The good news? Vargas will retain his Rookie of the Year eligibility for 2023, when he’ll enter the season on helium alert trying to claim a prominent position with the league’s-best team. That’s Oscar Bait for the Rookie of the Year trophy. Vargas might as well have played a confused rancher opposite Jake Gyllenhaal or slapped on some disfiguring makeup.
Well short of the threshold to be considered a rookie this year (45 days on the active roster, 130 at-bats), Vargas currently sits at 45 big-league ABs on the season with a let’s-forget-it OPS of .458.
His work at the minor-league level has been nothing short of incredible, though — and oh, by the way, he’s still just 22 years old.
On Tuesday, Vargas’ mantelpiece got clogged up by one more piece of hardware he can carry into 2023 as increased motivation. Baseball America, the preeminent authority on all things minor-league baseball, named the Dodgers slugger their Triple-A Player of the Year. Next stop? It isn’t hard to see him contending for the equivalent MLB honor next year.
Rookie of the Year, not MVP. Get your head out of the clouds. Unless…?
Dodgers’ Miguel Vargas wins Baseball America Triple-A Player of the Year
Being named the “Best Triple-A Player” can sometimes feel like a bit of a double-edged sword. Double-A is often seen as the level most packed with top-tier minor-league talent. Triple-A can occasionally get dominated by tweeners, players who’ve mastered the upper minors but can’t necessarily hack it against legions of All-Stars in the bigs.
In other words, sure, you can hit against a fleet of 29-year-olds trying to sustain a career in Tucson, but can you hit Justin Verlander?
In Vargas’ case, though, he was the best player in the high minors as one of the league’s youngest players, and everyone agrees his pedigree indicates he’s just getting started.
There was no shame in his game. He put up a plethora of age-inappropriate numbers, and was rightfully rewarded for it. 17 blasts, 82 RBI and a .915 OPS. Those numbers don’t require any qualifiers. Unlike most of his teammates and competition, this is his literal first rodeo.
Vargas’ first stint as Justin Turner’s Dodgers succession plan didn’t go quite as well as he and the team had planned. Hell, it didn’t even go as well as Roman Roy’s succession plan, and that did not go well at all.
But 2023 will be a new chapter (if not this year’s postseason), one which Vargas will enter with momentum at his back. He was Triple-A’s best player in a season he had no business dominating quite this much. Next season? Why not just do it again, at a higher level?