While the rest of the world is going gaga over the resurgence of Bartolo Colon (I’m not buying it), there’s another pitcher out there who has apparently hopped into his Delorean and gunned it to 88. San Francisco’s Ryan Vogelsong made his first start of the season in replacement of the injured Barry Zito this past week, pitched 5.2 innings allowing two runs on four hits and a pair of walks, and picked up his first win as a starter since 2002. He actually looked better than his stat line reads as opening jitters got the better of him in the first, but he settled down very nicely and matched a career high eight strikeouts. But now the question remains — is he worth a spot on your fantasy roster?
For those that aren’t familiar with Vogelsong, allow me give the quick recap. He was a 5th round draft choice for the Giants back in 1998, moved around their farm system for a few years, had the occasional cup of coffee in the bigs and was shipped off to the Pirates in a deal that landed the Giants Jason Schmidt. For the next few years he bounced around the Pirates organization and managed roughly 270 innings on the major league level between 2002 and 2006 amassing an ERA somewhere around 5.70. With little hope for a strong career in the States, Vogelsong headed to Japan for the next three years and found moderate success (4.17 ERA mostly as a reliever) with the Hanshin Tigers and Orix Blue Wave but then headed back to try it again with the Phillies Triple-A team. He left the Phils’ Lehigh affiliate to join the Angels Triple-A club in Salt Lake and from there ended up back with the Giants. It’s certainly been quite the ride.
Vogelsong, at the ripe old age of 33, came into Giants camp this year as a longshot/great feel good story and actually pitched fairly well. He made 7 appearances (4 starts) and finished with a 3-2 record and a 3.27 ERA. He notched 20 strikeouts in 22 innings of work and while there was little room for him on the roster, he was at the top of the short list in case anything happened to one of the regular starters. Well, the line drive Zito took to the ankle two weeks ago has put him on the shelf for an indefinite amount of time and here we sit. He is now slated to be a two start pitcher this week with a matchup against the Mets on the road and a home start against the Rockies.
He relies heavily on his 90 mph fastball and a cutter that sits around 87 mph, but also mixes in a solid curve and changeup. The movement isn’t phenomenal, but it’s decent and he managed to fool a number of Pirates during his first start. Obviously the sample size is teeny tiny here, but the 51.9 GB% is nice and he kept the ball in the yard all day. I don’t see the 9.58 K/9 staying intact, but it could hover around 6 after a few more starts. As for those luck dragon numbers, the .292 BABIP is about average while the 86.2 LOB% will obviously come down as he levels off. Sure, it was just one start, but encouraging nonetheless.
Now most people will dismiss him based on looking at his career numbers. No pitcher is gaining any fantasy owner’s trust with a 5.70 career ERA, but having not thrown on the major league level for some time could make him a bit of a wild card. The mental make-up of a guy like Vogelsong is much different now than it was in the past. He’s matured, he’s studied the game more, and his approach is different. Obviously there’s still a good amount of skill left, otherwise he wouldn’t be where he is right now. This isn’t your father’s Vogelsong.
That all being said, I’m still hesitant to use a waiver claim on him right now. He could make for an interesting pick up and used as a spot starter for your team in daily leagues, but the match-up has to be right. I like him for his road start against the Mets this coming week, but I wouldn’t trust him against a strong hitting club like the Rockies, even at home. If it’s a pitcher’s park and a lineup like say the Padres, I’m all over it, but a start in Cincinnati could be a death sentence for your ratios. But keep an eye on him as we wait to see how long before Zito returns. If he can string together a few decent starts, he just might be worth a little something to you.