As spring training starts to wind down, the roster is taking shape for the Twins and it’s still a dogfight for the starting DH. Exiting the 2016 season, it appeared that it would be between Kennys Vargas and (provided his wrist was healthy) Byungho Park, but then the Twins were granted an extra option year for Vargas while Park was outrighted off the 40-man roster. All of a sudden, it seemed as if the DH position was wide open, but it’s still between those two players as we approach Opening Day. I understand that some people have also suggested Robbie Grossman, especially against lefthanded pitchers, but Grossman lacks the offense that both Park and Vargas provide.
Rhett Bollinger profiled Park and his hot spring, as he’s been doing everything right to start a second consecutive season as the Twins’ DH. Thus far, Park has hit .394 with four home runs and eight RBI in 36 at-bats and at a quick glance, it sure looks like Park is easily beating Vargas. After all, Vargas has hit just .077 with a .327 OPS in 13 at-bats, so it appears that Park is the clear winner. However, we have to remember that Vargas hasn’t received as much playing time as he’s been competing in the World Baseball Classic with Puerto Rico, where he has two hits (one home run) in eight at-bats as well.
On one hand, it’s admirable that Vargas wanted to compete for his homeland, but on the other we can wonder if getting just 21 at-bats (with 40% of them away from the Twins) compared to Park’s 36 this spring has been detrimental to his chances. I wrote that I felt Park’s wrist impacted him more than he let on last year (which was echoed by a Brian Dozier quote in Bollinger’s piece above) and I strongly believe that a healthy Park can be a powerful hitter within the Twins lineup. Vargas possibly could do that as well, but his problem is that he hasn’t been consistent and also has struggled to hit righthanded pitchers over the past three seasons. His minor league numbers have shown him to be a good but not great hitter as well, so I figure the Twins might as well bank on the upside of Park. After all, he’s already been showing the improvement this spring.