In one respect, I will always associate Miguel Vargas with Vin Scully.
No. 71 made his major league debut on August 3, the day after Scully passed away. Vargas, the Dodgers’ 2021 minor league player of the year, started his season with Triple-A Oklahoma City as the youngest player on the team at the age of 22.
While at Oklahoma City, Vargas hit .291/.382/.497 with 15 home runs and 24 doubles through the end of July. Vargas primarily played third base prior to his debut with the Dodgers, playing 69 times at the hot corner, seven times at second base, twice at first base, and 12 times in left field, his first outfield action since becoming a professional. On August 2, due to an injury to Justin Turner, Vargas was called up to the majors for the first time.
That was also the day that Vin Scully passed away as the Dodgers had just started a series in San Francisco. Considering the fact that the Dodgers were still going to be playing in San Francisco the following night, I knew I would not forgive myself if I did not drop everything to be at Oracle Park for the next game.
As luck would have it, just as I was fortunate enough to be present for James Outman’s debut a few days prior, I had the opportunity to see Vargas for myself as he made his major league debut.
As I have written elsewhere, normally the prospect of going to a Dodgers-Giants game in San Francisco is a pricey one. But the Giants’ mediocrity allowed me to witness Vargas’ first start. In Vargas’ first at-bat, he almost copied a feat done by Young Master Outman a couple of days earlier: a home run in his first at-bat.
Only the ridiculous dimensions of Oracle Park kept Vargas in the yard. He stole third base on literally the next pitch. Vargas later said about the steal: “I just felt incredible and I didn’t feel like anyone could stop me.”
In his next at-bat, Vargas shattered his bat and hit a weak grounder to third. The barrel went farther than the bat but that was another hit and run batted in for Vargas.
Vargas started his major league career two for two. Unfortunately, he cooled off considerably after that with the Dodgers, as the above description of the August 3 game against the Giants featured a quarter of the hits that Vargas had in 2022 at the major league level.
On August 9, Turner was reinstated and Vargas was optioned back to Oklahoma City, where he remained until rosters expanded on September 1. From that point on with the major league club, Vargas went 6 for 39 with a HR (.154) to close out the regular season. I did see Vargas one final time on September 11 at Petco Park where he entered the game as a defensive replacement for Freddie Freeman once the game was well in hand.
Vargas did make the postseason roster against the Padres, but did not play during the NLDS.
Ultimately, Vargas finished the year with a minor league statline of .304/.404/.511 with a .915 OPS and 129 wRC+ in 520 plate appearances and 113 games. As such, Vargas has nothing left to prove at the minor league level. And the Dodgers expect that Vargas will play a major role with the major league club in 2023. How much of an impact Vargas will have going forward will ultimately be up to him.
Stats: .170/.200/.255, 1 2B, 1 HR, 8 RBI w/LA; .304/.404/.511/.915, 32 doubles, 17 HR w/OKC
Salary: $700,000, pro-rated to roughly 157,708 for his time in the majors
Game of the year
Without a doubt, Vargas’ game of the year, and the game he will remember for the rest of his life is his electrifying debut in San Francisco on August 3.
Vargas retains his rookie status on the Dodgers’ 40-man roster with 41 days of service time. He has two option years remaining.