Sometimes when hitting coaches see a certain player in the cages or in on-field batting practice, they can't pinpoint any specific mechanical or physcial attribute to explain why he's impressive. In most cases, it can be summarized with a simple phrase: "He can just hit." That was the case with Miguel
Sometimes when hitting coaches see a certain player in the cages or in on-field batting practice, they can't pinpoint any specific mechanical or physcial attribute to explain why he's impressive. In most cases, it can be summarized with a simple phrase: "He can just hit."
That was the case with Miguel Vargas when Rookie-level Ogden hitting coach Dustin Kelly first saw him swing the bat in extended spring training.
Since then, the Dodgers prospect has joined Kelly in the Pioneer League and on Sunday went 5-for-5 with a homer, two RBIs and two runs scored to raise his batting average to .522 and lead the Raptors to a 10-7 triumph over Helena at Lindquist Field.
Gameday box score
"I think we always knew he was a pure hitter and an advanced hitter since day one, but I don't think we expected him to be this good this quick up here right now," Kelly said. "There was always really good bat-to-ball skills, he manages his at-bats really good and it never looks like he's overmatched. Even when guys are pitching to him based on his scouting report or looking to find a weakness, he still finds a way to get the barrel to the ball and he doesn't ever give at-bats.
"With two strikes, he's almost even more comfortable because he shortens up, gets a little wider and is able to manipulate the barrel to get it to the ball and he finds hits."
Vargas poked a single to right field in the first inning, then lined another base hit to left in the third. The first baseman slugged his first Minor League homer leading off the fourth.
"There's definitely some raw power there," Kelly said. "I don't think it's a huge part of his repertoire right now, but as he gets older there's going to be some serious pop in there. But he's so disciplined with his approach and the way pitchers are attacking him, he's really, really content with the way pitchers are attacking him and hitting them to left and right-center and taking his doubles."
After the homer, Vargas legged out an infield single in the sixth. He made it five hits in as many at-bats by dumping a single into left field in the ninth that plated Ronny Brito.
"Every time you have four hits, it's a very good night," Kelly said. "But when you have five hits, that's a career night."
The 18-year-old defected from Cuba on his 16th birthday in 2015 alongside his father, Lazaro Vargas, who played 22 years for the Havana Industriales in the island nation's top baseball league. The elder Vargas won two Olympic gold medals while playing for the national team.
Kelly entertained the idea that his mature approach could trace back to his strong baseball roots.
"I think that's a major, major component of it," Kelly said. "He's been around the game ... and his dad was a phenomenal hitter. His dad is a legend in Cuba and with talking to Miguel and what his approach is and what he's trying to do, I think it's very similar to probably what his dad did and what his dad has instilled in him as a hitter.
"He hits the ball to the right side, he lets the ball travel and fastballs, breaking balls, changeups don't beat him. He's able to do what he wants and drive the ball to the right side, and if he needs to pull the ball and get the head out, then he can do that, too."
Kelly described Vargas' on-field demeanor as relaxed, and his off-the-field personality reflects that.
"If you see him on the field, it's a smooth, easy and relaxed playing style," he said. "And he's got the same personality in the clubhouse. He's got a big personality, but he goes about his business and people seem to really like him. He engages with people and he's pretty infectious."
Vargas spent the last two-plus years completely removed from live game action, which makes what he's doing in Ogden even more impressive to Kelly.
"It wasn't like he was playing competitive baseball this time last year, like a lot of other kids were," Kelly said. "For where he's right now, I know he's really enjoying playing in front of fans and competing."
Signed by the Dodgers for $300,000 in September 2017, Vargas is hitting .522 with a 1.373 OPS in 11 Pioneer League games. He began the season in the Rookie-level Arizona League and batted .419/.514/.581 in eight games before being promoted.
Daniel Robinson slugged a three-run homer and Matt Cogen chipped in two hits, an RBI and a run scored for the Raptors.
Chad McClanahan drove in three runs and scored twice in his third straight three-hit game for Helena.
Josh Horton is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @joshhorton22