Stephen Vogt staked a convincing claim to the San Francisco Giants backup catcher job Friday night. But will that be his only role on the team?
Given the state of the San Francisco Giants offense, manager Bruce Bochy will need to find a way to get Stephen Vogt’s bat into the lineup.
Especially if he keeps swinging a hot bat.
The 34-year-old posted an .889 OPS with three doubles and four home runs in 17 games at Triple-A Sacramento to start the season, then went 3-for-3 with a game-tying home run in the ninth inning in his Giants debut on Friday.
Giants team president Farhan Zaidi has made a habit of targeting players who can play multiple positions, and Vogt checks that box. In addition to catcher, Vogt has experience at first base, left field, and right field. Evidently, he has a third baseman’s glove as well.
When Vogt joined the Brewers in 2017, he posted a .789 OPS (100 OPS+) in 129 plate appearances. Currently, Brandon Belt (.805 OPS) and Pablo Sandoval (.833 OPS) are the only two Giants producing above that mark.
Prior to his turn with the Brewers, Vogt was also an All-Star in back-to-back seasons with the Oakland Athletics in 2015 and 2016. However, he was sidelined all of last year recovering from shoulder surgery, and he had to settle for a minor league deal from the Giants in free agency.
The Giants are desperate for any kind of offensive spark, and they’re hoping they caught lightning in a bottle with Vogt.
However, does Vogt’s presence have any bearing on incumbent backup catcher Erik Kratz?
Bochy might have been using his poker face while he said this. Carrying three catchers is rarely a sustainable roster concept.
For now, Kratz’s roster spot is safe since the Giants placed him on the injured list on Friday when Tyler Beede was added to the active roster. He seems to be on the outside looking after Friday night’s performance from Vogt, though.
While Kratz is known for his defense, it’s still hard to justify a roster spot for someone hitting .133 with a .535 OPS.
If the Giants do intend to keep Kratz in the near term, it could create an interesting experiment for Vogt. Given Kratz’s defensive reputation, he could still serve as the backup to Buster Posey, which would leave little playing time for Vogt behind the plate.
That could be where his defensive versatility comes into play.
For example, Dodgers catchers Russell Martin and Austin Barnes both have experience playing multiple positions. It is not extensive experience, but enough to get their bats in the lineup on a more regular basis without leaving them exposed defensively.
This could be the template for Vogt.
While Vogt split his time between catcher (9 games) and first base (6 games) during his brief stint in Sacramento, he was stationed in left field for one full game. Before that, he had not played in the outfield since 2017.
All told, he has played 123.1 innings at the corner outfield spots in the majors.
That tryout in left field in the minors could certainly be indicative of how the Giants plan to utilize him. Like Brandon Belt, Vogt would not be expected to play extensively in left field.
However, if he proves competent in the outfield, it could be a path to more playing time.
The ultimate goal is not to find a new position for Vogt. Rather, it’s to find creative ways to get his bat in the lineup, especially if the Giants do intent to keep Kratz once he returns from the injured list.
Vogt showed last night that he still has some thump in his bat. and that’s something the Giants desperately need.