August 3, 2017
The Vogelsong Awards: July
This monthly award is named in honor of Ryan Vogelsong who, in 2011:
2. Tied for the 12th-most wins in the league and the seventh-best winning percentage
3. Was an All-Star (didn’t appear) and tied for 11th in the Cy Young voting (one fifth-place vote)
4. Did not appear in the Baseball Prospectus Annual
For more detail on the award, click here.
The Vogelsong Award goes to the best hitter and pitcher who were given little or no attention in the Annual. There are two types of Vogelsong Awards. Full Vogelsongs are awarded to players who aren’t mentioned in the Annual at all. Lineout Vogelsongs go to players whose Annual entry is limited to a short Lineout description given to less prominent players. Prior winners (see list below) and foreign players who signed after the Annual’s deadline are ineligible for the award.
Enough suspense. Here are the winners.
JULY FULL VOGELSONG PLAYER OF THE MONTH: Alex Presley, Detroit Tigers. Presley has played a lot of professional baseball. He was drafted by the Pirates in the eighth round in 2006. He progressed slowly: Short-season ball in 2006, Low-A in 2007, High-A in 2008 and 2009. In 2010, he parlayed a strong performance at Double-A Altoona (.350/.399/.533 in 67 games) into a promotion to Triple-A and, for 25 plate appearances, Pittsburgh.
He’s bounced between Triple-A and the majors ever since, playing for the Pirates, Twins, Astros, Brewers, and Tigers. He entered the season with a career .253/.295/.382 line in 379 major-league games, a total of 0.7 WARP that puts his head just above replacement-level water. His six-year streak of appearing in the Annual ended after Lineout entries in 2015 and 2016.
When the Tigers designated Tyler Collins for assignment at the end of May, they called up Presley from Toledo. Through the end of June, he was batting .245/.302/.347. He was splitting time in center field with Mikie Mahtook when the J.D. Martinez trade opened up playing time in right field. Presley capitalized, hitting 380/.426/.460 in July. His .886 OPS was the 28th-highest in the league among 137 players with 50 or more plate appearances. His month was fueled by a completely unsustainable .452 BABIP, but we don’t award Vogelsong Awards for sustainability, we award them for performance.
Unfortunately, Presley will have to send an emissary to pick up his award, as the Tigers put him on the 10-day disabled list Sunday with a strained oblique.
JULY FULL VOGELSONG PITCHER OF THE MONTH: Chris O’Grady, Miami Marlins. It’s not easy for a 27-year-old in his sixth professional season to have never appeared in the Annual, but O’Grady was up to the task. What’s more, he consistently posted better-than-average ERAs during his minor-league sojourn. He was drafted by the Angels in 2012 and claimed by the Reds in the 2015 Rule 5 draft.
The Reds—remember, this is the Reds team that finished with a team ERA of 4.91 and the worst DRA in the majors—returned him to the Angels in spring training. The Angels released him this spring, and he signed as a free agent with the Marlins on April 24. After 54 2/3 innings in Triple-A New Orleans, during which he compiled a 3.29 ERA, 25 percent strikeout rate, and seven percent walk rate, he joined the Marlins’ rotation on July 8.
In four July starts, O’Grady had a 3.68 ERA in 22 innings. He allowed three or fewer runs in every start, though only his last one, on July 27, lasted more than 5 1/3 innings. His peripherals weren’t great: 1.8 K/BB, 28 percent ground balls, 17 percent chase rate (actually, saying those weren’t great is pretty generous). But his 22 innings were the second-most in the month among Full Vogelsong qualifiers (yes, I know, cracking the Marlins' rotation isn’t exactly a high bar). His 7.59 DRA is not optimistic about his future, but his past, for at least the 31 days of July, was good enough.
JULY LINEOUT VOGELSONG PLAYER OF THE MONTH: Paul DeJong, St. Louis Cardinals. When the clock struck midnight and 2016 Lineout Vogelsong Hitter of the Year Aledmys Diaz turned back into a pumpkin, DeJong took over shortstop for the Cardinals in late June. In the Annual we wrote, “Illinois State product Paul DeJong has soft hands and obvious thunder in his bat, but his strikeout rate spiked in his first taste of the high minors. The Cardinals have been working him out at shortstop to add positional flexibility.”
The shortstop thing worked, as he’s generated 3.0 FRAA in 53 games in the majors. He hit .298/.347/.638 in July, and while he struck out in 30 percent of his plate appearances, he was tied for third in the National League for home runs in the month, with eight, trailing only Giancarlo Stanton and Bryce Harper. (If you want to read that sentence again, go ahead. I’ll wait.) Unsurprisingly, his home run rate in the majors (one per 13.9 at-bats) far exceeds his average over 246 minor-league games (one per 21.1 at-bats).
JULY LINEOUT VOGELSONG PITCHER OF THE MONTH: Anthony Swarzak, Chicago White Sox-Milwaukee Brewers. OMG THEY TRADED A VOGELSONG AWARD WINNER! Swarzak was sent to the Brewers as part of the White Sox teardown on July 26. We covered it here, and Nick Schaefer noted, “Swarzak is throwing harder than ever, averaging 95 mph on his heater and reaching back for 97 as needed.”
That was reflected in his July, when in 14 innings spread over 11 games he struck out nearly a third of the batters he faced while walking only seven percent. He’s unlikely to repeat his .258 BABIP allowed and 100 percent strand rate during the month, and he allows a lot of balls in the air (73 percent of batted balls in July), but they all contributed to a stellar 1.29 ERA. What’s more, he did it in high-pressure situations. The average leverage index in the games he entered in July was 2.55, second only to Sam Dyson’s 2.56 among the 284 pitchers with 10 or more innings in the month. Presumably, he’ll experience more leverage with the fighting-for-the-Wild-Card Brewers than the fighting-for-the-top-draft-pick White Sox.
His Lineout in the Annual says, “For three games, Anthony Swarzak was a revelation. Then, he returned to mediocrity. BP writer Kenny Ducey will always remember him saying Gary Sanchez was ‘real good’ the day before his call-up. Maybe he's still a revelation.” The only time Swarzak faced Sanchez was on June 29, when he yielded a single. He didn’t face the Yankees in July, helping preserve his sparkling record.
Congratulations to our winners! They can preorder next year’s Annual, in which they are virtually certain to be mentioned, after the season ends.