The Dodgers’ Miguel Vargas takes the opportunity at second base
LOS ANGELES — The road to a regular role with the Dodgers in 2023 seemed clear for Miguel Vargas.
Vargas, the top-hitting prospect in the system, had played at third base by far more than any other position during his four seasons in the minor leagues. During his major league appearance last season, three of his seven field starts came at third base (and the other four at left field).
When the Dodgers let veteran third baseman Justin Turner go into free agency, the way seemed clear for Vargas to open next season as the Dodgers’ primary third baseman.
But the Dodgers will head out for spring training next week, with Vargas drafted in at second base — a position he’s played in just 28 games in those four minor-league seasons and not in the majors at all.
“At this point — and we’ll continue to evaluate this — he’s doing a lot of reps and that’s[second base]his focus right now,” general manager Brandon Gomes said. “And that’s trending really well. He’s a great athlete and he works incredibly hard too.”
In the last four seasons, Gavin Lux has started more games at second base (153) than anyone for the Dodgers. Returning to his natural position, he replaces the late Trea Turner at shortstop this season.
Next in line was Max Muncy (129 second-place starts over the past four seasons). But the Dodgers plan to make Muncy the primary third baseman — a position he played more frequently than Justin Turner last year with the DH rule introduced in the National League.
“I think I did pretty well there last year. Our internal metrics have been very good for me,” Muncy said, an analytical assessment that Gomes also noted. “I started to feel very comfortable because I played it a lot. Third base is a position I’ve always said you have to play consistently to feel comfortable there. Hopping around and playing there once a week, for two weeks I felt it was a very difficult position to play. But once I started playing it every day, I felt really comfortable. It has become much easier for me.”
Second base could become much more difficult to play in 2023. The new defensive shift rules require two infielders on either side of second base at all times. There will no longer be a right-handed charge versus a left-handed one. This increases the need for athleticism and range of second basemen. But Gomes wouldn’t say Vargas’ athleticism was the reason for picking an inexperienced Vargas, who starts at second base with Muncy at third.
“We’re just trying to put together the best possible infield,” Gomes said. “I think Muncy is a great athlete personally. He has always done very well defensively, he can move very well. Vargy is our second or third fastest guy on the team, which is probably not appreciated at all. So he’s also a good athlete. It’s more about getting him reps and just getting his second level feel.
“I think the combination of everything is very strong. And then having (Miguel) Rojas on board with a certain regularity is something we think is very good.”
One of the best defensive infielders in the NL, Rojas has played all four infield positions and the veteran has already taken Vargas under his wing. The two have been on the phone since Rojas was acquired in a trade with the Marlins, and they’ve trained a few times in Miami with Rojas, who gave shortstop instructions according to his theory that “if you can play shortstop, you can play other positions “.
Vargas gets good grades from Rojas for his eagerness to learn.
“(Vargas) reached out to me and asked about working on the defense. That tells me a lot about what he wants to be,” said Rojas. “He wants to be a good defender – not just a good player and happy to be given a chance. He wants to be a good defender and works hard on second base.”
Vargas said he also worked with Dodgers coach Dino Ebel that winter, as well as with Placido Polanco, a special adviser in the Dodgers’ front office, who won three Gold Gloves during his playing career — two at second base and one at third. He is the only player to win Gold Gloves at multiple infield positions.
“They helped me a lot and now I’m much more comfortable being second,” Vargas said.
The Dodgers didn’t tell him directly that he was going to play second base, Vargas said, “but I’m ready for it.”
“Things could change. Things can change by the time we get out of here and get to the regular season,” Vargas said. “I just want to get ready, focus on doing whatever it takes to be ready. Then, when that opportunity presents itself, be prepared.”
https://www.ocregister.com/2023/02/11/dodgers-miguel-vargas-embraces-change-of-plans/ The Dodgers’ Miguel Vargas takes the opportunity at second base