The New York Mets are entering the season with high expectations. Because of their free agent acquisitions, it is a World Series or bust year for them.
High expectations, however, gives an opportunity for some of the Mets’ less heralded stars to contribute meaningfully to the team’s success while flying under the radar and winning fans over.
In 2023, I think one Mets player who will successfully win fans over is Daniel Vogelbach.
Mets DH Daniel Vogelbach will win over fans in 2023 by taking advantage of MLB’s new rules
Vogelbach was one of the team’s notable midseason acquisitions in 2022. After being acquired by the Pittsburgh Pirates, Vogelbach made his impact immediately, with his first home run as a Met being a grand slam, becoming the 11th Mets player whose first home run with the club was a grand slam.
In the end, Vogelbach compiled a .255/.393/.436 batting line in 55 games with the Mets. He contributed six home runs and 25 RBI, providing the power hitting left-handed bat that their offense needed. Because of his encouraging performance in 2022, coupled with his cheap price tag, it was no surprise that Vogelbach’s team option for 2023 was exercised by the Mets. He is likely going to be the team’s primary designated hitter in 2023, batting mostly against right-handed pitching.
What makes Vogelbach an early contender for winning Mets fans over in 2023 is because he is one player on the team who stands to benefit mostly from the rules changes Major League Baseball has implemented for the 2023 season. The big rule change that should pay quick dividends for Voeglbach is the rules about infield shifts.
Because Vogelbach is a pull hitter, many of his batted balls tend to travel toward the right side of the infield. As a result, it was common practice for teams to align three infielders on the right side of second base, and the result was that many batted balls that would normally sneak through the first and second basemen for singles would instead result in outs, thanks to their third infielder covering the empty space.
MLB instituted this rule change to address the growing issue in the sport, which was the record-low batting average (.243 in 2022) and the sharp decline of singles. The increased use of the shift has resulted in declining offense around the league, and many good hitters (especially left-handed hitters) were negatively impacted by it.
Consider Vogelbach’s spray chart from 2022, courtesy of FanGraphs. The majority of his hits came from the right side of second base, as well as many of his outs. With the infield shift being banned, it is likely that Vogelbach will see several of those outs become hits.
All of this is to say that Vogelbach has a great opportunity to capitalize on MLB’s desire for more offense, which will endear him to fans, most of whom value strong offensive players.