Daulton Varsho: Dynasty Catcher Gold
Imagine somewhere, in the vast wasteland that is the current state of dynasty baseball catcher valuation, there is a seedling too small for most people to see: a single sprout of green in a sea of brown dust. This tiny plant will grow into a sturdy, robust fantasy catching asset that can contribute in all offensive categories. This seedling is Daulton Varsho: a severely underrated catching prospect for the Diamondbacks that is going to rocket up rankings lists in a very short amount of time.
The son of Gary Varsho, Daulton is named after former Phillies catcher Darren Daulton and has a strong baseball background. The life-long Cheesehead played his college ball at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee where he dominated the Horizon League in his sophomore and junior seasons. In his sophomore year, he won the Horizon League MVP by batting .381 with 17 doubles and eight home runs. The following season he built off his previous success by hitting 11 home runs while keeping his batting average at a superb .361 and walking more times than he struck out. After successfully proving his abilities in college, The Arizona Diamondbacks selected the Varsho 68th overall in the 2017 draft following his junior season. Varsho was then sent to short-season Hillsboro where he continued to tear the cover off the ball. He torched opposing pitching by hitting .311 with 8 home runs and 16 doubles in 50 games. He has begun this season with the Diamondbacks’ California League affiliate, Visalia, and already has a home run and stolen base in four games. Now it’s time to take a more in-depth look at Varsho’s baseball skills.
A Hot Bat
Varsho can flat out rake. His smooth left-handed swing combines a very solid hit tool with decent power. He can hit the ball with authority to all fields and is a line drive machine. His power is not particularly earth-shattering, but he can certainly hit 15 to 20 home runs a season in the future along with loads of doubles. Varsho also has a somewhat-patient approach which can be seen in his 17:30 BB:K ratio last season in 50 games at Hillsboro. An additional bonus to Varsho’s strong offensive skill set is his speed. Although his speed does not match that of his father, he still has enough speed to get double-digit stolen bases at the MLB level. Last year, he stole eight bases for the Hops and showed he has solid athleticism for a catcher. Regardless of position, Varsho has the ability to hit at the major league level.
The Defensive Dilemma
While there have not been many doubts about his offense, Varsho’s defensive skills have come under criticism. There has even been some talk of moving him to left field. While he can provide offensive value to a team at any position, doing so as a catcher would make his bat even more valuable for dynasty players. Because of this, it is extremely important to assess his catching skills when evaluating him from a dynasty perspective. His defense does have some flaws, but I am confident that he can remain at the position. Behind the plate, Varsho’s strengths are his receiving skills, quick footwork, and leadership abilities. After watching some tape, it was very clear to me that Varsho is a polished pitch-framer, especially on pitches low in the strike zone. He uses his athleticism and light feet to throw behind runners at first base with confidence and his footwork and release on throws to second is very quick. Varsho also takes pride in the leadership aspects required of catching and enjoys being in charge of the game.
However, Varsho also has some flaws behind the plate. One of the biggest concerns with his catching is his arm. His arm strength could be considered average at best, and most feel it is below average. Although it is not ideal to have a below-average arm behind the plate, his quick footwork and release help make up for it. Last year, Varsho threw out over 32% of base stealers. Short season ball is much different than the majors, but 32% would be a top 5 rate among MLB catchers if he could maintain it at the higher levels. On top of that, there have been some concerns with his blocking since he sometimes relies on his glove too much and allows for some balls in the dirt to squirt through. However, this is a technical issue that can be easily fixed with drills and repetition. The last, most irrelevant concern is that of his height. At 5’10″, he is shorter than most catchers and some people view this as a major concern. Catching is not reliant on height and there have been many successful catchers at or below his height. I may be higher than most on Varsho’s catching skills, but I feel that many of the concerns with his defense are not as serious as they’re often made out to be. Varsho is a good catcher and can stick there.
Whether Varsho’s future is behind the dish or in the outfield, he is skilled enough on offense to be a prospect worth looking at for dynasty owners. If he does end up in the outfield, his offensive numbers, especially his speed, could be even better since he does not have to deal with physical and mental strains of catching. Varsho can be a fantasy asset wherever he ends up playing in the field. However, Varsho would provide even more fantasy value as an offensively gifted catcher. Catching is incredibly thin for fantasy owners, and there is only a small, elite group who provide good levels of value. Varsho could wind up being one of these coveted few catchers. He projects as a player who will hit for a high batting average with good pop and decent speed. Coming from behind the plate, this level of production would be golden. Current prospect and dynasty rankings (other than Jesse’s) tend to be lacking Varsho’s name which is good for his current stock. If he can continue his offensive success this season at higher minor league levels, he is sure to get serious hype and shoot up prospect boards as a catcher that can hit. Because of this, it is a great time to buy Varsho. Catching prospects tend to be brought along slowly, and I don’t see Daulton making his MLB debut until 2020. Regardless, Varsho is a name you’re going to want to have on your team now rather than paying much more for him later.