Not every prospect's journey is linear ... but what's happening with Los Angeles Dodgers' second baseman Miguel Vargas has understandably given fans a reason to be concerned after three months of play.
Through Thursday's action, Vargas is hitting .198/.301/.371 with 33 runs scored, 7 homers, 30 RBI, 3 stolen bases, a .672 OPS and 81 OPS+ across 73 games. The problem has been June, where Vargas has hit .143 (with a .149 BABIP!) to go along with a weak .286 slugging percentage.
That's resulted in the Dodgers cutting back his playing time. Manager Dave Roberts has claimed Vargas' time off against the Rockies was primarily for a mental reset, but with David Peralta now a serviceable starter, Mookie Betts hitting better as an infielder, and James Outman and Jason Heyward still outperforming Vargas by a mile, this could very well be a semi-permanent development, especially if Vargas can't get back on track.
Some have wondered if Vargas' transition to second base has hurt him. Though he's looked the part in the field, on top of his bat suffering, the slugger ranks in the 3rd percentile for Outs Above Average and has been good for -4 Defensive Runs Saved.
This is also the first time Vargas has struggled this significantly with his offense, so it's worth wondering if the Dodgers need to press pause and figure out what possibly went wrong with his development.
What's Dodgers' recourse if Miguel Vargas can't find his footing?
The Yankees are taking the opposite approach with top prospect Anthony Volpe. Despite his issues, he'll be playing every day until he works through them. Because it's hard to argue staggered, inconsistent playing time would help top rookies of this caliber. They need to be on the field as much as possible, not thinking about why they're not playing as they sit on the bench.
In a worst-case scenario situation, let's say Vargas can't do much to right the ship in 2023 and hovers around his current production. What are the Dodgers to do? Because it seems like Michael Busch is as good as gone once the trade deadline arrives, right? Miguel Rojas can't be an everyday player. Yonny Hernandez is not the solution.
Are the Dodgers looking at the trade deadline to solve their woes? Because the short-term patchwork situation of Betts at second/shortstop while Rojas and Vargas get part-time reps doesn't feel like an answer. Nor does calling up Jorbit Vivas from Double-A. Nor does featuring Chris Taylor more often when he's back from the IL.
Perhaps guys like Tim Anderson, Gleyber Torres or Kiké Hernandez are available at the deadline, depending upon what those teams look to do if their situations don't vastly improve over the next month?
Either way, this is very much imperfect. The hope is that Vargas can produce closer to his May output, but the road doesn't get easier from this point forward. A "hope for the best" combined with a "be prepared for the deadline" approach will probably be how the Dodgers operate here.