The Diamondbacks were in the market for drafting a catcher, although one many of us did not expect. Varsho is an offense-first catcher, with good LH power and contact skills that dominated weaker competition than what Pavin Smith and Drew Ellis faced in the ACC. In wood bat summer leagues, Varsho also dominated the competition, especially after his sophomore season where he put up a ridiculous .321/.427/.587 slash with 15 doubles and 15 homers. He’s got a great offensive profile at the dish, but the biggest concern is if he can play behind the dish.
Hit: Varsho has a very smooth left-handed swing with the ball just exploding off the bat. He’s got solid plate discipline, walking near 20% of the time in his junior year. Strikeouts are still a big issue moving forward, but with good power potential and a solid OBP skills, we can live with it. Grade: 50/60
Power: Varsho has really good pop in his bat. The ball just explodes when he makes contact and does a good job of barreling up the baseball. The competition level is certainly a factor as he played in the Horizon League, but he had 2 years of dominance in addition to a strong summer after his sophomore season. There’s still a lot more XBH power left in the bat as he gets more comfortable playing at the pro level. Grade: 60/65
Speed: Despite being a catcher, he runs very well and profiles to be at least an average runner in left field. In college stole 32 bases in 32 tries and 47 of 57 in summer leagues. It’s rare for a catcher to provide a lot of baserunning value, but Varsho can provide some extra value there. If he ends up in LF, I think he’ll be more willing to show off the wheels. Grade: 50
Defense: Varsho’s only real wart is defense and that was probably the only thing that kept him out of the first round. There are concerns that he doesn’t have enough arm to stick behind the plate. Also I do think he needs to bulk up a bit and hopefully that helps that issue. He’s got plenty of athleticism behind the plate and does a good job of blocking pitches in the dirt. The arm is a major issue and if the Dbacks love the bat more than the glove, he may end up pulling a Wil Myers and go to the outfield where he’s playing 150 instead of 120 games. If he can bulk up to 215 without losing mobility behind the plate and that helps get his arm to fringe-average, there is enough for him to stick behind the plate. Pitching calling and framing is an acquired skill, although players with high baseball IQ are better with those skills. Grade: 40/50
The Dbacks clearly drafted Varsho for the bat, not necessarily because they believe he can stick behind the plate. Surprisingly enough, he reminds me of another undersized catcher with a good left-handed bat in Miguel Montero. Unlike Miggy, Varsho won’t be flying under the radar mostly because his bat is nearly fully developed already. Even if he has to move to LF, I like the bat and he should be a solid middle of the order hitter.
ETA: It really depends on if he can stay behind the plate. If he’s playing the outfield, then his development path is a lot shorter in time since he’s playing more games a week. As a catcher, I say June 2021 and elsewhere June 2020.