Vargas working to get better after successful 2014

After strong debut, first baseman/DH trying to improve plate discipline, defense

Vargas working to get better after successful 2014

MINNEAPOLIS -- As Kennys Vargas puts it, 2014 was a very good year for him.

Vargas, 24, achieved major goals in both his personal and professional life, as he became a husband and a father, while also making his Target Field debut at the All-Star Futures Game in mid-July before making his Major League debut with the Twins just a few weeks later on Aug. 1.

After being called up, Vargas fared well as a rookie, hitting .274/.316/.456 with nine homers, 10 doubles and 38 RBIs in 53 games to help Minnesota's offense finish near the top in runs scored in the second half of the season. But Vargas isn't ready to rest on his laurels from '14, as he feels he can build on his experiences and be even better in '15.

"I'm focused on this year," Vargas said. "I want to do the same work I did last year, but I always try to go for more. Every year, I learn a little bit more. I want to help us win more games than last year."

Vargas was somewhat of a surprise callup, as he hadn't reached Triple-A yet, but the Twins were looking for some offense after trading Sam Fuld to the A's at the non-waiver Trade Deadline. Despite the jump from Double-A, Vargas delivered immediately, getting a hit in his Major League debut on his 24th birthday and homering for the first time just four days later.

Vargas, at 6-foot-5 and 275 pounds, became a much-needed imposing force in the middle of the lineup for Minnesota and figures to be the club's everyday designated hitter this season. But Vargas knows he still has improvements to be made offensively, as he struck out 63 times and walked just 12 times in 234 plate appearances.

So Vargas made it a point to work on his patience while playing winter ball for Indios de Mayaguez in his native Puerto Rico this offseason, and he hit .263/.430/.482 with six homers and 22 RBIs in 37 games. And more impressively, he easily led the league with 33 walks and struck out just 30 times.

"It's not so much about being better but being smart," Vargas said. "I need to learn the game. Everything is much faster at this level. So I need to learn to anticipate more and make it easier."

Vargas has also been serious about his conditioning this offseason, and he has worked to improve his agility because he knows he still needs to improve defensively at first base. He's already training at the club's Spring Training complex in Fort Myers, Fla., despite the fact that Twins position players don't have to report until Feb. 27.

"I'm prepared," Vargas said. "I'm going to Spring Training to compete. I'm going to compete to be the DH and the backup to [Joe] Mauer. So I'm excited for that. I have to take advantage of the opportunity the Twins give me and do my job."

Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, and follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.