With Ehire Adrianza healthy enough to be activated off the 10-day disabled list, a roster spot had to be cleared for him. Ultimately, that roster spot was found by sending 1B/DH Kennys Vargas back down to Triple-A Rochester.
I know that many Twins fans are upset by the move, but Vargas simply has not been a good hitter in the majors leagues over his career. This season, he’s hit .231/.271/.410, and though he has 7 home runs in just 166 plate appearances, his .179 isolated power is just slightly above the major league average of .174 (and that’s with pitchers already stripped from the data). His triple-slash translates into a 76 wRC+, which means he’s been 24% worse than the average major league hitter this season. For his career, Vargas has hit .246/.301/.428 which is equal to a 96 wRC+. While demonstrating the ability to draw walks in bunches in the minor leagues, last season was the only year that Vargas carried that plate discipline with him to the Twins (13.6 BB%). The other three seasons, Vargas has held a walk rate around 5%. So... not very good.
I’m willing to admit that Vargas was hurt by a lack of consistent playing time, especially with Joe Mauer, Robbie Grossman, and Eduardo Escobar all hitting well enough to deserve to be in the starting lineup on a regular basis themselves. It’s this lack of playing time that continues to cause some fans to be concerned that the Twins are giving up on the next David Ortiz, except, well, Vargas is not Big Papi and it’s not even close. Take a look at Vargas’ career numbers compared to Ortiz’s as a Twin.
Ortiz bests Vargas in every single stat, which can be summed up with his 118 wRC+ compared to Vargas’ 96. Not shown but also telling is that Vargas’ average exit velocity isn’t great as he’s averaged 86 MPH this year, putting him in the same territory as Jeff Mathis, Carlos Ruiz, and Cliff Pennington. I’d be more concerned about “giving up the next David Ortiz” if the guy actually hit like David Ortiz. Instead, it seems that people fixate on Vargas’ size and that one home run with the 115 MPH exit velocity in San Francisco which causes them to believe that he’s going to be some excellent power hitter that the Twins are mishandling, and yet I think it’s clear that Vargas just isn’t as good as many fans believe.
Therefore, if the Twins end up cutting bait on Vargas after this season (as he will be out of options), it shouldn’t be considered as this huge loss. Grossman may not be a prototypical DH, but he’s provided far more production, puts together much better at-bats than Vargas, and thus has emerged as the frontrunner to be the starting DH next year. If you’re still not convinced, well, Baseball Reference says that Vargas’ most similar player through age 25 is the Angels’ C.J. Cron... a guy that also has been shuttled between Triple-A and the majors for most of his young career. That’s definitely not how a team would actually handle the next David Ortiz.