Some top prospects immediately look the part as teenagers. Others take longer to fill out.
Count 19-year-old Cuban shortstop Alexander Vargas in the latter group, and the wait for the weight looks to be paying off for the Yankees.
“Now, he’s at a point where he’s starting to physically mature, and the results of all his hard work are really starting to show,” Yankees hitting coordinator Dillon Lawson said.
The suddenly bigger-bodied Vargas, who stands 5-foot-11, has the Yankees salivating at what he could become when he reaches the majors.
“His entire game is really exciting and super athletic and electric,” Lawson said.
Vargas signed for $2.5 million in 2018 and profiles to be a leadoff bat, with blinding speed, smarts and sure hands and feet on defense.
Back when the Yankees first had eyes on him, top international scout Donny Rowland’s lieutenants loved Vargas’ raw talent. They could see what it would become if he hit the weight room and slammed a few protein shakes.
For a lot of players, the might simply lead to a new peak in max exit velocity. But not Vargas, who hit .233 with one home run and 15 stolen bases in 48 games between the Dominican Summer League and the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League in 2019.
“For him, it’s not only going to be in terms of max exit velocity, but it’s going to be the average exit velocity, too, and the consistency of it,” Lawson said. “You’re going to see it in exit velocity, but you’re also going to see it in terms of an overall contact rate, which is already solid.
“There was nothing to complain about already. But because he’s able to generate more bat speed with more simple moves as a hitter, with more simple mechanics, he’s going to now hit the ball harder more consistently, as opposed to someone who just simply the physicality and everything else stays the same.
“He ceiling is super, super high.”
— Reliever Addison Russ, acquired from the Phillies for David Hale last year, has made strides on adding a more consistent slider to his fastball/splitter combo. Russ’ developing slider acts more like a cutter than a wide, sweeping slider.