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2022 Diamondbacks Reviews, #4: Daulton Varsho

The First of the New Baby ‘Backs: First to debut, First to move on.

AP Photo/Darryl Webb

Vote Breakdown


  • Rating: 7.96
  • 2022 Stats: 151 G, 592 PA, .235/.302/.443, 27 HR, 74 RBI, .745 OPS, 109 OPS+, 4.9 bWAR, 4.6 fWAR, 4.8 aWAR
  • Date of Birth: July 2, 1996 (26 years old)
  • 2022 Earnings: $721,700 (League Minimum)
  • 2023 Status: On Toronto’s 40-man roster, 1st Year Arbitration Eligible (Super 2), Estimated salary: $2.8MM

How He Got Here

Daulton Varsho was drafted 68th Overall in 2017 by the Arizona Diamondbacks. MLB Pipeline had him ranked as the 110th prospect in the class. General Manager Mike Hazen’s first draft team noticed the diamond he was though and took him early, nearly doubling the bonus value for which he could have signed at 110.

Taken out of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Varsho was described at the time as

“[having] a short, strong stroke and manages the strike zone well, giving him a chance to hit for average and power. He’s faster than most catchers, posting plus run times from home to first and showing good instincts on the base paths. Varsho also is agile behind the plate, receiving and blocking well. Some scouts wonder if he can stay at catcher because he lacks size and has below-average arm strength, though his quick feet help him get rid of throws in a hurry. Those who like his bat think he has a chance to cut it as a left fielder if he has to change positions.”

Not a bad scouting report for his actual future (through age 26). He is no longer a Catcher, as worried four-and-a-half years ago. But he certainly blew through the expectation of becoming a passable Left Fielder; he’s now a very capable Center Fielder with as yet unrealized but deserving Gold Glove defense in Right Field. They also suggested average and power may come. Power certainly has (27 homeruns in 2022 and 45 doubles over three seasons - only one genuinely full), but average has lagged behind thus far.

From being drafted in 2017 through 2019, Varsho hit the following levels of Arizona’s MiLB system: Low A, Rookie Ball, High A, AA. He succeeded at every level, showing off different skills in certain environments (i.e. average in Low A, slugging in AA where everyone slugs, but combining it with a good batting average as well, etc.). Of course 2020 was 2020, but that’s the season Varsho finally broke into the Majors as a member of the revolving taxi squad. It was not a stellar debut, although in 37 games he did post a 10.4% walk rate, the highest of his career.

Per MLB Pipeline, once ranked, Varsho was a constant name in the Top 10 of Arizona’s prospects, capping out at third on the 2020 list (behind only Kristian Robinson and Alek Thomas and was 76th on their Top 100). Fangraphs was similarly high on Varsho in their prospect rankings.

In 2021, he spent 18 games in AAA Reno, absolutely blasting the cover off the ball in “two” stints (starting the season off the MLB roster -MiLB Season hadn’t started yet- and then being optioned on May 24, 2021 after getting about a month of Big League time). He was recalled on June 20 that year and never looked back. He became a mainstay of a polarized Diamondbacks roster: some very experienced players, others very new.

Heading into 2022, his stock was still rising, but volatile.

2022 Review

Daulton and the team entered the 2022 season expecting his Catching time to be minimal or non-existent with Carson Kelly and Jose Herrera the only two players listed as Catchers on the team for Opening Day. But from May 5 to June 11, Carson Kelly was sidelined with an oblique strain, and Torey Lovullo once again asked Varsho to fill in as Catcher (consequently this is also the roster move that allowed Alek Thomas to make his MLB Debut).

During his time Catching, Varsho actually posted good offensive numbers. He batted .275 with 2 stolen bases, 5 walks, 24 strikeouts, 3 homeruns and 13 RBI. Average-wise, this marks his seasonal highpoint when looking at at-bats by position. The counting stats are lower, but that can be attributed to only having 90 plate appearances as a Catcher, with the next closest option DH (60). Notable as well though, Varsho only hit one fewer double as a DH than a Catcher. He also had 3 homeruns from each position.

Unsurprisingly, his speed showcased itself the most when he played in the Outfield. He hit 3 total triples (2 as a Center Fielder and 1 as a Right Fielder). He also stole 13 bases as an Outfielder, with Right Field narrowly beating Center 7-6. Purely offensively, Varsho appeared to enjoy playing Catcher unless he wanted to really let loose and run. Then he preferred being in the Outfield; hardly surprising since his legs would be loosest when playing in the grass.

