Determining how much risk to incur during a draft or auction needs to be accounted for. If one's willing to wait, Daulton Varsho could be an intriguing target given his stolen base upside at a position which rarely provides it. Varsho enters 2021 with catcher eligibility but staying there may be tenuous. Then factor in he's only accrued 452 plate appearances at Double-A prior to his 37 game sample in 2020 in the majors and his team may send him to the alternate site or minors when spring training ends.
Over 115 plate appearances with Arizona last year, Varsho hit .188/.287/.366 with 16 runs, three home runs, nine RBI and three stolen bases. With everyone chasing steals this season, it's easy to see how his average draft position (ADP) spiked before the calendar turned over to 2021. However, with more than one beat writer suggesting he may not make the Opening Day roster, things seem to be evening out. Check out his ADP chart from NFBC drafts:
An early spring home run coinciding with an injury to Kole Calhoun may be causing the recent increase in draft capital, but if Varsho's going at pick 150 or sooner, one needs to draft a catcher late as a placeholder in case he's optioned.
As for Varsho's 2020 debut, he recorded a 10.4 walk rate with a 28.7 strikeout percentage, a .178 isolated power and .287 weighted on-base average (wOBA). His discipline metrics reflect a work in progress. Varsho owned a 13.3 swinging strike percentage, 70.9 contact rate and 81.9 Z-Contact (in the strike zone) percent. A late season surge featured Varsho hitting safely in six of his last eight games going 8-for-29 (.276) with six runs, three doubles and two RBI. Perhaps he turned a corner but it's still far too early to predict.
According to Statcast, Varsho registered 68 batted ball events with three barrels (4.4 percent), an 86.2 MPH average exit velocity and 38.2 hard hit rate. With the low exit velocities, it's no surprise his expected numbers do not jump off the page. Varsho finished with a .196 expected batting average (xBA), .347 expected slugging (xSLG) and .294 expected weighted on-base average (xwOBA). Here's his spray chart of hits last year:
His slice chart suggests Varsho may not be reliant on pulling the ball which would help his average going forward:
When figuring out to take Varsho or not, it's the speed factor which makes him alluring. Varsho ranked in the 86th percentile last year in Statcast's speed measure. During his time at Double-A, Varsho hit 18 home runs with 21 stolen bases slashing .301/.378/.520 over 452 plate appearances. At High-A, Varsho hit .286 with 11 home runs and 19 steals in 342 plate appearances. Keeping catcher eligibility may be tantamount to his fantasy success.
Track how he fares in spring at-bats, not results but how many strikeouts versus walks along with air outs versus ground outs. Due to the unknown components surrounding his playing time or how many games he plays with the Diamondbacks, his projection sets vary accordingly:
If anything happens to Carson Kelly or Stephen Vogt , an avenue to more playing time may emerge at catcher. However, due to service time manipulation, Varsho likely heads to Triple-A for seasoning at the onset of the season. Invest in THE BAT's projection and perform grand theft larceny if he comes close to the counting statistics provided by ZiPS. Shake the Magic 8 ball and best of luck.
THE BAT and THE BAT X courtesy of Derek Carty
ATC courtesy of Ariel Cohen
ZiPS courtesy of Dan Szymborski