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Colorado Rockies prospects: No. 14, Jordy Vargas

The righty was slated to possibly challenge for a top 100-overall prospect status before undergoing Tommy John surgery in July 2023

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14. Jordy Vargas (370 points, 22 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 20-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 boasts a pitch mix that includes a mid-90s fastball, a potential plus curveball, a promising change, and the ability to throw them for strikes consistently.

Vargas was slated to be a top-10 PuRP and possibly challenge for top 100-overall prospect status before undergoing Tommy John surgery in July 2023. The timing is such that much of 2024 will also be consumed with rehab and regaining strength for Vargas, a cruel blow for the pitcher and for Rockies fans looking forward to an exciting young starter scaling the minor league ladder.

Vargas split 2022 between the complex league and Low-A Fresno, and the latter place is where he was assigned to begin 2023. At 2.9 years younger than league average, Vargas was one of the youngest players in the California League (younger even than 2022 second-round pick Jackson Cox). In his return to Fresno before his injury, Vargas was clearly not overmatched by the competition in 64 innings across 13 starts, in which he had a 4.22 ERA with a 1.23 WHIP, 9.7 K/9 rate, and 3.4 BB/9 rate. Right-handed batters hit just .202 against him.

Unfortunately, we’ll have to wait until either late this season or even 2025 to see if Vargas maintains his stuff post-TJ rehab.

Here’s some video of Vargas in his first ACL appearance in 2022, courtesy of FanGraphs:

FanGraphs ranks Vargas 5th in the system with a 45+ FV grade, second best among Rockies pitching prospects. The evaluation, written just before the injury, includes a 60 Future grade on both the hammer and the heater:

Vargas is a loose, ultra-projectable, strike-throwing starter prospect with a curvaceous breaking ball. At age 18, Vargas was already sitting 93-95 mph with disruptive tailing action, and he’s held that velo as his innings load and per-start output has grown upon entering full-season ball. His curveball is a knee-buckling parabola of death, he’s adept at creating tail on his changeup, and his general athleticism and the looseness of his arm action portend continued growth in this area. 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.

Kiley McDaniel of this week ranked Vargas 7th in the system as a 45 FV player:

Vargas had his Tommy John surgery announced in 2023 (along with Jackson Cox) just as he was having a breakthrough season with some Top 100 vibes to it. He’s a 6-foot-3 right-hander who flashes three above-average pitches and starter traits, though it was still early to see precision within the strike zone. ranks Vargas 17th as a 45 FV player:

Just 19 for all of the 2023 season, Vargas has already impressed with his potential three-pitch mix and feel for how to use it to get hitters out. Coming from a slight and narrow build — one evaluator said he’s built like a fungo — he has a low-90s fastball that plays up a bit because of his ability to command it to both sides of the plate and the ride it gets at the top of the zone. Lower-level hitters haven’t been able to square it up, and he’ll have to learn not to rely on it as much as he faces better competition, having thrown the pitch close to 70 percent of the time in 2022. The good thing is he has secondary offerings to go to. He can really spin a breaking ball, and while it sometimes gets caught between a slider and curve, it has depth and bite. It’s a pitch he can land early for a strike and also use as an out pitch. He has good feel for his changeup too, and sometimes it’s better than the breaking ball.

Vargas goes right after hitters and should be able to continue filling up the strike zone. It remains to be seen how much strength he can add to his wiry frame, with any physical maturity only adding to his potential starting pitcher profile, something he’ll try to continue building once he’s fully recovered from his surgery.

Keith Law of the Athletics ranked Vargas 19th in the org in February 2023:

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.

Baseball Prospectus slotted Vargas 12th in the system in their November 2022 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.

Vargas has been impressive at every level so far at a precocious age, but now he’ll be on the shelf for an extended period of time as he rehabs and with that comes the uncertainty that he’ll be the same pitcher afterwards. The pre-injury Vargas possessed tremendous upside as a prospect and appeared likely to remain in the starting rotation in the future. Much can happen in between Low-A and MLB though, and Tommy John surgery recovery isn’t a guarantee.

The good news is that Vargas won’t be Rule 5 eligible until after 2025, meaning the Rockies will have time to see what kind of pitcher he can be against more advanced hitting. I ranked Vargas 10th on my ballot as a 45 FV talent due mostly to the inherent risk with surgery, though on talent alone I think he’s closer to a top five player in the system.