Who is Kennys Vargas? A 6’5 switch-hitting 1B/DH who spent last season in Japan. What can he provide the Detroit Tigers with this season?
As reported by himself and Bless You Boys, the Tigers signed Kennys Vargas to a minor league deal. According to MLB.com, and to Minnesota Twins fans, he is known as “Little Papi”. Originally signed by the Twins as an undrafted free agent out of Puerto Rico in 2009. In 2014, he played the Futures Game and was able to play for Ron Gardenhire for 54 games in 2014. His MLB career numbers are .252/.311/.437 with 35 career home runs. Another interesting fact is that he is friends with David Ortiz, which might serve as the “Did you know Matthew Stafford played with Clayton Kershaw?” line if Vargas does well here. Let’s take a look at Kennys Vargas’s career and what Tigers fans should expect.
Vargas is a big guy
Listed now as 6’5, 290 pounds, early on in his minor league career, he was busted for testing positive for Phentermine, which is an appetite suppressant. What was reported by Seth Strohs on his old site, SethSpeaks.net, the Twins told him to watch his weight so this makes sense on why he could have possibly been taken this. His walk rate through the minors was solid with averages between High-A and Triple-A of 9.6% 10.6% and 16.4%. In his first taste of the big leagues in 2014, he hit 9 home runs, batted .274 in 234 plate appearances. Defensively for his career according to Fangraphs, he is a -18.3. So he is primarily a DH/1B type with not a lot of flexibility but in terms of making the routine play at first base, he grades there well as in 2017, with 59 opportunities, he made the routine play 100% of the time. But the Tigers signed him for one reason. Power. Check out these moonshots of 483 feet and 471-foot drive.
What happened in Japan?
On the Spanish website, “Primera Hora”, as he was playing winter ball for the Mayagüez Indians, he spoke about his struggles playing for Chiba Lotte of the JPEL and JPPL when talking about his next destination.
“The imported ones always have it difficult the first year, but then they adjust a lot and do well. I hope that is my case if I have to return. Living in Japan is a bit difficult because of the culture, the way of life is busy that causes stress, but if I have to go,”
In 89 games playing in Japan, he hit .233/.329/.363 with just 6 home runs. Here he is lacing a double in the gap in May of last year.
Vargas will more than likely land at Toledo to start his career here in Detroit but if he can connect with all the raw power he posses, the Tigers may have a bargain here, despite past hype as Aaron Gleeman put in a tweet so eloquently. (Thanks to Chris Brown for finding this gem)