Reno, Nevada —— After ten years, 738 games, and 3,000 plate appearances in the minor leagues, Arizona Diamondbacks infielder/outfielder Ildemaro Vargas is set to make his Major League debut this week after being recalled to the big league club on Thursday morning from their Triple-A affiliate, the Reno Aces. Vargas, 25, had been tearing up the Pacific Coast League in Reno, slashing .303/.343/.447/.790 over 320 at-bats at the time of his call-up to go along with 97 hits, 24 doubles, 16 walks, and just 27 strikeouts in those 74 Triple-A games.
Originally a member of the St. Louis Cardinals‘ organization, Ildemaro Vargas had been playing in the independent leagues after his release by the Cardinals when the Arizona Diamondbacks found him, signed him, developed him to the point where he actually landed on their top 30 prospect list again, and now made the decision to bring him up to The Show. That alone is an incredible story in patience and perseverance, and ought to make Vargas a fan favorite in so far as he’s earned everything that’s been given to him to get to this point. Beyond that, there are some technical aspects to his game, too, that could have him making a tangible, immediate impact on the big league club.
Ildemaro Vargas scouting report — IF/OF, Arizona Diamondbacks
Both offensively and defensively, any Ildemaro Vargas scouting report must center on his flexibility. A switch hitter at the plate, the 25-year-old is a very good athlete with above-average speed, very solid contact skills from both sides, and a knack for taking good, deep at-bats and drawing walks. He doesn’t strike out very much and puts the bat on the ball consistently, making him an ideal lead-off or bottom-of-the-order hitter who can set the table for sluggers and find a few different ways to get on base. I like him a lot better from the left-handed side of the plate than the right, but he’ll do either one fairly well and that’ll give the Arizona Diamondbacks some matchup options depending on the situation.
Flexibility in the field is one of Ildemaro Vargas’ strongest traits, too. Originally a second baseman/shortstop by trade, he can switch seamlessly between those two positions (and, one would imagine, third base) with ease, while also doing well for himself out in the outfield. He’s been playing more outfield as his career has gone on, and was doing so pretty well in Reno at the time of his call-up, so the fact that he can legitimately play five or six positions across the field will help him—and his team’s National League roster constraints—very much.
All that said, Vargas certainly has some limitations, too. Despite historical tendencies towards walking, Vargas has been fairly aggressive at the plate in my viewings this year, hacking early and often and overcoming that overaggressiveness with above-average contact skills that have kept him afloat. He has little power of which to speak, too, and while he has a natural ability to go the other way with the pitch (especially when hitting left-handed), he does so with little authority in the air and is far from an “impact” bat relative to his good-looking stat line and spark plug role. His contact skills ought to allow him to at least keep his head above water in the big leagues, though, and if he can re-gain some of the patience from early in his career, he might soon prove to be a tough out for big league pitchers.
Ildemaro Vargas scouting report — Arizona Diamondbacks video
Below, here’s our video of Arizona Diamondbacks IF/OF Ildemaro Vargas, taken between June 19-20, 2017 during Reno’s home series against the Las Vegas 51s at Reno’s Greater Nevada Field:
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Ildemaro Vargas scouting report — Future projection
Will full respect to Ildemaro Vargas’ incredible story of a decade’s worth of perseverance to get to this point, I’m personally not bullish on him having a huge, lasting impact in the big leagues; the timing is coincidental, but I much prefer the other infielder the Diamondbacks called up yesterday as the candidate to stick in The Show for a long time. Vargas’ offensive profile is limited and underwhelming despite good contact skills, and he should only be further exploited by big league pitchers who will inevitably draw out weak contact from him. Further, he’s decent enough in all defensive spots, but not good enough to take over any one position in an everyday role.
That said, Ildemaro Vargas will do a lot to help himself. His defensive flexibility and switch-hitting skills make him an ideal super-sub who can come off the bench and play a variety of different roles on the 25-man roster. His perseverance and long road to this point matters, too; at 25 with a decade’s worth of professional experience, one would figure he’ll be better equipped to handle the relative spotlight in Phoenix. And regardless of how long he stays, he’s earned it: congratulations to Ildemaro Vargas and his entire young family on the notable achievement of earning a call-up to the best baseball league in the world.