Minnesota Twins: Demoting Vargas a Puzzling Move

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OK, here is a comparison for you:

Player A
.409/.458/.591 line through the middle of May with a BB% pushing 8.5%

Player B
.248/.295/.362 line through the middle of May with a BB% of 6.3%

The choice seems fairly obvious. If you had to choose, you would pick player A over player B (even given the fairly limited data provided). In this case Player A happens to be Eduardo Nunez and Player B the newly demoted Kennys Vargas. I couldn’t disagree with this decision more for a number of reasons.

In March and April Vargas was struggling. He looked lost at the plate and struck out in nearly a third of his early ABs on the way to a putrid .172 average .063 ISO (.063!!!) and an unbelievable .214 wOBA (weighted on base percentage). Part of this awful start was Vargas struggling to get on base on balls he put in play, underlined by his .238 BABIP.

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In May Vargas has been steadily improving. He has cut his SO% by almost 10%. He has increased his OBP% by .163 and his ISO for the month has been a much more respectable .195. As a result his average in the month of May stands at a much improved .366, bringing his season average to .248. I don’t understand the logic of the Twins front office here. Paul Molitor explained that the reason Vargas was sent down wasn’t mechanical but rather ‘it’s more about what’s going on in his head every time he gets in the batter’s box’. This may be true. It just seems as though demoting him to work out consistency issues before re-promoting him after their road trip through NL cities would exert its own strain of adjusting to AAA pitching before having to re-adjust to higher caliber pitching when he is offered his next chance by the Twins.

Anyone who expected Vargas to replicate his form from last fall throughout the entire season is perhaps misguided in their thinking. Part of being a major league hitter however, is making adjustments as pitchers make adjustments to hitters after having faced them multiple times. Hopefully Vargas won’t be subject to the AAA VS MLB pong that the Twins played with Chris Parmelee after one exceptional September in 2011.

This brings us to his roster replacement, Eduardo Nunez. Nunez has put up impressive numbers in an extremely small sample size in 2015. Nunez’s numbers are simply unsustainable. An absurd BABIP of .474 should be indicative that his numbers will soon level out. While I am not contending that Nunez is taking Vargas’ roster spot to play for him every day, I would rather see if Vargas can work out some of his consistency issues against major league pitching. Nunez is a known, extremely average quantity. Vargas has shown signs of providing the Twins with some of the offensive power and spark they have lacked in the heart of their lineup for a long time.

Paul Molitor clearly has Vargas in his long term plans for the Twins. Perhaps I should be more patient given the surprising start the Twins have made in 2015. I’ll be looking forward to seeing Vargas back at Target Field after the Twins are finished with their inter-league play against NL clubs. For now, this roster move remains a head-scratcher for me.

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