.324/.364/.479, 2 HR, 6 RBI, 26% K%, 5.2% BB%, 121 wrc+, 0.5 fWAR
I would be lying to you all if I said before the 2021 season that I either knew who Matt Vierling was, or that I thought he would be productive for the Phillies. Just being honest. However, the truth is, in the 34 games Vierling saw the diamond, he was a spark that this team desperately needed. While Vierling did have limited plate appearances (77), he managed to post a way above league average wrc+ of 121, and reach base at a very good rate (.364) as well. Talk about taking advantage of your opportunities. Vierling also hit the ball hard, often. Posting an average exit velocity of 91.5, and a HardHit% of 53.8% (for reference, Bryce Harper had 92.5 and 49.7% respectively in 2021) per Baseball Savant. I know we all remember the final game of August against the Nationals, where in a 12-6 beatdown, Vierling went 4-5 scoring 2 runs. That is when he hit my radar, and probably yours as well.
None of this is necessarily “bad” per se, just things I would like to see improvement in moving forward. First, is the defensive side. While Vierling is versatile, playing 1B, LF, CF, and RF for the Phillies this year, he wasn’t exactly as good in the field, as he was at the dish. While playing 1B, Vierling had a -1 DRS, or total defensive runs saved. In the outfield overall, Vierling had a total of 0 DRS, making 11/12 plays in his zone. Again, we are evaluating very limited innings here, but in this small sample size he was valued as slightly below average on the defensive side by Fangraphs. I love the versatility; I would just like to see better overall defense played by Vierling if he sees the field more in 2022.
While at the plate, Vierling hit an impressive .324 with a 121 wrc+, his BB% and K% need improvement. He posted a 26.0% K% which is below league average, as well as his 5.2% BB%. In the grand scheme of things, as long as Vierling keeps hitting the ball hard as he did in his 2021 season, things will continue to improve with more plate appearances.
While most of this has been me gushing about Vierling, the fact of the matter is he is still very much a large question mark moving forward. He was listed as the organizations 25th best prospect heading into 2021, so the hype was not there as it was for players like Mickey Moniak or the current, well-deserved craze for Bryson Stott. With Hoskins returning in 2022, playing first-base is out of the question, and depending on the off-season, there may not be room in the outfield for Vierling. He is still in the pre-arbitration period of his career, so time will tell.
Final Grade: A
Now I’ll be honest, take this grade with a grain of salt. Not all A grades are created equal. Vierling’s A grade does not mean that he is among the best players in the organization as a whole. It means, that in his limited time, 77 plate appearances, he undeniably produced at a well above-average rate. Equate it to getting an A in gym class that you attend once a week, to getting an A in quantum physics. An A grade is an A grade, but they aren’t all weighed the same. To put it simply, he just needs more opportunities to show what his true value is. In the limited at-bats he got, he produced. That is undeniable truth. He was never made out to be a promising prospect for this organization, so perhaps him exceeding expectations is a flash in the pan. Or just maybe, the Phillies found a diamond in the rough.