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 player 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. (To be clear, when I refer to September throughout this article, I’m talking about the 30 days of September plus the season’s final games on October 1. You’d get tired of reading “September and October” and I’d get tired of typing it.)
SEPTEMBER FULL VOGELSONG PLAYER OF THE MONTH: Lane Adams, Atlanta Braves. Going into the season’s final month, Adams was having an odd season. He’d appeared in 59 games but accumulated only 58 plate appearances, hitting .288/.351/.462 as Atlanta’s primary pinch-hitter/pinch-runner/outfield defensive replacement. He’d started only one game all season. While his offense actually slipped a bit in the season’s final month (.263/.328/.474), he started 12 games and logged 64 plate appearances, more than doubling his appearances going into the month.
Over the course of last season, Adams was an employee of four organizations. He’d been in the Royals' system since being drafted in 2009, but the Yankees picked him up off waivers in January of 2016. After 92 games at Double-A and Triple-A, the Yankees released him at the end of July and he finished the season with the Cubs, similarly splitting time between Double-A and Triple-A. He became a free agent in November, signing with Atlanta in December.
He was recalled from Triple-A Gwinnett in April, sent down in May, called up again in June, demoted in July, and recalled to stay later that month. The 2017 season represented the first major-league experience for the 27-year-old since a six-game cup of coffee in 2014.
Adams, who appeared in the 2015 and 2016 Annuals while in the Royals' organization, has plus speed, though he had limited opportunities to deploy it given his role in Atlanta. He stole 10 bases over the season, including two in the final month, without being caught. His .211 ISO during the month was a nice surprise—he was one of only four Braves (minimum 50 plate appearances) with an ISO over .200 in September—as he hit three homers vs. two in the prior months. As his September ISO is 67 points higher than his minor-league total, it’s not likely to stick, though Adams could stick as a spare outfielder/bat/runner in 2018.
SEPTEMBER FULL VOGELSONG PITCHER OF THE MONTH: Sam Freeman, Atlanta Braves. It was a big month for obscure Braves! The 30-year-old lefty got full write-ups in the Annual in 2013-2016, but didn’t get into this year’s edition. Of course, when your 2016 resume features a 5.20 ERA in 55 1/3 innings in Colorado Springs and 7 2/3 innings with the Brewers in which you allow 13 hits and nine walks, you’re not making a strong case for inclusion in the book.
After spending April in Gwinnett with Adams, Freeman got called up to Atlanta, where he gradually made the transition from garbage-time reliever to steady southpaw setup man. His nine holds since the All-Star break tie him for 21st in the National League, and his five in the season’s final month tie him for eighth. He compiled a 0.79 ERA over September, and while his peripherals (as many walks as strikeouts, .182 BABIP allowed) scream regression, the season’s over, so he won’t regress until next year!
Freeman pitched in high-leverage situations, entering games with an average leverage index of 1.68, ninth-highest in the league for the month. His 0.4 WARP for the season was not only the best of his career, it was sixth-highest on a Braves team that, you may have noticed, wasn’t really good.
SEPTEMBER LINEOUT VOGELSONG PLAYER OF THE MONTH: Austin Barnes, Los Angeles Dodgers. His entry in the 2017 Annual: “Known for his positional flexibility—he can play catcher, second, and third—Austin Barnes should spend more time getting acquainted with first base, a spot he rarely reached as a major-league hitter.” Ouch! In fairness, his batting line in 74 plate appearances entering 2017 was .180/.315/.230. He had more hits in September this year than he had in the 2015 and 2016 seasons combined.
Barnes hit .260/.403/.460 in September, and he helped the Dodgers in two other ways. First, he ably backed up uber-framer Yasmani Grandal. In fact, he out-framed Grandal: Barnes’ 13.7 framing runs in 2,835 chances outpaced Grandal’s 20.3 in 6,362 chances. Second, Barnes’ bat provided relief during Grandal’s September offensive swoon, which featured a .648 OPS and a 4-for-49 streak over the month’s first 22 days. The Dodgers’ five best hitters this year, by WARP, were Justin Turner, Chris Taylor, Corey Seager, Cody Bellinger, and Grandal. Barnes, with only 260 plate appearances, was sixth.
SEPTEMBER LINEOUT VOGELSONG PITCHER OF THE MONTH: Andrew Albers, Seattle Mariners. Albers’ season speaks volumes about the 2017 Mariners. First, he wasn’t a member of the club most of the year. The frenetic Jerry Dipoto purchased his contract on August 12. He played most of the year with the September Vogelsong Award powerhouse Gwinnett Braves.
Second, the Mariners got him not only because he’d acquitted himself well in Gwinnett (2.61 ERA, 6.1 K/BB—okay, he turns 32 on Friday, so he was five years older than the average International League player) but also because you need to have someone stand on the mound and throw pitches, something that was a constant challenge for the club. He started five games for the Mariners, then shifted to long relief as Felix Hernandez and James Paxton returned from the disabled list, displacing him from the rotation. One of Albers' bullpen appearances was one of the those BS three-innings-in-a-blowout saves, which was his first major-league save, BS or not.
I’m a sucker for guys like Albers, a native Canadian, because of the circuitous route he took to the majors. He was picked by San Diego in the 10th round of the 2008 draft but tore his UCL the following spring, and the Padres released him. He pitched in the independent Can-Am Association in 2010. He tried out for four teams in Arizona the following spring, got no takers, and drove to Florida to try out for the Twins, who signed him to a minor-league contract.
He eventually started 10 games for Minnesota in 2013. However, the Twins released him after the season, and he pitched for Hanwa in the Korea Baseball Organization in 2014. He played in the Toronto organization in 2015 (including one game in the majors), was back in the Twins' system in 2016 (including six games in the majors), and signed with the Braves prior to this season. In September, he had a 3.12 ERA and 4.3 K/BB in 26 innings despite a playing-with-fire 25 percent ground-ball rate (though it helps explain his .239 BABIP). He was credited with three wins in the month, tying him for the team lead with Mike Leake, who in true 2017 Mariners fashion, ended the season injured.
Congratulations to our winners! They can preorder next year’s Annual, in which they are virtually certain to be mentioned, after the season ends.
May Lineout Vogelsong Player: Chris Taylor, Los Angeles Dodgers
July Full Vogelsong Pitcher: Chris O’Grady, Miami Marlins
July Lineout Vogelsong Pitcher: Anthony Swarzak, White Sox/Brewers
August Full Vogelsong Pitcher: Craig Stammen, San Diego Padres
August Lineout Vogelsong Player: Jose Martinez, St. Louis Cardinals