Daniel Vogelbach is off to a scorching start so far with the Brewers. It turns out, a change of scenery, and then another one, was just what he needed.
On September 3rd, the Brewers made a transaction that seemed more like a move for the future than one which would help much in the present. On that day, the Brewers designated first baseman Justin Smoak for assignment and claimed Daniel Vogelbach off waivers.
Smoak had been off to a terrible start, slashing just .186/.262/.381 with 40 strikeouts in 33 games. Despite a couple small hot streaks, the switch hitter never was able to really get going, leading the Brewers determine that they had to move on if they had any hopes of going on a late playoff push.
But if you thought Smoak’s start was slow, Vogelbach’s was somehow far worse. After an All-Star season in 2019, the big lefty started 2020 with a horrid .094/.250/.226 slash line for the Mariners, was DFA’d, claimed by the Blue Jays, had no hits in two games with them, and was DFA’d yet again.
So when the Brewers essentially swapped him in for Smoak, the move was understandably met with skepticism by much of the fanbase. Why swap out a struggling first baseman for someone who was actually performing worse? The transaction made sense from a team control aspect, but how does this help get any closer to a playoff berth?
Well not only did the Brewers get to bring in a potential future slugger with four more years of team control, the move has turned out to pay immediate dividends as well. Vogelbach has entirely turned his season around and has been a top contributor for Milwaukee since he has arrived.
Vogelbach has gone from questionable pickup to new fan-favorite over the course of eight games.
If there’s two types of players that Brewers fans love to cheer for, it’s a plucky underdog or a hefty slugger who looks like he’d be the best player on your beer league softball team. Vogelbach fits the latter category, but also happens to have raked since donning a Brewer uniform.
Vogelbach hit a single in his second at bat as a Brewer, finishing 2 for 3 on the day. He’s done nothing but hit since, collecting hits in seven of his eight games as a Brewer and totaling 12 in all, which is more than double the five whole hits he had prior to joining Milwaukee.
His hot start as a Brewer has translated to a .462/.533/.654 slashline in those eight games as well as a 1.187 OPS. Everything culminated into his best game for Milwaukee to date on Tuesday night, as he went 3 for 4, scored three times, drove in four, and hit his very first “Vogelbomb” as a Brewer.
The move has had another possibly unintended positive consequence for the Brewers as well. A below average defender, Vogelbach has been only tasked with playing at designated hitter for Milwaukee. So with Smoak’s departure, that left a defensive hole at first base.
Manager Craig Counsell originally mentioned using a variety of players to fill in at first base to finish the season. But for the most part, that honor has gone to Jedd Gyorko, who had no more than 11 appearances in a season at the position prior to 2020.
Not only has Gyorko performed extremely well defensively at the position, he has continued to swing a hot bat, one that wasn’t featured in the lineup nearly enough to start the year. Gyorko’s .987 OPS leads all players who have been on the roster since the start of the season and his eight homers are third behind just Keston Hiura (12) and Christian Yelich (10).
Vogelbach has been a pleasant surprise since his arrival and one that has delighted Brewers fans more and more each day. If he looks more like this version going forward and less like the one seen prior, it could be another one of those sneaky-good waiver claims fans have seen in the past.