Roster Review: Stephen Vogt

By Jason Wojciechowski on February 13, 2014 at 9:48 PM

I'm sick of talking about catchers. See basically every post I've written here this winter for further discussion of the catching situation.

For as surprisingly competent as Vogt was as an emergency replacement for John Jaso when the latter suffered a concussion and never managed to make it back, in the end, he hit an uninspiring .252/.295/.400. That's a .251 True Average, or a 90 wRC+. Pick your park-adjusted metric that properly weights the different components of hitting. That's actually fine relative to his position, where the average big leaguer hit .246/.313/.396 (.257 True Average, 92 wRC+), but it's not inspirational or jazzy or delicious or any positive adjective you could think of that fits or doesn't fit, unless "just shy of average" is a positive adjective. It fits, at least.

Vogt's middle name is Guy. FYI.

While I don't think I can reveal details, I will say that my sources tell me that Derek Norris graded out a fair bit better than Vogt at pitch-framing in 2013, at levels that work out to something like a win below average for Vogt if he played a full season and maybe half a win above average for Norris if you add some games to his seasonal line to pretend that he was a full-timer rather than a platoon catcher. Vogt was also approximately 2 1/2 times worse at blocking pitches than Norris, based on FanGraphs' RPP metric, which is based on (or maybe a direct implementation of) Bojan Koprivica's remarkable work from late 2011. (Speaking in relative terms masks that we're talking about a run or two or three for each player, though.)

I'm no scout, but to my eyes, Norris looks more comfortable, natural, and quiet behind the plate. Both he and Vogt are "built like catchers," which you can read as me saying they're a little chubby (I'd go with "thick" instead), but Norris looks a bit more athletic and a bit more at ease, a bit more mechanically sound. Some of that is simple:

Catcher MLB IP as C MiLB G as C Pro games as non-C
Derek Norris 1159 387 7
Stephen Vogt 352 205 324

My take on this has been that, well, if they don't trust Vogt to play catcher, he must not be very good. But that's silly, in part, because catching isn't destiny -- you can get better at it. (You can also get worse at it, and the simple fact of life that we get better at things mentally and via practice at the same time that our bodies are betraying us really confounds easy analysis.) There's at least some thought that Vogt is improving and is a better catcher now than he was back when Tampa Bay was not letting him catch. Still, there's an apparent gap between him and Norris, and given that Vogt is 29, I don't know if that gap is going anywhere.

What I've done with all this information in the past, the merely-okay hitting and the ehhhhh defense, is moan and bitch and whine about how Derek Norris should be a full-time catcher, but this time, let me turn this into more of a lament for the likely-sooner-than-we'd-and-he'd-like end of Stephen Vogt's major-league career. It feels rude to talk about that, but he's, like I said, 29, and he's got 65 big-league games under his belt. He'll make this Oakland team because he bats left-handed, but if he scuffles or if Derek Norris gets some big late-game hits against right-handed relievers, he could find his playing time eroded very quickly.

Such is the plight of the 12th-round pick in his eighth professional season, doomed to spend his years toiling for sub-minimum wage in the bus leagues hoping to get a shot at a few $500,000 salaries (or prorated portions thereof) before fading back out. He's got almost no shot at a full MLB pension, and his chances even of cracking 7 figures in a year (especially net) seem slim. He is part of the great undifferentiated mass that forms the foundation on which the greatness of baseball is built. There can't be a Yadier Molina without 25 Stephen Vogts. A's fans aren't the type who need to be told twice to support an underdog, but just in case you do:

  1. Support Stephen Vogt
  2. Support Stephen Vogt