Finally healthy, Vargas eyes breakout '24 after 'incredible offseason'

February 16th, 2024

GLENDALE -- Last October, was at Camelback Ranch in the Dodgers’ “stay hot camp” just in case he was needed during the postseason. Once the Dodgers were eliminated by the D-backs in the National League Division Series, Vargas rushed back to his offseason home in Miami.

Vargas gave himself three days to enjoy quality time with family and friends. Then, it was right back to work for Vargas. He was eager to get the bad taste out of his mouth from not performing last season, which ultimately led to him getting demoted to Triple-A Oklahoma City in the summer.

“I had an incredible offseason,” Vargas said in Spanish. “I talked to my dad and brother a lot about failing. They helped me understand that things happen. Playing in the Majors last season was a different world for me. I think I lost confidence in myself and I just need to keep believing in myself.”

A year ago, Vargas came into Dodgers camp with a spot on the Major League roster. He didn’t have to go through any sort of competition. Due to his talent, particularly in the batter’s box, the Dodgers handed the former top prospect their starting second base job.

Vargas’ season got off to a tough start right away, however, as he suffered a hairline fracture in his right index finger, which limited from swinging the bat for most of Spring Training. In the middle of the summer, Vargas was once again hit in the hand, creating even more stress for a young player.

“Coming into the spring with a broken finger and then in the middle of the season getting hit on the hand again, I think that led to a lot of bad habits at the plate,” Vargas said. “I was dealing with a lot of pain and that didn’t fully allow me to be myself.”

His numbers showed. Vargas’ hit tool has long been touted as one of the best in the organization. His father, Lazaro, is a Cuban legend and one of the greatest hitters the island has ever seen. Hitting is a family business, but Vargas struggled during his rookie season.

Vargas posted a .195 batting average over 256 at-bats with the Dodgers last season. Due to his severe struggles during the summer, Vargas was sent down during the All-Star break. He never made it back to the Majors last season.

As much as Vargas dealt with some physical issues last season, the mental part of the game took a toll on the 24-year-old.

“It was really tough for me. I’ve never struggled like that before,” Vargas said. “Obviously, every player’s goal is to play in the Majors. It was really difficult for me to accept that I was struggling that bad and that I was getting sent down, but things just didn’t go as I planned. My family really helped me this offseason. They helped me understand that failure is part of the game and life. I just had to learn from that and I think last year made me a stronger person.”

Vargas has always been a player that has relied on his confidence. In his Major League debut, Vargas stole third just for the simple fact that he “felt unstoppable.” Last season, Vargas said that, for the first time in his life, he lost the joy of playing the game that runs in his family.

“I wasn’t having the results that I wanted and I lost sight of what has made me good in the past, which is just enjoying the game I love,” Vargas said. “I was thinking of other things.”

This spring, Vargas came into camp as a left fielder. With Mookie Betts now the starting second baseman, the Dodgers decided a move to the outfield could help Vargas have more opportunities to contribute at the Major League level. Vargas worked with first-base coach Clayton McCullough over the winter and has spent time with former Dodgers outfielder Andre Eithier this spring.

Given the fact that Vargas now needs to earn every opportunity he gets moving forward, he’s just looking ahead to going out and showing everyone he can still be a key contributor for a team, even one as talented as the Dodgers. And he’ll have fun doing it every step of the way.

“Obviously when you’re struggling, nothing is fun,” Vargas said. “But you have to find a way to still enjoy yourself and not focus on all the negatives.”