The Diamondbacks will be sending two of their consensus Top 10 prospects to represent the organization in the 2019 MLB Futures Game. That includes catcher prospect Daulton Varsho and OF Alek Thomas, who I had at #2 and #4 on my Top 30 going into the draft and remain in the Top 5 post-draft. Both players were recent selections, going 68th and 62nd overall in the 2017 and 2018 drafts respectively and have been a major part of a farm system that went from near the bottom to near the top in just three seasons. Both will be on the US team, hailing from Wisconsin and Illinois respectively.
Varsho, 22, was originally drafted by the Diamondbacks in the Competitive Balance B round of the 2017 draft out of UW-Milwaukee. Varsho has hit .290/.361/.481 in his minor league career, including a .267/.346/.444 mark with AA Jackson. Varsho’s AA output adds up to a 131 wRC+ on the strength of 11 doubles, a triple, 9 homers, and a 12.8%/8.6% K/BB rate at the level. He’s also a solid basestealing threat, swiping 28 stolen bases in 33 attempts since the start of the 2018 season. The Diamondbacks believed he could quickly ascend up their system and is less than a year away from reaching the majors with a solid track record of hitting at every stop he’s been at so far. Varsho likely will be the first player selected in the Mike Hazen era to reach the big leagues.
The biggest question for Varsho is if he’ll stick behind the plate. The team has an established starter with control in Carson Kelly, who is having a great rookie season behind the plate, so they have the flexibility to move him around the diamond if necessary. Varsho’s bat suggests he should be an everyday player, so the team will have to explore potential options such as 2B or LF so he can have everyday ABs and manage his workload behind the plate (he only would need to start about 60 or so games if Kelly continues to improve against RHP). Varsho has the speed and athleticism to handle 2B or a corner OF should the team need to utilize him there.
Thomas, 19, looks very much like a coach’s son out on the field, showing that the Midwest League is no challenge to him. After a strong summer debut between the AZL Dbacks and Missoula Osprey, Thomas has crushed A ball to the tune of a .296/.385/.470 slash (147 wRC+). He’s shown improvements in on base ability (walk rate up from 8% to 12%) and power (.174 ISO). The power increase has come with a jump in strikeouts from 13% to 19%, but that’s the tradeoff and one I’m willing to live with. There is still some areas that can improve, such as reducing the strikeout rate without sacrificing power, better instincts on the bases (8/13 in SB attempts), and better outfield defense, but overall the package suggests an above average CF or LF in the future.
Thomas will need to add about 10-15 more pounds to his 5’11” 175 frame before he hits the majors, which should help add to his power tool overall (projects as fringe-average). Thomas might not end up in CF long term simply due to the team having a glut of capable CF around his age demographic with Kristian Robinson in Short-A Hillsboro and the recently drafted Corbin Carroll. Even with the position change, Thomas projects as a top of the order hitter with XBH ability, good plate discipline, and potentially larger stolen base potential if Dave McKay is still coaching 1B three years down the road.