- zRating: 5.95
- Age: 28
- 2019 Stats: 269/.299/.413, 88 OPS+(B-Ref) 82 wRC+ (Fangraphs)
- 2019 Salary: Minimum, Pre-arbitration
- 2020 Status: Pre Arbitration - Out of Options
After flaming out of the Cardinals farm system, Venezuelan middle infielder Ildemaro Vargas went through independent ball before being picked up and signed by the Diamondbacks. Vargas would slowly rise through the system, making a name for himself, particularly with his stinginess when it came to strikeouts. Vargas in the minor-league for Arizona has struck out at most 8 percent each season. In 2018, in his third stint with AAA Reno, Vargas put up a .311/.348/.445 triple slash line, good for a 107 wRC+ (though it is worth noting that his numbers were trending downward from .312/.355/.462 and 111 wRC+ in 2017, and .354/.418/.449 and 138 wRC+ in 2016)
Prior to 2019, Ildemaro Vargas had all of 26 games and 33 plate appearances under his belt between 2017 and 2018, with just eight hits.
Vargas started out the season in the major leagues and appeared in three games (with only one a start), collecting just a hit (a double) before being optioned down to Reno on April 1st.
After Jake Lamb went on the DL, Vargas was called back up on April 5th, and homered in his first game. He stuck with the big club until he was optioned July 23rd. During that stretch from April 5th through July 23rd, Vargas got the biggest chunk of starts in his career, playing at multiple positions and filling in for injuries. Unfortunately, Vargas didn’t exactly run with the chance given to him, though to be fair he was particularly unlucky with a .BABIP of .219 in April, and .258 in June. So the results were about what you’d expect from a player who derives most of his value from batting average. Vargas was called back up on August 20th and stayed with the D-backs for the rest of the season.
Vargas' most memorable moment as a D-back happened against Cardinals in the marathon, record setting, 19 Inning walk off win on September 24th. Despite not starting the game Vargas had four hits, becoming the first MLB player in over two years to come off the bench and get as many knocks. They included both the home run that would send the game into extra innings, and the walk off hit that would win it.
Although Vargas appeared in 90 games during 2019, he only started and completed 1⁄3 of them (30 games), amounting to 211 plate appearances and a 269/.299/.413 line, good for a measly 82 wRC+ and 88 OPS+. Vargas struggled against RHP, hitting 243/.282/.318, while hitting a robust .340/.345/.679 against LHP. While Vargas was worth just 0.3 bWAR. with a big knock against him defensively, it’s not all that surprising given the shuffling between multiple positions in 2019.
Although he struggled offensively and defensively in the Major Leagues in 2019, Vargas shined in the run inflated environment of the Pacific Coast League while he was in AAA, hitting .403/.453/.573 in 137 plate appearances, good for a 154 wRC+. Vargas struck out at a minuscule 3.6% of the time.
Looking at 2020
Vargas is out of options in 2020, but will be paid league minimum. Although Vargas won’t have to compete for the role of utility middle infielder against Wilmer Flores in 2020, he now faces potential competition from Domingo Leyba, Andy Young, and Wyatt Mathisen. Vargas was largely unlucky in the Major Leagues in 2019, with his .BABIP of .279 falling well short of the .320 to .400 range it normally is. I wouldn’t expect him to hit over .400 while slugging over .550 like he did in Reno, but I’d expect an OPS+ closer to 100 than the 88 OPS+ he put up in 2019. If he’s sheltered effectively next year, and gets regular playing time, Vargas can definitely be a useful asset for the Diamondbacks in 2020.