Between October 2020 and the end of January 2021, the only first baseman on the Milwaukee Brewers’ roster was Daniel Vogelbach.
That all changed on February 5th when the Brewers signed second baseman and Gold Glove winner Kolten Wong. The signing filled two positions for Milwaukee, sending Keston Hiura to first.
Despite not having any real experience at the position, the team expects Hiura to be the everyday first baseman in 2021. That leaves Vogelbach as the only true first base backup. It almost moves him to the bench without a designated hitter spot to be placed in.
So what role does that leave for Vogelbach? Let’s break down last season and what’s in store for this year.
Vogelbach’s Pre-Brewers 2020 Season
The left-handed hitter started 2020 with the Seattle Mariners. He had been with the club since 2016 after being traded from the Chicago Cubs. In 2019, Vogelbach made the All-Star team and hit 30 home runs that season.
On August 19th 2020, he was designated for assignment from Seattle. He had only five hits after 53 at-bats over 18 games. He had two home runs, four RBIs, 11 walks and 13 strikeouts. His 2020 Seattle batting average was .094.
Four days later, he was acquired by the Toronto Blue Jays for cash considerations. Less than two weeks later, he was DFA’d again. He only had four plate appearances for the Blue Jays. He was hitless, with one walk and two strikeouts. It’s possible he will end his career as a Blue Jay with a zero batting average. A completely irrelevant fact, but still interesting.
Vogelbach’s Brewers 2020 Season
The Florida native was with Milwaukee just two days later. The Brewers were desperate for a solution at first base. After Logan Morrison and Justin Smoak didn’t work out, they needed someone alongside Jedd Gyorko. Enter Daniel Vogelbach. Smoak was released the same day Vogelbach was signed.
To say Vogelbach played amazing the last stretch of 2020 for the Brewers is an understatement. It’s amazing what a fresh start on a new team will do for a player. He had a .328/.418/.569 slash line for the Crew. He ended with an OPS of .987, four home runs, 12 RBIs, two doubles, eight walks and averaged a hit a game over the remaining 19.
Vogelbach was the offensive spark that Milwaukee needed to make the playoffs for a third straight year. On September 20th, for example, he drove in all five runs off of two home runs to beat the Kansas City Royals 5-3. Vogelbach also had a double during the Brewers’ very short playoff run again the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Vogelbach became an instant fan favorite, especially on social media sites. Whether it was GIFs of the famous pianist Johann Sebastian Bach or memes of Thomas The Tank Engine and Chris Farley, the newly acquired Brewer had an impact on the season.
— Jeremie (@jrdesignsinc) September 20, 2020
2021 Season and Expectations
On December 2nd, 2020, Vogelbach and the Brewers avoided arbitration and agreed to a $1.4MM contract. Milwaukee has options/control of Daniel through 2024.
Besides Vogelbach, the Brewers still don’t have any other experienced first baseman on the roster. Most people expect him to be a lock for the Opening Day roster. He adds another lefty to your bench, he is a true power hitter and still a great pinch-hit and DH candidate if for some reason that changes over the season.
Recent reports/articles have mentioned that Vogelbach might not make the April 1st roster. The plan is to start Hiura there most days. But, players like Travis Shaw have come up as someone who can play the position if needed for a game or two. Jacob Nottingham could also be on put on the roster as a third catcher and backup first baseman if he continues to recover from his off-season thumb surgery.
There is no need to panic about no Vogelbach yet. There are three weeks of Spring Training left. David Stearns also said he might be signing players throughout Spring Training. That was proven true with the signing of Jackie Bradley Jr. for the outfield. It has already paid off, with news of Lorenzo Cain battling an early quad injury and recovering from wisdom teeth removal.
Vogelbach should be on the Opening Day roster, but people also shouldn’t be completely surprised if he doesn’t. The Brewers do have some control still, but it would also be wise to give him chances at the plate and over at first. The only thing holding that back would be a terrible spring from Vogelbach. Or if too many position players are playing well and they don’t have any minor league options availble.
The hope, of course, is to see Daniel Vogelbach in a Brewers uniform for many years to come.