Recently, the three members of the Pinstripe Alley editing team and I took the time to rank the top-10 prospects in the Yankees system. Over the coming days, we will provide our consensus take on who the top prospects in the Yankee system are. Coming in at number 10 on our list is 20-year-old shortstop Alexander Vargas.
After defecting from Cuba, Vargas was a hot prospect on the International Free Agent (IFA) market. He quickly struck a deal with the Cincinnati Reds, but with the team’s ability to sign players to large signing bonuses limited due to sanctions from the previous years, Vargas was going to have to wait almost a full year to sign with the team.
The Yankees used the opportunity to swoop in, and were able to land Vargas for a significant deal in the summer of 2018. Using the international bonus pool allotment acquired as part of the Luke Voit trade, as well as another trade with the Chicago White Sox, the Yankees got the deal done, even if Vargas took a little less than he had originally agreed to with the Reds. His bonus would prove to be the biggest the Yankees handed out in the 2018 signing period, and has only been topped by Jasson Dominguez and Roderick Arias in terms of IFA deals handed out by the team dating back to 2015.
2021 Minor league stats (Florida Coast League): .273/.362/.393, 3 HR, 26 RBI, 17 SB
2022 Expected minor league level: Low-A Tampa
Major league ETA: 2024
Considered an elite defensive prospect up the middle, Vargas’ prospect status is a bit polarizing in the public sphere. Almost all evaluators like his skill set, yet some, led by FanGraphs, consider him to be among the elite prospects in the sport, ranking him as a top-100 prospect and a top-five player in the Yankee system. Others see him more in the middle of the pack when it comes to the Yankees top-30 prospects.
After a short stint in the Dominican Summer League, SS Alexander Vargas hit his first home run in America yesterday. The 17-year-old switch-hitter has been productive out of the leadoff spot for the GCL Yankees East. Vargas is a native of Cuba and signed with the Yankees in 2018. pic.twitter.com/nxoVWXVGHq— NYYPlayerDev (@NYYPlayerDev) July 17, 2019
After signing with the Yankees at just 148 pounds, scouts were excited to get a look at Vargas when he returned following the lost 2020 season with between 20-30 pounds of added muscle on his frame. More impressive was that the added muscle did not appear to hurt his range and quickness needed for coving up the middle.
Vargas also saw his approach at the plate change, as he displayed more patience at the plate. This led to both a higher strike out and walk rate in 2021, but his overall number also improved. Vargas finished the Florida Complex League season hitting .273/.362/.393 in 19 games. He quieted down his swing this past season after relying on a big leg kick in his professional debut season.
A late night video upload for y'all of #Yankees #12 prospect Alexander Vargas, a SS out of Cuba with a go-ahead 2-RBI single (that's how it was scored) on July 15th.— John Brophy (@jbrophybaseball) November 23, 2021
Can't wait to see what he does in Low-A Tampa next year. pic.twitter.com/Y1EsrkAVm4
What what remains constant in Vargas’ scouting reports is his plus range, defensive instincts and arm. He is a no-doubt shortstop moving as far forward as his offense can carry him.
One other skill that Vargas has displayed is the ability to steal bases. He went 15 of 18 in stolen bases during his debut season in 2019 but regressed a little bit in terms of efficiency this past year. He needed 25 attempts to steal 17 bases in 2021, but scouts still see the plus speed that made him a very efficient base stealer in his first season.
Vargas is likely still going to be looking to add more power to his game. While he will probably never be a big-time power threat, scouts feel that he should be able to add some impact to his bat in the coming years. He had an ISO of just .120 this past year with three home runs in 150 at-bats.
He will most likely start 2022 with Low-A Tampa. Last season, the Tarpons served as the launching point for both Anthony Volpe and Trey Sweeney, as they boosted their stock with strong performances. Vargas has the talent to force his way up a level during the season if it all comes together for him.
Alexander Vargas has the tools to be a strong shortstop as he continues his rise through the Yankee minor league system. He will get his first taste of full season ball this coming year and could quickly raise his stock in the mold of an Oswald Peraza type player. With elite defensive skills at one of the most demanding positions on the field, Vargas’s offensive progression is a storyline to watch when the minor league season kicks off in early April.