The Most Interesting Man In Fantasy Baseball
He took Corey Kluber deep just because he felt like it one day…He gave Trevor Bauer nightmares after a mammoth moonshot in September…One time he brought a bat to the outfield to shag fly balls during batting practice…His first month exploits caused Twins beat writers to compare his numbers to Joe DiMaggio’s (seriously)…He added an extra “s” to his name because Kenny wasn’t flashy enough on Ron Gardenhire’s lineup card …Kennys Vargas is “The Most Interesting Man in Fantasy Baseball”…
The 24-year old was never considered an impact fantasy prospect prior to last season, but was able to leap straight from Double A, making his Major League debut for the offense starved Minnesota Twins on August 1. His potent bat ended up having a major impact down the stretch for many fantasy owners in deeper formats locked in tight playoff races. The 6-foot-5, 275-pound behemoth generated a rock solid .274/.316/.456 line with nine home runs, 38 RBI and 26 runs scored in just 234 plate appearances over the final two months of the 2014 season.
The major issue for Vargas going forward and the one that will ultimately determine whether or not he is a viable long-term fantasy option is his ability to make contact. He struck out 63 times (26.9 K%) in only 234 plate appearances and walked just 12 times (5.1 BB%) last season. Vargas boasts an extremely aggressive approach at the plate, as evidenced by the fact that he swung at over half (53.6%) of the pitches he saw and offered at 38.5% of pitches outside of the strike zone this past season.
Unless you’re Victor Martinez, who led the majors in contact rate (88%) on swings at pitches outside of the zone in 2014, you end up with a pedestrian number like Vargas, who made contact on just over half (51.3%) of his offerings at pitches outside the zone.
Unless Vargas is able to make significant adjustments to his approach at the plate to cut down on strikeouts and make more contact, like Houston’s Chris Carter has been able to do recently, he is never going to hit for a high average at the big league level. He managed to hit .274 in his two-month exposure to MLB pitching, but was the beneficiary of an inflated .340 BABIP. A more than likely regression to the league average around .300 over a full season would result in a significant drop in batting average.
The few factors working in his favor are that he is a switch hitter and the Twins have very few other options at designated hitter in the near future. Vargas’ batted .309 and blasted eight of his nine home runs from the left side of the plate (133 PA) as opposed to just .228 from the right side (101 PA). Taking a look at his complete batted ball profile, which is shown below, and examining his spray charts as both a right-handed and left-handed batter, Vargas has shown the capability to hit the ball to all fields, which eliminates the risk of opposing teams targeting him with defensive shifts, which would further hurt his batting average going forward.
2015 Projection: 498 PA – .254/.309/.432 – 58 R / 71 RBI / 19 HR / 0 SB
Fortunately for fantasy owners, the median batting average in 2014 was just .252; which means that Vargas is less of a drag on your team’s average than in years past and with his plus power potential, he could be a major difference maker in 2015 and beyond. Elite power is becoming even more scarce these days, with just 11 players hitting 30 or more home runs last season. If Minnesota decides to give him close to a full season of at-bats, Vargas has an outside shot to join that group if everything comes together.
While he does have some legitimate raw power upside, there are some major red flags with his approach at the plate. His struggles to make contact and an above league-average 47% ground ball rate, limit his ceiling in the near future unless he can make major adjustments.
There is some serious risk from a fantasy standpoint that Vargas doesn’t pan out, which is why his projection is only for close to 500 plate appearances to hedge against that, but what makes him appealing is that he is a low-risk, high reward acquisition capable of producing 20 or more home runs that will not require a huge investment on draft day or in a trade if he is already owned in your dynasty league. One of the more polarizing young players in fantasy, Vargas offers a power profile (if you believe that it is legitimate) that simply cannot be ignored.