As everyone patiently waits for the MLB lockout to end, speculation remains at its highest point of the winter. Fans of the Dodgers, specifically, continue to wonder if the new CBA — along with a few other factors — will have a significant impact on how much money the team will spend on player payroll once everything gets moving again.
While most of our discussions here have focused on free agents and trades, many of my stories during the offseason have been prospect-based. Last year was interesting because many of us walked away with the feeling that the Los Angeles farm wasn’t anywhere near the hype many pundits made it out to be, based on the way about a dozen or so prospects performed when they finally got their big chance.
However, there still is a young crop of players on the lower levels of the farm that could change the core makeup of the big-league squad over the next five years.
One of those players is infielder Miguel Vargas.
Vargas will enter his fifth full year in the Dodgers’ system after signing as an international free agent in 2017. At 21 years old, the righty hitting Vargas made it as high as Double-A ball last year and registered quite an impressive season, slashing .319/.380/.526 with 27 doubles, 23 homers and 76 RBI across two levels. What’s even more impressive is that he swiped 11 bases, revealing both his deceptive speed and savvy on the basepaths.
Now entering his age 22 season, he could be a year away from having an impact in the majors.
Many fans are aware that the 6-foot-3, 205-pound Vargas can equally handle duties at both third and first base, but few realize he saw considerable action at second base last year. At Double-A Tulsa, he made 15 total appearances at the keystone, tallying just one error in 55 chances.
How, where or when Vargas fits in to the major league roster is anybody’s guess. It’s almost like trying to guess where Chris Taylor will play the bulk of his games in 2022. However, if Vargas can establish himself as a viable big league second baseman, it could increase his chances for a quicker pro debut.
At this stage, it’s definitely safe to say that Vargas has leapfrogged Kody Hoese as the top-rated third base prospect on the farm. Justin Turner has one more year on his contract, although he does have a team option for 2023. If things play out at their current pace, that means Vargas’ timing could be about perfect.
Nevertheless, if the Dodgers end up making a big splash once the transaction freeze is lifted — say someone like Freddie Freeman — it could have an impact on a few other younger players like Gavin Lux, Edwin Rios and Zach McKinstry.
Nevertheless, based on the way Vargas has successfully hit on every level he’s competed, it suggests that he could be a valuable piece moving forward. Should he register more than 20 long balls and a 300+ batting average again in 2022, it will certainly be tough to keep him relegated to the minors too much longer.