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Vargas: Kennys Keep It Up?

Posted by Twins and Losses , 28 August 2014 · 681 views

kennys vargas oswaldo arcia chris colabello
[Originally posted on twinsandlosses.com]

It seems a little inappropriate to call Kennys Vargas “Little Papi”. According to Baseball Reference he is an inch taller (6’ 5”) and weights thirty-five pounds more (275) than Mr. Ortiz. One can assume that this comparison has more to do with their skills with a bat than their impressive physical stature. They may not be the fastest nor the best when it comes to flashing the leather but they do both possess an important skill, one that Jeremy Clarkson of Top Gear fame deems the most vital (albeit his reasoning pertains to motor vehicles): power.

Over the last thirty days Kennys has put himself among some very impressive company thanks to his prowess with a baseball bat. He ranks 5th in the MLB in RBI (23), 13th in hits (33), 13th in batting average (.333), 16th in slugging percentage (.525) and 18th in on base plus slugging (.890). If we compare his stats to just those in the American League he stands 3rd in RBI, 6th in hits, 6th in BA, 7th in SLG and 8th in OPS. So he’s top 20 in the MLB and top 10 in the AL. Not bad for a guy who was called up to the majors from AA New Britain less than a month ago.

So not bad in fact that if he stays at this pace, using Baseball Reference’s OWn% (percentage of games a team with nine of said player batting would win given average defense and pitching) the Twins would be sitting high and mighty above the rest of the league at 117-45 thanks Team All-Kennys averaging 7.4 RC/G (runs created per appox. 27 outs). Unfortunately, that is about as likely as Roger Goodell handing out suitable suspensions for violating certain NFL policies.

Not all of Vargas’ stats are as rosy as those mentioned above however. With great power comes great responsibility and part of said responsibility is patience at the plate. In his twenty-four games played (yes, yes, very small sample size) Kennys has a strikeout rate of 26.2% compared to a walk rate of 3.7%. Not so good. His K/BB rate is 7.0, which is also… not so good. He does hit homeruns at the same pace he draws walks though

Surprisingly, for a player with so little time in the majors his plate discipline isn’t terrible:

Posted Image

A few things we can draw from the chart above:

• Vargas sees more pitches outside the zone than in the zone. Not at all uncommon for batters new to the MLB; for example just over 50% of the pitches thrown Danny Santana’s way are in the zone and he’s been hitting consistently since the beginning of May.

• Of those outside pitches, Kennys has swung at less than half of them, showing he has a decent grasp on what is and isn’t in the zone. Even when he does swing at pitches he technically shouldn’t, whether chasing or fouling off, he’s still able make contact more than half the time, which is encouraging.

• While he may not see as many pitches in the zone, he seems to have a good grasp where the zone is as evidenced by a 31% increase in both swing tendencies and contact made when the ball crosses the plate between the black. For perspective, this season Joe Mauer has swung at 53% of pitches in the zone and made 90% contact. A 4% difference in contact on strike pitches between a guy who has been in the majors for a month and a 3-time batting champ isn’t too shabby.

• Overall, Vargas has a little work to do when it comes to leaving the bat on the shoulder on pitches that are balls, his contact percentages both on those pitches in and outside the zone is an indication that he knows what he can and cannot touch, and that will go a long way when building his foundation as a solid hitter.
I do fear for the day where opposing pitchers take note of Kennys tendencies at the plate. With 28 strikeouts and 4 walks in 99 total at bats, it’s hard to see those numbers getting much worse but then again at the beginning of the year we all thought Chris Colabello would be our run producing machine for the season. I think what we’re all expecting is a DH who plays 1B every once in a while and mashes the ball with such strength we hear Dick Bremer nearly speechless aside from a feeble “…Oh my…” as was the case in Houston when Kennys planted a ball halfway up the second deck in right field.
He certainly has some work to do at the plate when it comes to walks and strikeouts, but if the lineup for the future includes a second coming of the Bash Brothers in the switch hitting Vargas and righty Oswaldo Arcia back to back, you can bet the cameras at Target Field won’t shy away from showing the upper deck seats as much unless one of them cranks a moonshot.

The sun may be setting on another 90+ loss season for the Twins and you've probably stopped reading this because football is right around the corner, but if you're a die hard like I am you'll tune in to the bitter end to see what Vargas (and the other youngins) can do.