Defensive metrics tell a slightly different story though. While the bat may have been alive for his time Catching in 2022, his defense behind the plate was negative across the board. Per Fangraphs, overall, he was worth -3 Defensive Runs Saved. His framing comes out to -1.5 as well. No defensive Catching metric likes Daulton Varsho. None hate him overly much either though. Whereas his Outfield Defense is glorious! He’s in the 99% percentile for Outs Above Average per Baseball Savant. The 97% percentile for Outfielder Jumps. He had 19 Defensive Runs Saved as an Outfielder in 2022.

If any of those stats surprise you, you’re either a Blue Jays fan trying to learn about your shiny new toy (hello, welcome), or you really didn’t pay attention to the Diamondbacks very attentively last year. Much ado has been made about Varsho’s uncanny ability in the Outfield. I have an unprovable theory that his defensive highlight reels are because of two main reasons: Firstly, he’s just naturally that good and secondly, his height (or lack thereof) means he needs to jump or layout for plays more often than taller individuals. Utilized together, this makes for very exciting plays. If he got to the ball but missed the catch on the dive, would anyone care how efficiently he got to the right area? Probably not.

All told, it is hard to argue with his place at #4 in these rankings. Few MLB players made such excellent plays regularly. Few Diamondbacks hit for as much power as he did. No other players oscillated between Catching behind the plate and shagging flyballs in the Outfield. The scariest (or most exciting) part is this: he’s likely still going to get better. The “prime” of a player’s career is approximately ages 27-33. Daulton will turn 27 on July 2, 2023.

2022 Highlights

Rockies fans look away now - you have been warned.

VARSHO EXCELLENT DEFENSE: If you prefer the “eye-test” to statistical metrics, play the video below. Or if you just like watching excellence on a baseball diamond.

VARSHO CAN DO IT ALL: Bunting isn’t for everyone. But man, if the player’s got the wheels and Baseball IQ, it’s exciting.

8/5/2022 VARSHO TIES THE GAME AT TWO: For some, homers are more your style. Well, he’s got that ability too. It’s no easy feat to get the ball to the pool in Right-Center, let alone nearly clearing it.

9/7/2022 VARSHO TWO HOME RUN GAME: Despite a team loss, Varsho brought his power streak to San Diego, making Yu Darvish look even sillier than he does wearing the melted sherbet jerseys they have over there.

9/9/22 VARSHO GRAND SLAM: Much like Lilo & Stitch, Daulton must believe in Ohana because no one in his Diamondbacks family got left behind. Or forgotten. All 9 Arizona players scored in order without generating an out. Varsho capped the inning off with a lovely Grand Slam for runs 6-9.

2023 Outlook

On Friday December 23, 2022, the Arizona Diamondbacks traded Daulton Varsho to the Toronto Blue Jays for “prospect” C Gabriel Moreno and contract year OF/DH Lourdes Gurriel Jr.

To read about the trade (non-paywall):

Every Arizona Diamondbacks fan can tell you this trade hurts. The return is filled with potential and *shouldn’t* let many down, in the short or long term, but Varsho is a fan favorite. His 2022 was good enough to make him the #4 player on the team according to SnakePit voters. His teammates liked him. He will be well liked in the Toronto clubhouse. Blue Jays fans will learn to love his infectious personality quickly. His legacy as the “first” of the new Baby ‘Backs will remain, even though his stat line is now preceded by a different city abbreviation and moniker.

Heading into a much more Canadian 2023 than he had 2022, Daulton Varsho is once again looking at a season where he *shouldn’t* play much, if any catcher. The Blue Jays seem set there with Alejandro Kirk and Danny Jansen. Currently he’s predicted to be the Opening Day Left Fielder for Toronto, a position he should have no issues handling.

If you use WAR as your primary evaluator of a player, Varsho may be in line for some regression, as he played enough catcher in 2022 to affect his total. But there’s little reason to believe 2022 is his “career year” or that he’ll never reach these heights again in other statistics. His power will play up in the AL East. His Batting Average could increase with the shift changes (although he gets the ball in the air so much this may not actually factor in significantly), but also simply as he matures as a hitter. His stubborn desire to always get better means he will never stop trying to be a better version of himself, so all bets are off for where is ceiling may truly land.

Thank you, Daulton Varsho. Thank you for being such an excellent role model and person. You will be missed greatly in Arizona. Your impact is even larger than your “short king” nickname suggests. It has been an honor to watch you play baseball in Sedona Red. Now go do it even better in Royal (Toronto) Blue! We’re all rooting for you.