The biggest mistake we make as fans is to see what a player has done over his first few dozen appearances and base our expectations for that player off of what we see. Small sample sizes are deceiving over a few hundred plate appearances much less 20 games' worth.
Kennys Vargas, who is batting .316/.354/.512 in 82 plate appearances in his Major League debut, isn't Chris Colabello. Colabello is a 30-year old feel-good story who started this season hitting .346/.386/.577 through his first 20 games before imploding; Vargas is a 25-year old following a traditional career trajectory with legitimate power that should play in the Majors. But the lesson is the same: a few plate appearances does not a career project.
Still, the power is real. Vargas has crushed 36 home runs over his last two seasons in the minor leagues, has a career minor league triple slash of .288/.367/.486, and has a career minor league isolated power mark of .198. These are all good numbers, but they aren't great. He's walked in just over 10% of his minor league plate appearances, which means he has a decent eye, and that's good. The contact skills look like they could be an average or slightly above average Major League tool, for what that's worth.
But the real danger in buying into Vargas' fantastic start for the Twins is in the road of prospects that's littered with similar minor league producers who ended up being busts. Being a good hitter in the minors, and even making a splash in your Major League debut, doesn't guarantee anything. You can't look at a player's minor league numbers and know how they're going to pan out.
Vargas' .854 minor league OPS puts him right in the middle of this group, which contains four players who turned in the kind of career we'd love to see him have and five players who were considered relatively high profile busts. They all have good contact skills, they all have power, and they all took walks. I'd love to see Vargas end up with a career like Mo Vaughn or Gary Gaetti, but we can't crown him yet.
We could find a list of hitting prospects dozens deep with similar numbers, but the point is simply to illustrate that players with Vargas' track record aren't guaranteed anything.
The good news is that he's going to get the vast majority of the designated hitter's plate appearances the rest of the season, and there's a good chance he gets that role for the team in 2015, too. He's earned it. We'll see him struggle, but more importantly we'll get to see how he responds to adversity and advanced scouting reports.
Player A - Kevin Maas
Player B - Mo Vaughn
Player C - Andy Marte
Player D - Elijah Dukes
Player E - Gary Gaetti
Player F - Corey Koskie
Player G - Cameron Drew
Player H - Mike Sweeney
Player I - Marty Cordova