In August 2018, the Yankees cashed in the bulk of the chips they received for trading Chasen Shreve, Giovanny Gallegos, and Caleb Frare over the course of the summer. Moving those three players helped the Yankees build up their international spending pool so that they could spend more on a single international free agent than they had since their infamous 2014 international spending spree. The Yankees allocated $2.5M dollars on August 1st of that year to sign Cuban shortstop Alexander Vargas, and with a professional season in the books, he has caught the eyes of scouts and evaluators across the game.
Vargas jumped state-side to the Gulf Coast League after a short debut in the Dominican Summer League. While his numbers do not jump off the page yet, scouts are seeing a player that has outstanding projectable tools, and he has almost universally climbed onto prospect rankings of the best Yankees players. This includes being ranked as a top-100 prospect in the game by both FanGraphs and ESPN.
When the Yankees announced Vargas’s signing, it came as a bit of a surprise as almost everyone expected him to sign with the Cincinnati Reds on July 2, 2019 when the next international signing period was set to open. Due to word of his deal with the Reds, more than one group ranking the top international free agents that summer did not even have him on their list. This was not due to a lack of talent, as when he was evaluated against his peers from the 2018 signing period he routinely ranked in the top 20.
The young shortstop was good enough to play in the Cuban national under-18 league as a 15 year old prior to defecting. He quickly has gained a reputation for his elite range on defense. Vargas does not have an elite arm, but it is more than adequate. Scouting reports make mention of strong instincts on defense and a good internal clock to know how much time he has.
In addition to his range, Vargas has also shown that he can use his speed to be disruptive on the base paths. Vargas stole 15 bases in 18 attempts last season, including going a perfect 13-for-13 once he moved to the Gulf Coast League. Next season, baseball is implementing new rules for left-handed pitchers at the Class-A level and below that eliminate the Andy Pettitte style pick-off move. Last season, both steal attempts and success rates increased when this rule was implemented for the independent Atlantic League. This change should be very helpful for players like Vargas who already exhibit proficient base stealing ability.
At the plate, Vargas is a switch hitter with very good bat-to-ball skills. He has an advanced ability to control the bat through the zone and make contact. This was on display last season as he recorded just a 12.9% strikeout rate. Vargas also exhibited solid plate discipline by walking 8.2% of the time in his first season.
Weighing around 150 lbs, power is the one tool that scouts do not see him developing. That being said, he has a higher launch angle with his left-handed swing which is encouraging for anyone with aspirations of playing in Yankee Stadium down the road.
Vargas will likely start 2019 with Rookie-Advanced Pulaski Yankees, on a team that could potentially feature other outstanding young prospects like Jasson Dominguez, Kevin Alcantara, and Antonio Gomez. He is also one more exciting shortstop in what is becoming one of the deepest positions in the Yankees’ system, joining some of the better prospects in the system such as Anthony Volpe, Oswald Peraza, and Josh Smith.
Alexander Vargas has caught the eyes of numerous scouts and evaluators this past season. It took the young shortstop just one season of professional experience to land himself on multiple top-100 prospects list. While ratings that high are not yet universal for Vargas, the consensus is that he is a very talented young player who has the potential to reach the Bronx and make an impact for the franchise.