He ranks 5th in MLB in RBIs (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, Baseball Reference has a stat called "OWn%" which is the percentage of games a team with nine of said player batting would win given average defense and pitching. Team Kennys would be averaging 7.4 runs per game and sitting high above the rest of the league at 117-45. That is about as likely as Roger Goodell handing out suitable suspensions for violating certain NFL policies, but not bad.
Not all of Vargas’ stats are as rosy as those mentioned above. With great power comes great responsibility and part of said responsibility is patience at the plate. In the very small sample size of his twenty-four games played, 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 home runs 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:
A few things we can gather from the chart above:
• Vargas sees more pitches outside the zone than in the zone. Not at all uncommon for batters new to 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 swing tendencies and contact made when the ball crosses the plate in the zone. 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 three-time batting champ isn’t too shabby.
Overall, Vargas has some work to do when it comes to leaving the bat on the shoulder on pitches that are balls. But his contact percentages on pitches both in and outside the zone are an indication that he knows what he can and cannot touch. This will go a long way toward building his foundation as a solid hitter.
I do fear the day where opposing pitchers take note of Kennys' tendencies at the plate. With 28 strikeouts and four walks in 99 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 we’re all expecting a DH who plays 1B every once in a while and mashes the ball with such strength that we'll hear Dick Bremer turn 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 of the future includes a second-coming of the Bash Brothers in the switch-hitting Vargas and lefty Oswaldo Arcia cranking back-to-back moonshots, you can bet the cameras at Target Field won’t shy away from showing the upper deck seats as much as they have recently.
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 stay tuned-in to the bitter end to see what Vargas (and the other young'uns) can do.