Written by: Tyler Spicer (@tylerjspicer)
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The year is 1992, in beautiful Barcelona, Spain. Baseball has made its official debut as a gold medal sport in the Olympics. A Cuban National Team has just finished beating a United States roster with the likes of Nomar Garciaparra, Jason Giambi and Jason Varitek to advance to the final.
Playing center field is legendary speedster Victor Mesa, father of highly-touted international signing Victor Victor Mesa and his younger brother Victor Mesa Jr. whom signed for a combined $6.25 million with the Marlins this past summer. In the final, Victor Mesa led the Cubans to a gold medal, beating Chinese Taipei 11-1.
But Mesa did not accomplish this feat alone. Standing at third base for the National Team was Lázaro Vargas, who managed to hit for the cycle in the championship game. Mesa’s speed and Làzaro’s hit tool were put on display for the entire world to see throughout that tournament.
A baseball fan could only dream of seeing the Mesa/Vargas pairing showcase their talents in the MLB. After Mesa retired in 1995, Vargas led Cuba to yet another gold medal in 1996 at the Atlanta Olympics. At the time of his retirement, Vargas had accumulated over 2,000 hits, 1,000 RBI and 900 walks in Cuba’s top league, Series Nacional.
But the ’96 Olympics wouldn’t be the last time a member of the Vargas family played baseball stateside. In 2015, Làzaro and his 16-year-old son Miguel defected from Cuba. Two years later, the Dodgers signed the teenager for $300,000 in September 2017. Two Cuban legends will finally get the chance to live their MLB dreams through their sons Victor Victor Mesa and Miguel Vargas.
If you play dynasty fantasy baseball, there’s a good chance Mesa is going as a top-10 pick in your First Year Player Draft. Some think Mesa is a risky fantasy acquisition, considering he’s nearly 23-years-old and has never played a professional game outside of Cuba. However, Mesa’s proximity to the majors along with his raw tools have many believing he’s worth the high pick.
His loudest tool should have no lag transitioning to the states. Like his father, Victor Victor Mesa possesses elite speed. In 70 games, Mesa stole 40 bases in 50 attempts over the course of the ‘16-’17 Series Nacional campaign. In that same season, he won the gold glove for his combo of speed and arm out in center field. Ultimately, the facet that will define his career is the hit tool. Early batting cage video has been promising. The swing looks short and smooth, which would play perfectly in Marlins Park. The athleticism is on his side and if he can adjust to everyday pitching, he may very well be a carbon copy of his father.
— Victor Victor Mesa (@victorvmesa) February 7, 2019
Miguel Vargas, a name that only dynasty fantasy players and prospect hounds may recognize, signed quietly back in 2017. Like Mesa, he is tied to Cuban baseball royalty. Vargas first appeared in the Series Nacional at age 14, compared to Mesa at 15.
As far as attempting to intertwine Mesa and Vargas’s paths, the main difference is the year after the latter debuted, he defected to the United States, essentially losing the five extra seasons in the Series Nacional that Mesa played. If Vargas had stayed and put up decent numbers, could he have received the hype and signing bonus that Mesa received? Perhaps.
Instead, Vargas moved stateside, where he went two seasons without playing professional ball until he was signed by the Dodgers. He spent the 2018 season as a 18-year-old playing at two levels of rookie ball before finishing his debut in Low-A. Throughout the summer, Vargas showed an advanced hit tool anchored by his approach at the plate. Dustin Kelly, his hitting coach in the Pioneer League advocated that despite his age, Vargas never seemed overmatched. Vargas slashed .407/.481/.589 over a span of 30 games in the Arizona League and Pioneer League.
After the promotion to Low-A Great Lakes, Vargas struggled against competition that was, on average, 3.4 years his senior. Despite this, he still finished the season with a .330/.404/.465 slash with two home runs. Not bad for an 18-year-old who had previously missed two seasons of valuable reps and competition.
At his current state, the only thing keeping Vargas rather unheralded is his late-season struggles in Low-A and lack of game power. Based on his hitting coach’s interview and his spray chart, Vargas has been working on pitch recognition and taking the ball the other way. The power will come. At 6’3 200 lbs., Vargas stands out at the hot corner. Along with third base, he also spent time at second base and first base during his first taste of professional ball. His versatility and athleticism should allow him to possess an (at least) average glove regardless of his long-term defensive home. Vargas should start the 2019 season back in Low-A Great Lakes; with any success, he should see himself continue to ascend both the Dodgers system and prospect rankings. This preseason is likely the last time you’ll be able to ‘buy in’ at the ground floor.
Victor Victor Mesa and Miguel Vargas are an unlikely comparison that many have never heard before. Both have toolsets that mimic their legendary fathers. If they are able to replicate it as professionals in the United States, both will have long and healthy careers.
Why is it that Victor Victor Mesa has more hype than Miguel Vargas? Despite a small sample of success, $5.25 million dollars, and a closer proximity to the majors, the argument could be made that Miguel Vargas may one day outshine Victor Victor Mesa in the big leagues, just like Làzaro outshined Victor in the 1992 Olympic final. This is not a jab at Victor Victor Mesa; instead, the hope is to simply shine a light on a teenage prospect who should be receiving more love. Five seasons from now, it is very possible that both Victor Victor Mesa and Miguel Vargas are tearing up the big leagues together, with the same acclaim their fathers received in Cuba more than twenty years ago.
Follow P365 staff writer Tyler Spicer on Twitter! @tylerjspicer
Follow us on Twitter! @Prospects365