Name: Emilio Vargas
DOB: 8/12/1996 (Age 22)
Acquired: 2013 International Free Agent
Most Notable Tool: Mid 90s Fastball
Season Stats: 26 G (25 GS), 9-8, 2.88 ERA, 143 2⁄3 IP, 170/49 K/BB, 13 HR, 1.20 WHIP, 40.6% GB rate between A+ Visalia and AA Jackson
2018 Season Summary: Vargas has always been an under the radar type prospect, putting up solid numbers across the way but never standing out, until 2018 where he broke out in a big way. The development of both his slider and change-up resulted a 31% strikeout rate in the Cal League and reducing his walk rate to 9%. That earned him a promotion to AA where he got shelled in his first three starts before settling in and turning in 3 amazing starts to close the season. Vargas did not pitch in the Fall League due to already exceeding his innings number from 2017 by 40, but did earn a spot on the 40-man roster to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft.
Tools: Fastball 55/60, Slider 50/55, Change-Up 40/50, Command 45/50
Vargas has always had a solid fastball, but now his slider has turned into a solid swing and miss pitch for him now. The change-up is looking more and more like a reliable third pitch, although looking at his Visalia splits he had an easier time with LHH than RHH. Command isn’t quite there yet, but again I would also like to also stress that it has improved greatly. Walks are down, strikeouts are up, and batters in the Cal League had a tough time squaring him up.
Upside: Vargas has the ceiling of a middle of the rotation starter, but has multiple successful career possibilities. If the command does not improve enough to be a successful starter, then he’s a prime candidate for a reliever conversion. If starting doesn’t pan out, then his pitches should play up in a reliever role as a 1-2 inning shutdown guy. The continued development of the change-up is the key difference between those two career outcomes.
Risk: The biggest risk is that his command regresses to pre-2018 levels and causes a setback in his development at the AA level or cause him to be unsuccessful at the MLB level. The only thing I could see preventing Vargas from reaching the majors will be injuries. 2019 will be a big year for Vargas to prove that he is MLB starter material.
Likely 2019 Assignment: Vargas will most likely start the year with AA Jackson, where he made 6 starts to conclude the 2018 season. The challenge there will be for Vargas to continue to improve his command and maintaining a high strikeout rate (> 25% K and < 9% BB will be the numbers I look for). A good 2019 season pretty much cements him as a future core player as well as earning a cup of coffee with the MLB team.
ETA: 2019 Season