Yankees Top 30 Prospects for 2020: Alexander Vargas (SS, #20)
Today we continue our Yankees Top-30 Prospects Countdown for the 2020 season with SS Alexander Vargas.
A top defender coming out of Cuba in 2018, Alexander Vargas has been used to playing against older competition, standing out as a 15-year-old in a U-18 league in Cuba before defecting. The New York Yankees signed him for a cool $2.5 million bonus in 2018, and in 2019 Vargas began his professional career. He shows more promise than he has shown in his limited playing time on offense and projects to be a consistent hitter even if lacking power. His defense is one of the best in the system given his quick hands, feet, and plus arm strength which increases his ability to make plays that others can’t.
(Screenshot From 20/80 Prospects Video, here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hpQXzp1nruQ)
Alexander Vargas, SS (#20):
Age/Date of Birth: 18 Years Old (10/29/2001)
2019 Team(s): Gulf Coast Yankees East (Rookie League)
2019 MiLB Statistics: .219/.301/.335 (0.636 OPS), 1 HR, 16 RBIs, 14 Walks, 22 Strikeouts (40 Games, 155 At-Bats)
Height/Weight: 5’11”/148 Pounds
Acquired: Signed by the New York Yankees as part of the 2018 IFA Class
MLB ETA: 2023
Alexander Vargas Scouting Grades (20-80 Scale):
What to Know:
Playing with the Cuban 18-and-under league as a 15 year-old, Alexander Vargas was among the top hitters and defenders before defecting out of the country in hopes of signing with the Cincinnati Reds early in the 2019 IFA class, who were favorites to land the shortstop if not for bonus restrictions in 2018. Ranked #8 on the MLB.com Top International Prospects list, Vargas had many teams on his radar of who to sign with, including the Los Angeles Dodgers and Cleveland Indians. It was at this time that the Yankees made some trades with the White Sox and Cardinals (which also got them Luke Voit), in which they were able to get a considerable amount of bonus pool money to be able to swoop in to sign the young shortstop to a $2,500,000 bonus on either July 31s or August 1st (depending on sources) as well as other notable names like Osiel Rodriguez (coming soon) and Antonio Gomez (see here).
It was on the next season in 2019 that Vargas would start his professional career in last May starting in the Dominican Summer League (DSL). It was here that people got a feel for his value as he would go on to spend only 8 games, hitting to a .298/.364/.526 triple-slash with 7 extra-base hits (5 doubles, 2 triples), before being promoted to American ball and the Gulf Coast Yankees East in late June. While he wouldn’t end his season here, Vargas would spent 40 games in the GCL where he did not hit well with a triple-slash of .219/.301/.335 with 11 extra-base hits (5 doubles, 5 triples, 1 home run). Two months later, Vargas was sent up to the Pulaski Yankees in late August, but didn’t record a game played with them.
Overall, Alexander Vargas seems to me to have a Tyler Wade vibe about him as a plus defender and good hitter with little expected power to come based off his size and figure. That being said, as a switch-hitter Vargas does make consistent contact and gets on-base at a good rate which well with his plus speed on the base-paths. On defense, even among a system with top-rated shortstops, Vargas is the consensus best among them as his quick hands and feet allow him to have tremendous range, while plus arm strength and good IQ allow him to make plays that others could not.
What Will the Future Hold?
Given that Alexander Vargas made it to Pulaski last season but somehow didn’t make it into any games (and he had no disclosed injury/IL stint) his 2020 season will most likely begin there. If not, it could occur back in the GCL given his underwhelming hitting, but given the oddity of the promotion, I would expect that the Yankees want to see how he plays against older competition. With that, and given the shortened season, I would expect that the Appalachian League looks to be where Vargas will mainly stay for the 2020 season.
Players with high defensive and low offensive upside usually don’t make it very high up prospect lists, especially if power is a tool that is well below average. (see: Matt Chapman’s prospect gradings) Given that, Vargas will most definitely stay comfortably in the low 20’s or high-teens in the Yankees system. He can move quick given his defense are his best tools which would allow him to maybe have a future career a la a Stephen Drew or Tyler Wade type player.