March 7, 2012; Tampa, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Rays catcher Stephen Vogt (26) hits a 2-RBI triple in the second inning against the New York Yankees during spring training at George M. Steinbrenner Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE
The Rays outfield utilityman has had a rough start to his MLB career -- and it's going to have a lasting effect.
In the relatively brief history of the Tampa Bay Rays, no hitter has started his Rays career as poorly as UTIL Stephen Vogt. The part-time catcher, outfielder and designated hitter has gone hitless and walkless through 13 plate appearances. The only other players to come close -- SP Jeff Niemann (12 PA) and SP Albie Lopez (12 PA) -- were pitchers.
However, this is not the worst streak in team history. The longest a Rays player has gone without reaching a base stands at 22 PA, a feet accomplished by C Brook Fordyce in 2004, his final season in the majors. In the 2008 season, OF Jonny Gomes went 20 PA over 11 games without so much as sniffing first base, striking out 10 times in the process. UTIL Josh Wilson had a 21 PA streak in which he managed to record at least a sac fly, but was otherwise useless.
Many other players have had bad streaks like Vogt. In fact, some of the Rays best hitters are on that same list: 1B Carlos Pena did not reach base for 16 straight PA in 2010, and early in his career, UTIL Ben Zobrist went 14 PA before he singled in the bottom of the second inning against the Cleveland Indians on April 21, 2007. Zobrist has since gone on to become one of the best hitting second basemen in the league.
All this is to say: Yes, Vogt's start has been terrible. In fact, the scar of these first six games will probably drag down his season numbers irreparably. Even if Vogt goes the next 300 PAs with a respectable .289/.343/.463 slash with 14 homers, that .807 OPS drops to .773 just by adding his first 13 terrible PA (for a total slash of .276/.329/.444).
Which is a shame, because Vogt might not even have 300 PA left in the season. The unique utility man may find the door when CF B.J. Upton returns and the team has to shuffle its rosters again. Though the Rays will still need an outfielder -- so there is a chance Vogt will hang around -- they may choose to bring up OF Jeff Salazar who offers better defense and speed, though less hitting ability.
Stephen Vogt is not as bad as his streak -- he has clobbered every level of minor league pitching, hitting 66 doubles over his last 972 PAs (a pace of 40 doubles per full season, good for 11th best in the MLB in 2011). But if he does not start hitting soon, he may never get a chance to prove it.