With young players and prospects, we spend the bulk of our time analyzing their skillsets and projecting their numbers down the road. We do that because we're most concerned with how good they'll be as big league regulars, since that's the critical information. But something of which I don't think anyone really does enough is tracing big league regulars back to their initial reports as prospects. Doing so provides less value but more entertainment, and something something here's what Baseball America had to say on Jason Vargas after 2004:
Background: Vargas was a two-way player during a circuitous college career that saw him spend a year each at Louisiana State, Cypress (Calif.) JC and Long Beach State. The Taylor Tankersley before grabbing Vargas in the second. He's the nephew of former major league infielder Randy Velarde.considered taking him in the first round in 2004, but opted for
Strengths: Vargas has good arm strength, working at 91-94 mph with his fastball. His tight slider is a putaway pitch against lefties. His changeup has good downward action at times and could become a plus pitch. He has a strong mound presence, working quickly and going right after hitters. He has sound mechanics and command.
Weaknesses: Some scouts wonder if Vargas may wind up as a reliever because he has just one plus pitch against right-handers. Though he has a good physique, there's some concern about potential weight gain in his lower half. He tired near the end of the year after a late promotion to low Class A, but that's typical for first-year players.
Vargas, by the way, was ranked the #8 prospect in the Marlins' system a few months after getting drafted. He and Josh Willingham are the two success stories. And Scott Olsen, if you consider Scott Olsen a success story, which I don't.
Running down the report, in order:
(1) 91-94mph fastball. Vargas now averages about 87, topping out around 89-90. I literally cannot imagine Jason Vargas throwing a pitch 94 miles per hour.
(2) Tight slider as putaway pitch against lefties. 85% of the pitches Vargas threw to lefties last year were fastballs or changeups. If PITCHfx is to be believed, Vargas threw all of 79 sliders to left-handed batters. They swung 43 times, and six of them missed. Vargas might as well be a two-pitch pitcher.
(3) Changeup could become a plus pitch. Jason Vargas' changeup is the reason he's in the bigs, as it's arguably one of the better changeups in baseball. He'll throw it to righties, he'll throw it to lefties, and he'll throw it in any count. It's fantastically good.
(4) Good pace, mechanics, and command. Sure I guess
(5) One plus pitch against righties. Vargas still only has one plus pitch against righties, but it's a really good pitch, and he keeps his fastball around the plate. How many lefty starters actually have two plus pitches against righties? This seems like kind of a lame critique.
(6) Good physique with concerns about lower half weight gain. BA listed Vargas at 6'0, 215 after the 2004 season, and.com lists Vargas at 6'0, 215 now, but now Vargas has breasts, and thighs straight out of an old-growth forest, so something seems awry. I will say that, even though Vargas doesn't look like much to the eye, I have heard reports that he's in surprisingly excellent shape, not that I'd want to watch him run.
It's funny - you read the old report and Vargas comes off sounding like a future power reliever. You look at him now and he's a solid finesse starter. Something interesting happened between then and now that's bigger than just developing an awesome changeup, which gives Vargas something of a fascinating path.