RYAN VOGELSONG, RIGHT HANDED PITCHER
|Born: July 22, 1977
Drafted: 5th Round, 158th Overall, 1998 (Giants)
How Acquired: Free Agent
College: Kutztown University of Pennsylvania
Agent: Dave Meier
WTM’S PIRATE PLAYER PROFILES
|Vogelsong has had one of the more interesting histories among recent pitchers. Originally a highly regarded pitching prospect with the Giants, he came to the Pirates in a deadline deal for Jason Schmidt, who was set to leave via free agency. Vogelsong hurt his elbow in his second start with the Pirates and required Tommy John surgery. He then spent most of the next four years with the Pirates, trying to adjust to major league hitters. The Pirates finally gave up on him and he went to Japan for three years. He didn’t actually pitch all that well in Japan, then came back to the US and spent a year struggling in AAA. At that point, he suddenly turned things around and had two outstanding seasons as a starter with the Giants. He followed that with three up-and-down seasons. The Pirates signed him as a free agent to a one-year deal for 2016. He’ll get $2M, with a possible $3M in incentives.
In his prospect days, Vogelsong threw a 92-94 mph fastball, along with a slider, curve and change. He didn’t have one dominant pitch, but all four were considered quality pitches. By the time he returned from Japan, he was throwing 91-92. He still throws the four-pitch mix, with the slider possibly being the best pitch. His ground ball rates have tended to be average to a little low. In 2011-12, he had moderate platoon splits. In 2014-15 he struggled against left-handed hitters, allowing them a 282/334/453 line in 2014 and 279/353/553 in 2015.
Vogelsong got off to a good start in short season ball. The Giants moved him up to the California League for four starts. It was an ambitious promotion, given both that he was skipping a level and going to a hitting-crazy league.
Vogelsong returned to the California League and pitched very well through 13 starts. He moved up to AA for half a dozen starts and struggled there. He also had some problems with tendonitis during the season.
The Giants sent Vogelsong back to AA, where his pitching was only fair. His main issue was control problems, although he also had some mild gopher ball problems, allowing 15. The Giants brought him up in September and he made four relief appearances. Baseball America rated him the Giants’ fifth best prospect after the season.
Vogelsong pitched very well for two months in AAA and then the Giants brought him up. He pitched in relief in the majors and mostly struggled until the Giants traded him to the Pirates at the end of July. The Pirates sent him to AAA to get him stretched out as a starter, then brought him up. Unfortunately, he hurt his elbow in his second start and ultimately had Tommy John surgery. BA rated him the Pirates’ seventh best prospect.
Vogelsong spent the season rehabbing his elbow. BA still ranked him 13th in the Pirates’ farm system.
The Pirates sent Vogelsong to AAA, where he spent most of the season. He made brief appearances in Pittsburgh in June and August, and three more in the second half of September. He pitched just decently in AAA and struggled in the majors.
Vogelsong spent the season in the majors, mostly in the rotation (he made 26 starts). He struggled with his command and control, and also had serious gopher ball problems, allowing 22.
The Pirates moved Vogelsong to the bullpen, where he spent the season. He continued to struggle to throw strikes.
Vogelsong returned to the Pirates’ bullpen and continued to struggle. In late June, the team designated him for assignment and sent him to AAA, where he served as a starter the rest of the season. He pitched very well there, but the Pirates obviously had run out of patience. They didn’t return him to the roster and he became a free agent after the season.
Vogelsong signed with Hanshin in the Japan Central League. He pitched better than he had in the majors, but his numbers weren’t outstanding.
Vogelsong was able to make only a dozen starts for Hanshin, pitching a little better than the year before.
Vogelsong signed with Orix of the Japan Pacific League. Pitching almost exclusively in relief, he struck out a lot of batters but otherwise wasn’t exceptionally effective.
The Phillies signed Vogelsong to a minor league contract and he mostly struggled with their AAA affiliate, with a very high walk rate. The Phillies released him in early July and he caught on with the Angels, but he didn’t pitch much better than he had with the Phillies.
