2021 Sleeper: Could Daulton Varsho Emerge As A Top 10 Catcher?

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It was somewhat of a frustrating season for fantasy owners waiting for Daulton Varsho to emerge on the biggest stage, as the Diamondbacks never fully appeared committed to giving him a shot. He did play 22 games in September, but by then the lack of playing time may have impacted his production because at the end of the day the numbers were miserable:

.188 (19-101), 3 HR, 9 RBI, 16 R and 3 SB

At Double-A in 2019 he had hit .301 with 18 HR and 21 SB so it makes sense that fantasy owners were bitterly disappointed. The question now is whether or not there’s hope for a rebound or should he simply be forgotten?

There’s no questioning the speed, though it’s not an elite skill that’s going to create a 30+ SB threat. Even last season he was on pace for 15-18 SB over a full season. If he can maintain catching eligibility moving forward (he appeared in 10 games at catcher and 19 games in the outfield last season), that skill alone will create a difference making option.

While the power appears questionable, he added 5 doubles and 2 triples in ’20. That brings hope for a player who delivered an 18.4 degree Launch Angle. Again, he may never be a 30+ HR slugger but if he can deliver 20-24? That’s not an unthinkable mark, and a 20/15 catcher would certainly be a unique commodity.

It would look even better if it came with a strong average, and improved luck (.246 BABIP) alone would go a long ways. He also likely just needs time to adjust, as his SwStr% soared from 8.1% at Double-A to 13.3% in the Majors. That said he wasn’t seeing many fastballs (56.50%), and the Whiff% against non-fastballs does give cause for concern:

  • Hard – 9.52%
  • Breaking Ball – 19.35%
  • Offspeed – 20.00%

More experience should help, and it’s fair to expect an improvement in his 28.7% strikeout rate. Even as a .260ish hitter, with the power/speed potential there’s an awful lot to like.

The biggest key is going to be Varsho finding playing time. If he’s getting AB on a regular basis he likely will be a Top 10 catcher and a must own in all formats. Depending on how the offseason plays out, Varsho should find himself squarely on all sleeper lists heading into 2021.

Sources – Fangraphs, Brooks Baseball, Baseball Savant

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