Vargas with the Kansas City Royals
|Kansas City Royals – No. 51|
February 2, 1983 |
Apple Valley, California
|July 14, 2005, for the Florida Marlins|
(through July 21, 2015)
|Earned run average||4.20|
|Career highlights and awards|
Jason Matthew Vargas (born February 2, 1983) is an American professional baseball pitcher for the Kansas City Royals of Major League Baseball. He was selected by the Florida Marlins in the 2004 MLB Draft and made his MLB debut in 2005, recorded two career starts with the New York Mets in 2007 and was sent to the Seattle Mariners in 2009.
Vargas was drafted by Major League Baseball's Minnesota Twins with the 1,273rd pick in the 2001 Major League Baseball Draft. Jason declined and decided to go to Louisiana State University. As a freshman at LSU, Vargas went 1-1 with a 3.43 ERA in 13 games. He also saw occasional action as a first baseman and designated hitter, and in his first collegiate at-bat, he launched a pinch hit grand slam to lift the Bayou Bengals to a victory over Mercer.
However, Vargas decided to transfer out of LSU after the 2002 season to Cypress College for the 2003 season, picking a junior college so he would still be eligible for the draft. He was the Southern California junior college player of the year for his work on the mound and at the plate. However, as the season wore on, his arm slot dropped; and his velocity fell into the mid-80s. That, combined with Vargas' signing bonus demands, depressed his draft stock, so he went undrafted.
Vargas headed to Long Beach State for his junior year. He liked the school's history of producing major league talent and liked the school's hard-nosed mentality even more, especially after getting a recommendation from J.J. Newkirk, who played for Vargas's father, Joe, at Victor Valley High School. Vargas arrived at LBSU with a new work ethic determined to improve upon his year at Cypress College. Vargas also proved a fast learner. At Long Beach, he learned to keep his top half aligned with his lower half over the rubber and not drift toward the plate as he twisted through his delivery. The tweak allowed Vargas to repeat his mechanics and keep his arm higher, which in turn increased the velocity on his fastball and improved the break on his curveball. The new work ethic paid off, and in 2004 Vargas went 7-6 with a 4.14 ERA in 18 games on the mound, while hitting .354 with 14 doubles and five home runs as the team's designated hitter.
The Florida Marlins drafted Vargas out of Long Beach State with their second-round pick in the 2004 MLB Draft and signed by scout Robby Cosaro; he was a collegiate teammate of Jered Weaver, who was the Anaheim Angels' first-round pick in 2004. Vargas was the 68th player taken overall in the draft. He signed with the Marlins in time to make eight starts with their Low A affiliate, the Jamestown Jammers, with whom he went 3-1 with an ERA of 1.96. He finished 2004 with three starts at the end of the 2004 campaign with one of the Marlins' Single-A affiliates, the Greensboro Grasshoppers of the South Atlantic League. He had a record of 2-1, an ERA of 2.37, and struck out 17 batters in 19 innings pitched.
Vargas was then promising enough that Baseball America listed him 8th among the Marlins' top 10 prospects for 2005; those above him were Jeremy Hermida, Scott Olsen, Yorman Bazardo, Jason Stokes, Josh Willingham, Eric Reed, and Taylor Tankersley. Baseball America predicted that Vargas would start the season in Greensboro and finish it in High A with the Jupiter Hammerheads; Vargas would very easily surpass that expectation during the 2005 season.
Vargas did start the 2005 season with Greensboro, as was expected, but he advanced quickly through the Marlins' minor-league system. He made five starts with Greensboro, going 4-1 with an earned run average of just 0.80. He was then promoted to Jupiter, where he went 2-3 with a 3.42 ERA in nine starts; while there, he struck out 60 batters in 551⁄3 innings. With his third club of the year, the Double-A Carolina Mudcats, he made three starts, going 1-0 with a 2.84 ERA and 25 strikeouts in 19 innings pitched.
