The Dodgers are really going with Gavin Lux at shortstop. From what we’ve seen while he has manned the position (502 1/3 innings), he’s been about average (1 DRS, -4 OAA), but the eye test tells us something else. It’s surprising the Dodgers are going with Lux, but what might be even more surprising is the fact Miguel Vargas seems primed to be the Dodgers’ primary second baseman — at least to start the 2023 season.
As president of the Miguel Vargas Fan Club, even I didn’t see this coming. The reports of Vargas’ defense have always been something to the effect of “average at best,” and that was third base, mostly. These days, teams tend to hide players with defensive deficiencies (on the dirt) at second base. That’s, partly, why the Dodgers have played Max Muncy so much at second base since 2019. He has been pretty solid there (6 DRS, 0 OAA in 1,329 2/3 innings), and the eye test backed that up. However, Muncy had his best season in the field at third base (7 DRS, -2 OAA) and played a career-high 713 innings at the hot corner. Because of that, Vargas has, seemingly, been shifted to the keystone.
In his 18-game cup of coffee last year, Vargas and I logged exactly the same number of innings at second base: zero. He played a total of 87 2/3 innings in the field. He also has just 229 innings at the position in his minor-league career. Despite all that, the Dodgers are confident enough in his ability and remade physique for him to handle it.
He’s a solid 6-foot-3, 205 pounds and has worked hard to see his athleticism tick up since he turned pro. By multiple reports, he’s a plus (60-grade) runner when he’s underway. He still lacks the ideal quickness of an infielder, but the fact he has improved, physically, gives him a real chance to stick on the dirt.
That certainly can’t hurt! I’m not saying Vargas is going to supplant Lux (or whomever mans the position in the future) at shortstop, but the days of him being labeled a slow-footed corner infielder seem to be a thing of the past.
And, really, this is a way to get his bat in the lineup on a consistent basis. He has nothing left to prove in Triple-A, and was widely regarded as one of the top hitters at the top level of the minors. With the Dodgers losing some guys in free agency and some guys coming off down seasons (Muncy, Chris Taylor), this is prime time for Vargas to seize a more permanent role on a championship-contending ballclub. He has the look of a big-time MLBer, now we just have to see if it all comes to fruition.
Oh, and let’s do something about that uniform number — 71 ain’t it, especially as a second baseman.