Draft Day Dilemmas: Can Stephen Vogt find first-half form?
Stephen Vogt's fast start couldn't last in 2015. Chris Towers takes a look at the catcher's chances for producing more than half of a strong season.
Stephen Vogt's overall numbers from 2015 look pretty good. If you knew at the end of a season you would get 18 homers, 71 RBI and a .261/.341/.443 line out of a catcher, you'd be pretty happy with that on your Fantasy team.
That production was enough to make Vogt the fifth-best Fantasy catcher in Rotisserie leagues last season, but it hasn't been enough to get Fantasy players to buy all the way in. At FantasyPros.com, Vogt is going off the board ninth overall among catchers in average draft position. Are we undervaluing Vogt for some reason?
There are a few reasons Fantasy players might be skeptical. For one thing, we've only ever seen Vogt do this for a full season once -- his career total for games played in the majors was 149. For another, last season was a tale of two halves for Vogt, who posted an .872 OPS in the first half before fading to a .630 OPS after the All-Star break.
I'll try to tackle both arguments in making the case for Vogt as someone you can easily rely on as a No. 1 catcher this season.
Argument 1: Lack of a track record
This is actually the easier of the two to dismiss. Yes, Vogt's track record before last season was pretty uninspiring. He hit just .254/.298/.396 in his first 149 major-league games, and his minor-league numbers don't exactly blow you away, given how old he was throughout his career.
However, he did hit consistently in the minors. He posted a .305/.367/.467 line throughout his minor-league career, including a solid .302/.367/.498 mark in 221 games in Triple-A as he started to tap into some power. Given where he played -- 96 games in the PCL in particular -- and his age, there is no reason to think Vogt's minor-league numbers suggest stardom. But he doesn't have to be a star to be underrated in Fantasy.
Vogt's 2015 also doesn't look that much different from his 2014, albeit in a smaller role. He struck out a bit more (13.6 percent to 19.0), but made up for that by doubling his walk rate and increasing his ISO, tradeoffs you'll take every time.
Vogt didn't have a terribly high BABIP (.297) or HR/FB ratio (12.5 percent), so there aren't a ton of places you can point to luck being on his side. His hard-hit average was a bit lower than you would expect from someone who saw so many balls go over the fence, but not so much that you can't see him getting close to 18 again next season.
Frankly, the argument that Vogt's track record isn't strong enough just doesn't hold up to me. If you're avoiding Vogt this season, it is probably because of another factor:
Argument 2: Second-half swoon
Vogt wasn't just good in the first half of last season; he was hitting like a legitimate down-ballot MVP candidate. He sported an OPS above 1.000 in April and May, and finished with an .872 mark before the All-Star break overall; he earned a rightful place on that All-Star roster.
Things fell apart down the stretch for Vogt, especially in July and September, when he hit one and zero homers, respectively. Given his lack of track record, the second-half slide can be pointed to as proof that he just isn't that good. I'm just not sure that's particularly fair.
If Vogt's season was flipped, and he struggled to open the season but closed it out with a 11 homers and 38 RBI in the final two months, enthusiasm about his prospects this season would be a lot higher. Due to recency bias, we tend to overstate the predictive value of second-half performances; FanGraphs.com showed that split stats don't tell you all that much about what a player is likely to do moving forward.
I'm not expecting Vogt to replicate his first two months for any extended stretch, but I similarly think it would be foolish to think his July and September production is somehow representative. Looking at any player as a product of his small-sample size splits is likely a mistake, and I think that is true of Vogt.
Maybe Vogt won't be able to repeat last season's success, but there aren't many catchers who can match 18 homers and 71 RBI; the ones who can are worth getting excited about. Don't let Vogt's late-season swoon scare you off.
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