The Marlins noticed Vargas's success in the minor leagues and, when faced with injuries to their own pitching staff, decided to make him the fourth Mudcats pitcher to play in the major leagues in 2005 (the others were Logan Kensing, Olsen, and Bazardo). He made his major-league debut on July 14, 2005, the same day on which the Marlins designated veteran starter Al Leiter for assignment. His first start in the majors would come on July 18 against the Arizona Diamondbacks. Unlike Kensing, Olsen, and Bazardo, Vargas enjoyed nearly immediate success upon his arrival in the major leagues, and after Ismael Valdéz returned from a leg injury, the Marlins moved Brian Moehler to the bullpen and left Vargas in their rotation. On August 21, Vargas started against the Dodgers and pitched his first complete game in the majors, giving up one run on six hits and striking out seven. He finished the season with a record of 5-5 and a 4.03 ERA. Vargas received one third-place vote from the Baseball Writers Association of America in the 2005 MLB Rookie of the Year voting.
Vargas started the 2006 season in the Marlins' starting rotation, but he struggled there; in five starts, he went 1-1 with a 5.40 ERA, 20 walks, and 14 strikeouts in 232⁄3 innings. For the month of May, the Marlins moved him to the bullpen, where he gave up one run in 51⁄3 innings over his first three appearances. In his fourth appearance out of the bullpen, he allowed eight runs (seven earned) over 31⁄3 innings; the Marlins optioned him to the Triple-A Albuquerque Isotopes on May 14. Vargas started improving with Albuquerque, going 2-2 with a 4.54 ERA in seven starts and earning another promotion to the major leagues on July 6.
However, over his next three games with the Marlins, all in relief, Vargas allowed 13 runs (12 earned), four home runs, and five walks in 101⁄3 innings; he struck out five batters. The Marlins sent him back to Albuquerque on July 29, where he stayed for the rest of Albuquerque's season. Vargas continued to struggle in his second stint with Albuquerque, allowing 38 earned runs on 56 hits in 311⁄3 innings.
The Marlins did not call him up again in 2006 after the major-league rosters expanded in September. Overall, Vargas went 1-2 with a 7.33 ERA for the Marlins and 3-6 with a 7.43 ERA for the Isotopes in 2006.
New York Mets
On November 20, 2006, the Marlins traded Vargas to the New York Mets along with fellow starting pitcher Adam Bostick in exchange for relief pitchers Matt Lindstrom and Henry Owens. Vargas began the 2007 season with the Triple-A New Orleans Zephyrs, compiling a 2-3 record with a 5.30 ERA which Mets manager Willie Randolph described as "so-so".
He was called up to the Mets on May 13 after an injured Moisés Alou was sent to the disabled list, and took over the rotation spot previously held by Mike Pelfrey, who was in return optioned to New Orleans after posting an 0-5 record in 6 outings. His first outing as a Met was on May 17, a no decision in a 6-5 victory over the Chicago Cubs. His next outing as a met was on July 3 against the Colorado Rockies. Vargas pitched 3.1 innings, giving up nine earned runs. This was his final appearance as a Met.
Vargas started the 2010 Mariner season in the squad's starting rotation, and through June proved to be one of the most surprising success stories on the troubled Seattle team's roster. Through 14 starts he had posted a 6-2 record over 91.1 innings, with a 2.66 ERA, 60 strikeouts and 23 walks. By the end of the season Vargas had thrown in 192 innings, and posted a 9-12 record with a 3.78 ERA and 116 strikeouts.
In January 2012 the Mariners and Vargas agreed on a 1-year deal worth $4.85 million for the 2012 season. In July, Vargas went 5-0 in six starts and had an AL-best 1.64 ERA and was named the AL Pitcher of the Month.
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Kansas City Royals
On November 21, 2013 Vargas signed a four-year, $32 million contract with the Kansas City Royals. He opened the season as the number three starter for the Royals and posted a career best 3.71 ERA over 187 innings. On October 2, Vargas faced his former team, the Los Angeles Angels in the first postseason start of his career. He gave up two earned runs over six innings in the Royals victory, though he did not receive a decision.
On July 21, 2015 during a game against the Pittsburgh Pirates, Vargas was forced to leave the game after throwing only 26 pitches with an apparent injury to his throwing arm. The next day, Vargas was diagnosed with a torn UCL in his left elbow, forcing him to undergo Tommy John surgery and miss the remainder of the 2015 season and much of the 2016 season.
Vargas throws four pitches: a fastball ranging from 87-91 mph, a curveball 74-77 mph, a cutter in the mid 80's and a changeup from 80-82 mph. His changeup has been regarded as his best pitch, and according to Fangraphs, the best changeup in the Majors. He has also been praised for mixing his pitches well.[who?]
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