Unexpected skill has rookie thriving

April 5th, 2023

This story was excerpted from Juan Toribio’s Dodgers Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox._

LOS ANGELES -- has always graded out with one of the best pure hit tools. His bat-to-ball skills are what have made the Dodgers so confident in giving him the everyday job at second base.

However, Vargas walked just 194 times in 1,850 plate appearances throughout his Minor League career. In his first taste of the Majors last season, Vargas walked twice in 50 plate appearances. Drawing a lot of walks was never a big part of Vargas’ game.

Until now.

Vargas became the first Dodgers rookie to draw seven walks over the team’s first three games of a season since at least 1901. That’s a lot of history and Vargas stands alone.

The Cuban infielder doesn’t know if tracking pitches, while he recovered from a fractured finger on his right hand, has played a role in his more patient approach. But it certainly couldn’t have hurt.

“I just feel good at the plate,” Vargas said in Spanish. “I’m just trying to look for good pitches to hit in the zone and they’ve been pitching me out of the zone. I feel like I’m seeing the pitches well.”

Vargas’ early success at the plate gives the Dodgers even more reason to believe in the second baseman’s bat. His mature approach is giving the Dodgers a much-needed boost as they find consistency at the plate as a team.

More than his tracking during spring, Vargas gave credit to more consistent playing time for his improved approach. Young players tend to try to do too much when they first arrive in the Majors. Vargas is instead letting the opportunities come to him.

“If the team needs a good at-bat and a baserunner, that’s what I’m going to try to do,” Vargas said. “The other day [Friday] I drew a walk and [Trayce] Thompson hit a grand slam right after. Drawing walks also counts.”

Vargas often gives credit to his father, Lazaro, for the way he plays the game. His father is a legend in Cuba and one of the best hitters the island has ever produced. But in this case, Vargas said the apple did fall far from the tree.

“No way,” Vargas laughed when asked if his approach came from his dad. “He used to swing at everything. He never drew any walks.”