- Rating: 7.36
- Age: 25
- 2021 Stats: .246/.318/.437, 11 HR, 17 doubles, 2 triples, 6 stolen bases, 102 OPS+, 1.7 bWAR
- 2021 Earnings: league minimum
- 2022 Status: Likely starter in the outfield with spot starts at catcher, pre-arbitration until 2024
With nothing left to prove in the minor leagues, Daulton Varsho needed to make the transition to an everyday MLB player in 2021 or risk being forgotten as another AAAA player. He did just that cementing himself as a building block of the future for the Arizona Diamondbacks in the 2021 season although he did get off to a slow start. Arizona did not call him up to the MLB roster until April 28th, and questions remained whether he would see the bulk of his playing time in the outfield or behind the dish. The Diamondbacks had Carson Kelly and Stephen Vogt at catcher already, and there was a greater need in the outfield with injuries to Ketel Marte and Kole Calhoun. Because of that, Varsho did not begin appearing behind the plate consistently until Carson Kelly Fractured his toe on May 15th.
His performance with the bat was disappointing in May with an OPS of .430. With the team as a whole going nowhere fast, Arizona sent Varsho back down to AAA to regain his confidence. He returned on June 20th and the results were actually worse, but something clicked for him when the calendar month flipped to July and his results at the plate improved dramatically through August. He swatted 9 of his 11 home runs in those months and saw his OPS improve from .437 to .763, exactly the type of improvement you want to see from a young player.
Varsho’s results improved in the field as well. As he rose through the minor leagues, questions persisted as to whether he would be able to remain behind the plate as a catcher, or if he would need to transition to the outfield full time. The fact that he could be considered to even play both positions speaks to his raw athleticism. As a catcher, only J.T. Realmuto had a better sprint speed than Varsho’s 28.4 ft/s which placed him in the 84th percentile for all MLB players. Early on in the season, it was easy to see why the team was unsure if he could remain behind the plate at catcher. He struggled a bit at times with throwing out base stealers because of the inaccuracy of his throws, but that too improved as the season pressed on.
Now that he has confidently asserted that he is capable of being successful against MLB pitching, the only question that still remains is where he will spend most of his innings defensively. Carson Kelly is clearly the Arizona Diamondbacks starting catcher, so expect Daulton to continue to see spot starts behind the dish. Varsho’s most likely path to an everyday starting role is in one of the outfield positions to which he demonstrated that he can handle without issue.
The key to ensure his continued success and development is to provide him with consistent MLB playing time, which he has earned, and communicate with him clearly where he will be playing. Torey Lovullo and the coaching staff must remember that he is still very young, he won’t turn 26 until July, which means that his development can be hindered if he is not provided consistent playing opportunities or has to guess which position he is going to play everyday. The Diamondbacks will probably have another poor record in the 2022 season, whatever that may look like, barring a miraculous turnaround. Because of that, it would be in their best interest to give Varsho the breathing room he needs to continue his development at the MLB level. Put bluntly, he is one of the lone bright spots in an organization that is searching for its future contributors.