One of the more surprising and roller coaster storylines has been the one for center fielder Matt Vierling. With the many other surprises from the team both positive and negative, he is more known for his commercial with CarShield rather than the value he brings as a ball player.
While the commercial is hilarious, he's starting to show really good signs as the season progresses and is playing his way into a valuable role for a playoff contender.
Vierling has played the exact number of games this year as he did last year, and there are some really interesting notes we can make about him.
He got the chance to play at the back end of last season and took advantage of the opportunity, with a slash line of .324/.364/.479. He looked like a real baseball player that came out of their minor league system, a concept not many Phillies fans are used to.
This season, however, proves that he still has work to do. Given the bulk of the playing time in center field, Vierling struggled offensively with a .472 OPS while mostly hitting at the bottom of the lineup. He was sent down to AAA and called back up once they needed spots.
Once he came back up, he made significant strides by reversing his start to the season in more of a utility bench role. A .988 OPS and he's beginning to show off some power in big moments. He gave the Phillies the lead by taking Josh Hader of all pitchers deep against Milwaukee and did the same against Tanner Rainey in Washington.
Vierling may have real sneaky power as he's shown a knack for hitting the ball as hard as he could with a 91.5 exit velocity, which doesn't make someone a good hitter but does show potential in other ways like power.
While he only hit two home runs last year, he destroyed both baseballs taking a changeup off Will Crowe 419 feet and a fastball from Preston Guilmet 433 feet. He may need to work on displaying more power in the future but he does have the potential to be an ok home run hitter. Two of his three home runs this year were also well above 400 feet so if he learns to connect more consistently, he can unleash real power.
It is clear Vierling has had a worse statistical season this year compared to last but are still some positive signs in other areas. His strikeout rate last year was 26% and this year it's only 20 and he's also raised his walk rate up slightly by just under two percent.
What's been maybe his most valuable ability, however, is his versatility. After never playing a game at second base his entire baseball career, he suited up and made all the routine plays against Arizona. He got the chance to play third for a game as well and has played every outfield spot for at least one game this year.
The big question for Vierling may be how valuable can he possibly be to them? Is he just a solid role player or can he warrant everyday at-bats in the near future? It's been a tale of two different stints for Vierling and there's still not a great answer in sight but still a lot of positive momentum.