his HR/FB ratio increased. In layman's terms, Vogt hit a lesser percentage of fly balls, but a greater percentage of those fly balls became home runs. Could this be a case of a player "picking his spots?" I believe it is possible, especially for a guy who drastically increased his walk rate to 11 percent last season, up from 6.1 percent (2013) and 5.6 percent (2014). He also hit a few more line drives in 2015 (21.9%) than in 2014 (19.6%). This could be a professional ballplayer choosing to make some adjustments. It could also be dumb luck. So I'll grant the skeptics this: fewer fly balls and some regression in the HR/FB ratio should mean fewer home runs. It doesn't mean zero home runs, though. And if more line drives and patience means a higher OBP and a higher batting average, I'll accept a few less big flies. Especially if I am getting this guy dirt cheap at my draft table.

Which brings me to the final point. In the recent FSTA Experts League Draft, Vogt was drafted as the 17th catcher off the boards--all the way down in Round 16. Other catcher picks around that time were Nick Hundley, Miguel Montero, Blake Swihart, and Derek Norris. The point is, you aren't having to pay a thing to see if the positives with Stephen Vogt outweigh the negatives. If he truly is the guy we saw in the second half fade, the pick isn't going to hurt you too much. If he is, however, a steady .275 guy with relevant counting statistics and 15-18 homer power, then you've made out like a bandit while someone else is rostering Miguel Montero.

That brings us to projection time, brought to you courtesy of Steamer and yours truly:

Steamer:  112 G, 428 AB, 13 HR, 52 R, 56 RBI, .260 AVG, .326 OBP.

I Vogted:  135 G, 440 AB, 17 HR, 63 R, 75 RBI, .274 AVG, .336 OBP.

Basically, I'm shaving 5 AB off of last year's totals and giving Vogt a small bump in runs and RBI. I gave him only one less home run, as I think he can hold steady in that department. Line drives can be home runs, too, folks. I expect his average to improve from .261 and his OBP to drop some, but to still be on the plus side. And I suppose I expect the Athletics to not be quite as bad as they were last season. We'll see about that one.