Miguel Vargas entered the 2023 season locked into the starting second base role for the Los Angeles Dodgers with high expectations surrounding him.
However, the rookie who was known for his hit tool as one of baseball’s top prospects has not produced as expected. In 234 at-bats, Vargas is hitting just .201/.301/.376 with seven home runs, 30 RBI and 32 runs scored.
“I don’t think he’s gotten on a roll,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “It’s the first time, I would assume, he’s ever struggled for quite a while with the bat. It’s interesting.
“For Miguel, the thing that we sort of could bet on or bank, was his bat to ball, getting hits, and then some on base. I think right now there’s some pressing. He’s in it. He’s grinding.”
Vargas has played in 72 of the Dodgers’ 77 games despite his struggles, but Roberts plans to get him some more time off moving forward.
“I think I’m going to be more mindful of trying to give him days off, if need be, to try to get him back on track,” Roberts said. “This is a tough one. Still trying to figure it out.”
The Dodgers are currently short on healthy infielders with Mookie Betts seeing the majority of the time when Vargas isn’t in the lineup. But Michael Busch could “potentially” be another option, according to Roberts.
“Michael is doing a really nice job filling in for Max, both defensively and in the batter’s box,” the skipper said. “We’ll see how it goes each day. For me, it’s just kind of assessing each and and trying to figure out which kind of dynamic helps us win that day.
“It is comforting knowing Michael can play second base, and being left-handed, there might be some opportunities there.”
However, Busch possibly playing second base has been ruled out for the time being, as he was optioned to Triple-A Oklahoma City shortly after Roberts’ comments.
Why is Miguel Vargas struggling?
The Dodgers still believe in Vargas long-term, and they have every reason to not lose faith in his ability. But his batted ball profile is concerning with an average exit velocity in the 12th percentile of MLB players and a hard hit rate in the 11th percentile.
Roberts also sees an issue with Vargas’ ability to hit pitches inside the zone. “I think the biggest surprise is he’s missing a lot of pitches that are in the strike zone,” Roberts noted.
“I think that’s the biggest thing. No one is trying to miss or foul balls off, but at this level, if you get pitches in the hitting zone and you miss them, or foul them off or pop them up, that’s a hard way for live. That’s the most telling thing for me.”
While the Dodgers are still trying to figure out the exact issue, there may be a change Vargas needs to make with his swing.
“There’s some mechanical, there’s a little late in getting ready, there’s a little trying to do too much with potential of pulling the baseball versus trying to just log some hits,” Roberts said.
Although Vargas began the year with a bone fracture in his right hand, Roberts doesn’t believe that is a contributing issue.
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