The new Seattle Mariners player development staff has put an emphasis on controlling the strike zone this season, but the best player in the system at drawing walks has been doing it all his life.
Tacoma first baseman Dan Vogelbach — who was acquired via a trade from the Chicago Cubs on July 20 — has been thinking about the strike zone since he started playing the sport.
“I’ve always been a picky hitter,” Vogelbach said. “I only want to hit what I want to hit.”
Vogelbach’s at-bats are almost always prolonged affairs. He often reaches a full count before his plate appearance reaches a conclusion.
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He’s willing to take pitches in order to wait for one that he likes.
“I don’t like hitting their pitches early in the count — that’s what pitchers want you to do,” Vogelbach said. “If that means going 0-2 (in the count) because they make good pitches, then I’m going to go 0-2. Hopefully, they make a mistake, and I’ll make them pay for the mistake.”
The patient approach means lots of walks. The left-handed batter led the Pacific Coast League with 96 walks going into Saturday night’s game. The walks and a .292 batting average have allowed him to post a .417 on-base percentage.
Vogelbach played in 89 games for the Iowa Cubs before the trade. In his first 43 games for the Rainiers, he drew more walks (41) than he had strikeouts (33).
He has displayed power. Combined between Iowa and Tacoma, Vogelbach went into Saturday with 25 doubles, two triples and 22 home runs — and he had 92 runs batted in.
PCL awards announced
The Pacific Coast League announced its year-end award winners last week. Winners were chosen by the league’s managers and media representatives.
Rookie of the Year: Carlos Asuaje, El Paso. The second baseman is batting .324 and leads the league in hits (170) and runs scored (96) in his first Triple-A season.
Pitcher of the Year: Brady Rodgers, Fresno. The right-hander went 12-4 with a league-leading 2.86 ERA before he was called up by the Houston Astros on Friday.
Most Valuable Player: Hunter Renfroe, El Paso. A right fielder with a strong arm, Renfroe is batting .303 with 29 home runs and 104 RBIs going into Saturday.
Manager of the Year: Steve Scarsone, Nashville. In his fourth year managing the Triple-A affiliate of the Oakland A’s, the 50-year-old Scarsone has piloted the Sounds to a PCL-best 83-57 record. Tacoma’s Pat Listach finished second in the voting.
Mike Curto is the radio broadcaster for the Tacoma Rainiers.