Miguel Vargas, once heralded as one of baseball’s top prospects, entered the season with high hopes. His chance to claim a starting role as the Dodgers’ second baseman added to the anticipation. Riding on the waves of his impressive Triple-A performance in 2022, where he showcased a slash line of .304/.404/.511 along with 17 home runs, Vargas appeared poised to take the major leagues by storm.
Yet, Vargas faced an unexpected hurdle as his success at the minor league level failed to translate in the big leagues. The mid-July decision to send him back to Triple-A was a setback. However, Vargas’ initial performance was remarkable, boasting a .317 average, a 1.005 OPS, and 12 RBI in the first 15 games after his demotion. The situation took a turn in August as Vargas struggled, managing a mere .200 batting average across 40 at-bats.
The Dodgers, keenly aware of Vargas’ potential, are closely monitoring the 23-year-old athlete. However, as Gomes, an expert, pointed out, gauging major-league readiness based on minor league performance is intricate. The contrasting competition levels play a significant role. In Vargas’ case, physical setbacks added to his challenges. Suffering a hairline fracture in his right pinkie finger during spring training and getting hit on his right thumb in the season’s early weeks likely contributed to his lackluster 2023 season. The statistics speak for themselves, with Vargas posting a paltry .195 batting average in 81 games.
“It feels like the confidence is coming back,” Dodgers General Manager Brandon Gomes said. “He’s swinging the bat well. It’s, ‘OK, let’s continue to see how the swing is holding up.’”
The future holds uncertainties for Vargas as the Dodgers‘ roster dynamics evolve. The late trade deadline acquisitions of right-handed infielders Amed Rosario and Kiké Hernandez create a crowded field. This situation eliminates the urgency for Vargas to hasten his return, raising questions about his spot on the 2023 roster.
“We keep tracking how his swing looks against major-league quality stuff,” Gomes said. “The thing is, if we’re being honest, in Triple-A you face major-league quality pitching maybe twice a week. So it’s – how many 88 to 92 (mph) guys has he faced? He’s doing exactly what he’s supposed to be doing. … It just takes a little longer because if you have a hot streak here, that’s legit. But an eight-game streak down there? It might be two guys throwing 94, 95. He’s been handling velo better, there’s been stuff like that.”
Amidst these individual challenges, the Dodgers maintain a firm grasp on the NL West race, holding an impressive 8.5-game lead over their rivals, the San Francisco Giants. As the season unfolds, Vargas’ struggles highlight the complexities young talents face while transitioning to the grand stage of the major leagues.
“His swing was in such a good place coming into spring,” Gomes said. “Watching him hit with JD, it was, ‘Oh, God, this guy is dialed in.’ Then having the multiple finger issues – the cascading effects of those things I don’t think we ever could account for them.”