« Pinto's Points

It Takes Power To Change

by Dan Gunderson

The Minnesota Twins have not been good for a while now. We all know this. The Twins have also been touting their minor league system the last couple seasons, begging their fans to have patience as players like Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano come along. This is also a well-known fact.

It comes as no surprise then that these young players, along with pitching prospect Alex Meyer, have received the most attention from everybody at training camp. Buxton’s workouts are followed by fans and media members alike.

When Sano steps into the batter’s box to take a few swings for batting practice, a sort of hush falls over the spectators. Sano’s power was put on display in a big way Sunday morning when in BP, he hit the scaffolding next to the Hammond Stadium scoreboard way out in left field.

Probably somewhere in the vicinity of 425 feet. You just think of what he could do with that type of pull power at a place like Target Field. Pitching prospect Alex Meyer stands 6’9” (that is SIX FEET and NINE INCHES!) and throws in the mid to upper 90s.

Probably seems like the ball is already at home plate by the time Meyer releases it. You also have the young players like Brian Dozier, Aaron Hicks and Pedro Florimon who, despite their struggles last season, still have so much promise to provide for this team.

There is this one guy, a massive looking dude, who commanded some attention on Sunday as well. His name is Kennys Vargas.

Listed at 6’5” and 273 pounds, (LOOK OUT!) Vargas is one of a handful of Twins invited to the big league spring training camp that has no experience past the Twins Minor League A ball teams. Some notables on that list are Buxton and infielder Max Kepler, a highly touted European ball player.

Vargas made the list of camp invites based off of his power. And because of that power, he has caught the attention of manager Ron Gardenhire.

“He put himself on the radar map. He is the one hitting the ball 1,800 miles,” said Gardenhire. “He is a work in progress around the bag, he has things to learn but he is so strong.”

Now Vargas most likely won’t make the major league ball club out of spring training. According to Twins Assistant to the General Manager, Rob Antony, Vargas will start the season in Class AA New Britain. Last season, Vargas had his first season at Class A Ft. Myers and showed off the power that has been on display at spring training.

He hit 19 homers and drove in 93 runs with a batting average of .267. His strikeout number was a bit high, striking out once every 4.4 at bats. Another big downfall of Vargas is that he is very raw in the game of baseball.


Kennys Vargas (Right) practicing ground balls on Tom Kelly Field with Miguel Sano (Left).

As Gardenhire indicated, his defensive skills need work, as does his overall knowledge of the game. It seems that a few years ago, a player like Vargas would not get much of a mention or shot at the big club because he struck out so much and couldn’t play defense. This is different.

Vargas can hit the ball a country mile and that is what counts. Because of that, and the fact that he is starting out in Class AA, Vargas will have the higher ups of the Twins organization paying close attention to him.

The way Antony put it, “Once you get to Double A, you’re a phone call away.”

The problem becomes, where do you put him? Even with the Twins ever changing line-up, and it will be ever changing this season, Vargas sits somewhere deep in the pecking order of either first base or DH.

Joe Mauer is your first baseman from here until Mauer says enough. The back-up will be Chris Parmelee or you name it. Unless Mauer gets hurt, it doesn’t matter who is another first baseman because they are going to be a back-up.

What about DH? Well, if it all works out, the Twins could have Oswaldo Arcia play DH or Josh Willingham there the next couple years. If Jason Kubel works out, he is a likely candidate for that position.

Even with all this said, the Twins still keep repeating that one word about Vargas: power. Despite all the other words that follow to describe him, that one sticks out. It just goes to show how much the Twins are changing their philosophy on what they want to see out of their players.

You can follow Daniel "Pinto" Gunderson on Twitter at @pintoKFGO or friend him on Facebook. You can hear him on his weekly podcast show on kfgo.com, 740thefan.com or on iTunes called “The Pinto and White Shadow Show.” Pinto is a radio producer within the Midwest Communications-Fargo company.