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This, kids, is why I’m smiling. To hell with you May flowers, graduations and extended winters in parts of the country. Kennys Vargas appears to have received the message of my prediction that he’d hit 30 homers this season, to the point that I’d feel empty if there wasn’t a several hundred-word salute to Vargas’ newfound appreciation of making bat meet ball and hitting it to places where no one resides.
Granted, it’s nine games this month (entering Wednesday), but Vargas has been a 6’5”, 290-pound version of Ted Williams, putting together a .424/.457/.636 slash line with a 1.094 OPS, which has lifted his average from .172 to .258. Those who threw in the towel after just 64 at-bats are now scrambling to add him, as his ownership has increased to 11 percent of polled leagues.
Contact, folks. It’s all about the contact.
Vargas struck out 21 times in April, whiffing at a 32.8 percent clip that made his career mark of 26.6 percent look as if he were Wade Boggs, circa 1985. Take the strikeouts out of the equation, and Vargas’ average goes up to a more respectable .255. With the prospect of being sent down to the minors becoming a stark reality with each lonely, unfulfilled walk back to the dugout, Vargas hunkered down and began to embrace the idea that hearing the words “ball four” wasn’t some satanic code word.
He has already exceeded his hit total for the month of April while also striking out just six times in his first 33 May at-bats (18.1 percent whiff rate), which has Vargas looking a lot like the player who mauled Double-A pitching last year, as that marked the only time in his professional career he had a strikeout rate lower than 20.2 percent.
There’s not enough space on the Internet to list the things that will happen before Vargas goes a season with a 18.1 percent strikeout rate (the Brooklyn Brawler being the main event at the next Wrestlemania, a Bill Simmons-ESPN reunion and Homicide: Life on the Streets being added to Netflix are three). Yet, if he can somehow defy conventional wisdom and maintain a pace of 18-20 percent, he’s going to have value in deeper leagues. Vargas has just three homers thus far, yet has the kind of power that can easily result in an 8-12 game wave of terror against opposing hurlers during which he could double that total. The home runs will come; bank it.
My faith in a 30-homer season from Vargas has waned slightly, yet I firmly hold that he can swat at least 25. Entering Wednesday, the Twins were 24th in homers, a number which will go up once Vargas and fellow potential slugger Oswaldo Arcia can find their power stride. If you’re in need of pop and have a bench spot for someone lying in the weeds waiting for a major breakout, then I’d suggest filling said spot with Vargas.
As we sample our way through the rest of this week’s waiver wire, please enjoy the music of a gone, yet never forgotten 80s music act….
Thomas Field, 2B/SS, Rangers: It does my heart well to see a fellow Texas State alum do well. Field is far from a prospect (he’s 28), yet he is in a position to become a contributor after being recalled from Triple-A Round Rock, where he batted .298 with five homers and 17 ribbies in 28 games. Rougned Odor’s play has thus far lived up to his last name, which opens the door for Field to see significant playing time. He hit his first big league homer on Monday night and has shown flashes of pop in his career. Field is another few games of Adam Rosales and his .167 average away from seeing more time, which should make him a sound target in AL-only leagues.
Delino DeShields, 2B/OF, Rangers: Our co-star in Ode to Arlington is tied for fifth in the bigs with nine stolen bases despite having all of 36 at-bats. He’s the former Astros first round pick and son of former elite base swiper (463 career steals) and former Fantasy darling Delino DeShields Sr. The junior edition can flat-out fly, yet, like many other speed merchants, he is still learning that you can’t steal first base. Owned in six percent of polled leagues, DeShields’ .222 batting average is ugly to look at, but considering what he can do for a Fantasy team’s bottom line in the SB department, he’s gotta be pretty darn tempting. You also have to factor in his versatility, which will allow the Rangers to install him into the lineup a couple times a week, which is just enough for him to rack up steals.
Mike Bolsinger, P, Dodgers: Overshadowing the fact that Bolsinger threw the pitch that Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton hit to LAX on Tuesday night, is that he’s looked pretty decent in his first two starts in the potential jackpot role as the Dodgers’ fifth starter. Granted, it’s just 11.1 innings of work, yet he has a 1.59 ERA and a 1.24 WHIP to go along with eight strikeouts. He’s currently owned in just two percent of polled leagues, but he’s definitely on the radar of NL-only owners still gunshy after the Joe Wieland experience. Bolsinger has earned another start, so if he can corral the Rockies this Sunday, it will be safe to go into the waters of the back end of the Dodgers’ rotation to nab him.
Aaron Hill, 2B/3B, Diamondbacks: Someone’s hopped into the Way Back Machine and into the not-so-distant past. Hill’s swinging a .282 bat these days, with three homers and 11 RBIs while recording hits in eight of his last ten games, including a pair of the multi-hit variety. The signs of decline appeared evident in his .241/.287/.367 slash line from last season, yet he’s going Paul Kersey and making his own Death Wish on NL pitchers this month, batting .464 with all three of his bombs and eight ribbies coming since the calendar turned. Owned in ten percent polled leagues, Hill is worth a flier in deeper mixed leagues, where the pickings are slim when it comes to finding productive middle infielders. He’s probably not the 20-homer slugger he was as recently as 2012, but those climbs in walk rate (7.1 percent) and isolated power (.171, compared to his .124 last year) are clear signs you might want to enjoy the ride.
Joe Panik, 2B, Giants: There’s nothing terribly exciting about Panik, yet he’s a good choice in deeper leagues where finding middle infielders who do a lot of things fairly well aren’t in abundance. You can do much worse than a player batting .293 with a .341 OBP. What’s encouraging about Panik, owned in eight percent of polled leagues, is that he’s showing glimpses of extra base pop, as evident in his .407 slugging percentage and .124 isolated power (he went .368 and .063, respectively, last season). Imagine his value if you could morph him and Delino DeShields, Jr. together. Ah, the possibilities…..