After a long, uneventful winter Reds fans packed Great American Ball Park for Opening Day like they do every year. Patrons glanced at the Opening Day lineup to see which names they recall. India at second, Stephenson at catcher, JV at first. Wait, that’s not Joey Votto… who the hell is Jason Vosler?
Vosler, a 2014 16th round pick of the Cubs, sent a ball 444 feet to the seats who’s ticket cost less than a beer. That home run on Tuesday left his bat at 109.4 miles per hour, his third home run this week. One or two I can talk myself into some luck. But three home runs all with an exit velocity over 100 deserves some discussion.
I am sure you are already drawing comparisons to the Reds spring training invitee turned masher Brandon Drury. An older player who served a bench role and found success once given a bigger opportunity in Cincinnati. Drury has the edge in versatility, but Vosler can play third, first, and outfield. Each showed signs of promise in small sample sizes in the year before arriving in Cincinnati. Maybe, just maybe, the Reds found another hidden gem.
Vosler was a college bat who spent three seasons at Northeastern before joining the Cubs organization. After a few up-and-down seasons, he was shipped off to San Diego for relief pitcher Rowan Wick, before eventually signing a free agent deal with the Giants.
In 2021, Vosler slashed .295/.385/.529 with 15 home runs in 72 Triple-A games, earning a promotion to the big league club. His first stint wasn’t pretty and he found himself bussing through the minors to start 2022. At 28 years old, Vosler hit four home runs in 11 plate appearances for the Giants.
I’ll be honest, Cincinnati’s young and talented prospects distracted me from a 29 year-old veteran throughout spring training. I never put much thought into him making the roster as first and third were locks, and outfield is flooded with options which the Reds want extended. Joey Votto beginning the season on the injured list opened the door for Vosler and he’s done nothing but impress.
Now, lets get to the real question. Is this sustainable?
First, Vosler will need to find playing time and a roster spot once Nick Senzel and Joey Votto return from injury (both rehabbing in Louisville). Slotting Vosler in at DH against righties would move Jake Fraley to left, and Will Benson, who’s struggled mightily, to the bench. As players get healthy the roster moves become complicated. Stuart Fairchild will be the first sent down. From there, tough decisions will need to be made. Carrying three catchers throws a wrench into roster construction, but we will let it all play out.
An underlying sign that Vosler’s hot week might actually be more than just that is the pitches he’s produced hard contact against. Of his four batted balls over 100 miles per hour exit velocity, each has been against a different pitch.
109.4 mph home run – Fastball (shown above)
102.3 mph double – Changeup
101.3 mph home run – Knuckle Curve
100.5 mph home run – Sinker
He’s not just teeing off on fastballs waiting for a scouting report to catch up. In fact, his four home runs from 2022 all came off different pitches – curveball, cutter, slider, changeup. The swing and miss, 38.9%, is still far too high but keep in mind we are working with a tiny sample size.
Through his career, Vosler has hovered around a 23%-26% strikeout rate with a roughly 8% walk rate. Perfectly acceptable numbers.
We all know Vosler is not part of the future. He might not even be part of next months team. Anything is possible at this point. Best case scenario – he continues to hit and the Reds flip him for a prospect at the deadline, just like Drury. Worst case scenario the bat cools off and a roster crunch finds him off the roster.
Regardless of what happens, we all know damn well who Jason Vosler is. After a 2022 of frustration, Vosler helped make some position memories to start 2023. Maybe he reaches the likes of the last #32 to make some noise in Jay Bruce (kidding, kidding). At the very least, we can all look back one day and mention his name, get a cheap laugh, and ask “wonder what happened to him”.