Miguel Vargas is a good hitter, and he doesn’t really have anything left to prove in the minors. The next step for the third baseman/left fielder/DH is to establish himself as a big-league hitter, and it’s very interesting to see how the Dodgers will allow him to progress in that path.
The Dodgers have been able to slowly integrate top prospects without the pressure of needing to perform right away. Corey Seager may have been the last big name to come up with legitimate pressure to take on a significant role in the offense. It was pretty clear even during his September 2015 call up that he was going to be a big part of this team.
Even Gavin Lux, who was as highly touted as almost any prospect in recent memory was allowed to slowly carve his way into a regular role. The organization gave him playing time, and allowed him to struggle, and they opened up a position for him to be relied on as an everyday bat in 2022 by trading AJ Pollock a week before the season.
Vargas came up as a third baseman and has already played some left field in the big leagues, but the big tool of his game is his ability to hit, and how the Dodgers handle this off-season will say a lot about how they plan to use him in 2023.
Vargas can probably play some first base in a pinch, but with Freddie Freeman completely hogging playing time over there, we’ll look strictly at third base and left field for this exercise.
Those two positions were rotated quite a bit in the 2022 season. Max Muncy played most of his games in the hot corner, but Justin Turner also played there when he wasn’t the designated hitter. In left-field, Chris Taylor, Trayce Thompson, and others saw regular playing time.
Looking ahead at the 2023 season, with the current roster, Vargas doesn’t have a guaranteed everyday role, but the positions he plays certainly give him the opportunity to carve out playing time if his hit tool takes off.
Muncy and Taylor are under contract and aren’t going anywhere, and Lux is the in-house candidate who could replace Trea Turner, who is a free agent.
If Lux takes over at shortstop, Muncy and Taylor would be the two likeliest candidates to fill the bulk of the playing time at second base, opening up plenty of room for Vargas to play third base while also seeing time in left field.
Justin Turner’s club option will be decided later on Thursday, and he could be a free agent. For the first half of 2022, it looked like he wasn’t going to be the same hitter moving forward with a slow start, but he bounced back and delivered a very positive second half. It’s unclear whether he returns, but in case he does, Turner is probably the perfect candidate to provide some insurance for a player like Vargas, who you want to see out there regularly, but also don’t want to be tied to him, in case he struggles to get his footing.
A combination of Turner, Muncy, and Taylor accounting for the most playing time at 3B, DH, and LF, with the team bringing in a top shortstop — either Trea Turner returning or a free agent — and keeping Lux at 2B seems like the likeliest path.
This course wouldn’t block Vargas from playing, especially if Justin Turner’s workload is lessened. But it also wouldn’t leave the team too reliant on Vargas to eat up 500-plus at bats.
Whether or not the Dodgers bring in a starting shortstop, and if they re-sign Justin Turner — something the team says they are interested in doing — will say a lot about many things, and one of them is how much playing time we should expect from Miguel Vargas in 2022.