Vogelsong signed a minor league contract with the Giants for 2011, but after he made two starts in AAA he got called up due to an injury to Barry Zito. Vogelsong had an outstanding season for the Giants, helped by an unsustainable .261 BABIP.
After missing the first two weeks due to back spasms, Vogelsong went on to have a season very similar to his 2011 season.
Vogelsong missed nearly half the season due to a fractured right hand. He pitched poorly when he was able to pitch, among other things allowing more than a HR every seven innings. His velocity was down to 89. After the season he became a free agent, but he re-signed with the Giants.
Vogelsong returned to the Giants’ rotation and had a better record than his ERA. His peripherals suggest he pitched better than his ERA. He became a free agent again after the season and again re-signed with the Giants.
Vogelsong got off to a bad start, allowing eight HRs in just 19.1 IP in April. Over the next three months, though, he posted a 2.74 ERA. His velocity was back to 91, his highest level since 2011. The Giants nevertheless moved him mostly to the bullpen in July. He pitched very poorly in relief, allowing a .933 OPS, as opposed to a .753 OPS as a starter.
The Pirates signed Vogelsong a few days after trading away Charlie Morton. The move would have made some sense had the Pirates expected Vogelsong to serve as rotation depth. Instead, they made it clear that they expected him to be in the rotation. As it turned out, he lost out on a rotation spot when Juan Nicasio had a big spring. Vogelsong instead opened in the bullpen, despite his history of struggling in relief. Except for one spot start, he pitched in long relief until he got a second start on May 23. He exited that game with an orbital bone injury after getting hit in the face by a pitch. After a minor league rehab, Vogelsong returned in early August and spent the rest of the season in the Pirates’ rotation. He pitched well in four of his first five starts, but had a string of bad starts after that. He had a .7.67 ERA over his final seven starts, but the Pirates exasperatingly stuck with him. They did so even after the team was clearly out of wild card contention, rather than giving starts to younger pitchers who potentially represent part of the team’s future. They even started him on the season’s final day, which resulted in him earning $300,000 in bonuses. On the season, Vogelsong struggled to throw strikes and had some trouble with gopher balls, allowing 11. Opponents had a 257/348/463 batting line against him. His 5.21 xFIP suggested that his ERA, if anything, was better than his actual performance.
Everything about Vogelsong’s second go-round with the Pirates was symptomatic of their mishandling of the 2016 season. From their off-season decision to downgrade from Morton to Vogelsong, to their refusal to remove him from the rotation in favor of younger pitchers, their decisions were obviously bad at the time they were made and produced bad results. He’ll move on as a free agent.
2016: $2,000,000 (plus $3,000,000,000 in potential incentives)
|Signing Bonus: N/A
MiLB Debut: 1998
MLB Debut: 9/2/2000
MiLB FA Eligible: N/A
MLB FA Eligible: 2016
Rule 5 Eligible: N/A
Added to 40-Man: 9/1/2000
Options Remaining: 0 (USED: 2001, 2002, 2003)
MLB Service Time: 9.020
|June 3, 1998: Drafted in the 5th round, 158th overall, by the San Francisco Giants; signed on June 7.
September 1, 2000: Contract purchased by the San Francisco Giants.
July 30, 2001: Traded by the San Francisco Giants with Amando Rios to the Pittsburgh Pirates for Jason Schmidt and John Vander Wal.
June 27, 2006: Designated for assignment by the Pittsburgh Pirates; outrighted to AAA on July 8.
October 2, 2006: Became a free agent.
January 6, 2010: Signed by the Philadelphia Phillies as a minor league free agent.
July 6, 2010: Released by the Philadelphia Phillies.
July 27, 2010: Signed by the Los Angeles Angels as a minor league free agent.
November 6, 2010: Became a free agent.
January 14, 2011: Signed by the San Francisco Giants as a minor league free agent.
April 17, 2011: Called up by the San Francisco Giants.
November 4, 2013: Became a free agent.
December 4, 2013: Signed as a free agent by the San Francisco Giants.
October 30, 2014: Became a free agent.
January 23, 2015: Signed as a free agent by the San Francisco Giants.
November 2, 2015: Became a free agent.
December 18, 2015: Signed as a free agent with the Pittsburgh Pirates.