Emilio Vargas Comes Into His Own

In addition to having a three-pitch mix, including a fastball that seems to play above its velocity, righthander Emilio Vargas also seems to have intangibles he has been leaning on through the first two months at high Class A Visalia.

“He’s got a knack for finishing guys off,” Visalia pitching coach Jeff Bajenaru said. “He gets two strikes on someone and he knows he’s got him.

“Or when he gets guys on base, you can see it in his eyes: ‘These guys aren’t scoring.’ He just has that look; he just gives it off. You can feel it in the dugout. You’re never really worried. That’s a really good thing to have as a pitcher.”

Through 58 innings, Vargas led the California League with a 1.24 ERA and ranked second with 76 strikeouts.

The 21-year-old Vargas, who signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2013, has been on the organization’s radar for years. In a start for low Class A Kane County late in 2016, he struck out 16 in eight innings. After a 2017 season that was sidetracked by blisters and a bout with the chicken pox, Vargas seems to be coming into his own in Visalia.

“This is him just coming into his own,” minor league pitching coordinator Dan Carlson said, “and really understanding what type of pitcher he is.”

Vargas sits in the 92-93 mph range with his fastball, but with the high spin he generates, the pitch plays like it’s 95. That has allowed him to pitch more aggressively at the top of the zone, something he’s done more this year than in the past. 

He also has a slider and a changeup, giving him weapons to attack hitters on either side of the plate.

In his first five starts this season, Vargas issued 19 walks in 23.1 innings yet somehow managed to allow just four runs. In six starts since, he walked just nine in 34.2 innings, which Bajenaru said was the result of refining his fastball command, cleaning up the direction in his delivery and not nibbling so much.

Some wonder if Vargas might fit best in the bullpen, but he is starting to win believers in the rotation.

“I wouldn’t say he’s a front-line guy by any stretch,” a scout with an American League club said, “but he’s certainly in the rotation somewhere.”

>> Double-A Jackson righthander Jon Duplantier, the organization’s top prospect, landed on the disabled list with right biceps tendinitis. Farm director Mike Bell said the club is hopeful he can begin a throwing program in the third week of June.

>> Kane County righthander Matt Peacock, who had a 3.38 ERA with 32 strikeouts through 32 innings, was opening eyes with his power sinker. After 12 relief appearances to open the year, he shifted into a starting role in mid-May.

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