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South Side Sox Top Prospect No. 33: Emilio Vargas

The best combination of talent and health in Charlotte might just reside in this right arm.

Chicago White Sox Photo Day
On a team as starter-shallow as the White Sox, it’s not impossible that Emilio Vargas sees a spot start this season.
Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

Emilio Vargas

Right-Handed Starting Pitcher
220 pounds
Age: 25
2021 SSS Top Prospect Ranking: 35
SSS rank among all right-handed starting pitchers in the system: 11

Emilio Vargas, signed as a 16-year-old from the Dominican Republic by the Arizona Diamondbacks, was a slow riser in that organization, although performing well at every stop. Finally, in November 2018, he was added to their 40-man roster in order to protect him from the Rule 5 draft. That year, combined with High-A Visalia and Double-A Jackson, Vargas posted a 2.88 ERA and 1.20 WHIP in 26 starts totaling 143 2⁄3 innings. In that span, he ceded just 123 hits (.229 OBA) and 49 walks (3.07 BB/9) while striking out 170 (10.65 K/9).

Limited to 17 starts for Jackson in 2019 due to injury, Vargas posted a respectable 3.78 ERA and 1.13 WHIP over 85 2⁄3 innings as he allowed 74 hits (.231 OBA) and 23 free passes (2.96 BB/9) while fanning 70 (7.35 K/9). He was promoted to Triple-A Reno on March 6, 2020 but never pitched, due to the pandemic.

Perhaps alarmed because of his lower strikeout rate from the year before, and the need to protect other prospects from that year’s Rule 5 draft, Vargas was placed on waivers by Arizona, in the hopes of re-adding him back onto the roster without 40-man limitations.

“Not so fast!” cried Rick Hahn.

The White Sox claimed Vargas off of waivers on Nov. 20, 2020 and actually tried the same thing (successfully) when designating him for assignment on Feb. 1, 2021 when the team brought back Carlos Rodón — essentially clearing a spot on their own 40-man roster.

Vargas then produced arguably the best season of any righthander who pitched in a full-season league in the Sox system. In 21 games (15 starts) totaling 83 2⁄3 innings for Birmingham, Vargas posted a 2.90 ERA and 1.16 WHIP by relinquishing just 69 hits (.225 OBA) and 28 walks (3.01 BB/9) while fanning 99 (10.65 K/9). The biggest concern with Vargas’ results is that he posted a 1.86 at spacious Regions Field while producing a mediocre 4.75 ERA in road games. This could become an issue when pitching at the hitter-friendly Truist Field in Charlotte in 2022.

According to Prospects Live, Vargas features a crafty, three-pitch repertoire that includes a 91-92 mph heater that plays a few ticks higher because lives primarily up in the zone; this is given a 50 grade. Vargas’ slider provides a solid weapon versus righties, and often produces weak contact from his opponents. This pitch, along with a changeup with good vertical drop, are both graded 50 as well. The site gives him a 50 for control and 40 for command. However, since Vargas has consistently produced solid OBA numbers without elite stuff, I’d upgrade the command to a 45 or 50.

There’s not a lot that distinguishes Vargas, beyond being a reliable, durable starter. However, his results have always outperformed his talent, which is a testament to his craftiness. His lack of velocity also explains why he’s yet to reach Triple-A, in this world of triple-digit radar readings. Vargas actually makes an ideal swingman candidate who could pitch long innings in relief and can contribute a spot start here and there at the major league level.

That is, however, if he survives Truist Field first.

2022 South Side Sox Top 100 White Sox Prospects

33. Emilio Vargas, RHSP
34. Blake Rutherford, LF
35. Anderson Severino, LHRP
36. DJ Gladney, 3B
37. Luke Shilling, RHRP
38. Chase Krogman, LF
39. Cristian Mena, RHSP
40. Benyamín Bailey, LF
41. Tyler Johnson, RHRP
42. Andrew Perez, LHRP
43. Tyler Neslony, LF
44. Theo Denlinger, RHRP
45. Hunter Schryver, LHRP
46. Jefferson Mendoza, C
47. Harvin Mendoza, 1B
48. Gil Luna Jr. LHRP
49. John Parke, LHSP
50. Victor Quezada, 3B
51. Haylen Green, LHRP
52. Sammy Peralta, LHRP
53. Yoelvin Silven, RHRP
54. Taylor Broadway, RHRP
55. Noah Owen, RHRP
56. Luis Curbelo, 3B
57. Bryce Bush, RF
58. James Beard, CF
59. Xavier Fernández, C
60. Wilber Sánchez, SS
61. Kohl Simas, RHRP
62. Johan Dominguez, RHSP
63. Jagger Rusconi, 2B
64. Ronaldo Guzman, LHSP
65. Laz Rivera, 3B
66. Adam Hackenberg, C
67. Will Kincanon, RHRP
68. Lane Ramsey, RHRP
69. Tommy Sommer, LHSP
70. Randel Mondesi, RF
71. Shawn Goosenberg, 2B
72. Zack Muckenhirn, LHRP
73. Cameron Butler, CF
74. Godwin Bennett, RF
75. Logan Glass, CF
76. Dario Borrero, 1B
77. Craig Dedelow, RF
78. Carlos Hinestroza, RHRP
79. Gunnar Troutwine, C
80. Kade Mechals, RHSP
81: Caberea Weaver, CF
82. Layant Tapia, SS
83. Homer Cruz, RHRP
84. Kaleb Roper, RHSP
85. Jerry Burke, RHSP
86. Emerson Talavera, RHRP
87. Isaiah Carranza, RHSP
88. Davis Martin, RHSP
89. Tyler Osik, 1B
90. Samil Polanco, 3B
91. Manuel Veloz, RHRP
92. Pauly Milto, RHRP
93. Fraser Ellard, LHRP
94. Colby Smelley, C
95. Manuel Guariman, C
96. Everhett Hazelwood, RHRP
97. Garrett Schoenle, LHRP
98. Kyle Kubat, LHRP
99. Anderson Comas, RF
100. Jake Elliott, RHRP