10. Jordy Vargas (471 points, 23 ballots)
Vargas was one of Colorado’s headline prospects from their January 2021 amateur free agent class, signing for $500k out of the Dominican Republic. The 6’3”, 153-pound 19-year-old right-handed starter has MLB bloodlines, as he is the son of pitcher Yorkis Perez, who played in parts of nine big league seasons for five different teams. Vargas dominated in the Dominican Summer League in his debut season and his pitch stats were so undeniable that Fangraphs rocketed him up the system’s top prospect list (and in so doing influencing the PuRPs electorate to recognize Vargas as well).
Vargas came stateside in 2022 and moved even farther up lists this time around. He made his official stateside debut in June for the Arizona Complex League team. In 26 2⁄3 innings across seven appearances (five starts) against players who were 3.2 years older on average, Vargas showed he had mastered the level. In that sample he had a 2.36 ERA (2.79 xFIP) with an excellent 0.64 WHIP, 13.5 K/9 rate (40 Ks), and 1.4 BB/9 rate.
The Rockies responded in early August with a promotion to full-season ball in Low-A Fresno, where Vargas was 3.8 years younger than average. In 24 2⁄3 innings across six starts at the level, Vargas (who is younger than 2022’s second-round pick, Jackson Cox) didn’t seem out of his depth in Low-A. He posted a 3.65 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, 8.8 K/9 rate, and 4.7 BB/9 rate, though his 5.76 xFIP shows Vargas was a bit fortunate with those numbers. Fun fact: Vargas didn’t permit any homers at all as a professional until he got to Low-A, where he allowed five big flies.
Here’s some video of Vargas in his first ACL appearance of 2022, courtesy of Fangraphs:
Fangraphs ranks Vargas 4th in the system with a 45 FV grade, best among Rockies pitching prospects, with the evaluation including a 60 Future grade on both the hammer and the heater:
Among the most exciting pitching prospects in the entire Dominican Summer League was Vargas, an ultra-projectable, loose, strike-throwing starter prospect with a curvaceous breaking ball. At age 18, Vargas is already sitting 93-95 mph with disruptive tailing action, and his curveball is a knee-buckling parabola of death. His fastball’s shape doesn’t really complement his curveball right now but Vargas is too young to really worry about that. The ease of his delivery and his ability to throw strikes both facilitate starter projection, and his extremely lanky, broad-shouldered build not only generates hope that he can maintain mid-90s heat under a starter’s workload, but also that he may continue to throw harder as he matures. Were Vargas a stateside high schooler, we’d be talking about him as a mid-first round type of prospect.
Baseball Prospectus slotted Vargas 12th in the system in their November ranking:
A teenaged pitcher with arm speed to spare, Vargas is a bit of a developmental project at present. His mid-90s fastball plays below the plus velocity as it is control over command, and the pitch mostly just runs down barrels. He does have good touch and feel for an 11-6 breaker, although the shape can get a little loopy at times. His changeup has a chance to be at least average as well, although Vargas doesn’t always replicate his arm speed and the fade is fringy at present. There’s the outline of a three-pitch, mid-rotation starter in his profile, and Vargas spent all of last season as an 18-year-old. The Rockies, however, do not have a great track record with maximizing arms and he could be in the top 10 or well off this list when his 19th birthday rolls around.
Keith Law of the Athletic ranked Vargas 19th in the org last week:
Vargas is a very skinny right-hander who can really spin the breaking ball and throws a ton of strikes, with four walks and 40 strikeouts in 26 2/3 Arizona Complex League innings before the Rockies moved him up to Low A. He’s 6-foot-3 and not even 165 pounds yet, projecting to add some muscle even with a narrow frame, and could end up a three-pitch starter with an out pitch in the breaking ball if he gets stronger.
Vargas has been impressive at every level so far at a precocious age, though there were a few bumps in his Low-A appearances down the stretch. He possesses tremendous upside as a prospect and appears likely to remain in the starting rotation in the future. Vargas also won’t be Rule 5 eligible for another three seasons, meaning the Rockies will have time to see what kind of pitcher he can be against more advanced hitting.
With that written, Vargas is still a long ways away and much can happen in between Low-A and MLB. I ranked Vargas seventh on my ballot as a 45 FV talent, but if he puts up these kind of numbers in High-A in 2023 (he’ll probably start in Low-A again but is a candidate for a mid-season promotion), Vargas will deservedly be a top five player even in a deep Rockies system.