Daulton Varsho, a catcher from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, is no stranger to the pro levels of baseball.
Growing up as the son of former Pirate and current Pirate’s scout, Gary Varsho, Daulton has a top pedigree advantage in the draft.
However, his skills are not entirely tied to his father’s success. Instead, the younger Varsho has played well in his tenure with the Division I, Milwaukee Panthers. Over three years at the college level, the backstop has accumulated a slash line of .362/.490/1.133 with 24 home runs and 32 stolen bases. As a result, he has become a top prospect in the 2017 MLB Draft, even garnering first-round worthiness in the eyes of Baseball America.
While Baseball America has Varsho going #27 overall, all other baseball pundits, including the cast at MLB.com, do not see him going that high. Instead, they see him as a player who could still be on the board when the Padres pick in the Competitive Balance Round B. Therefore, the real question becomes why the Padres should choose him over other available draftees.
There are numerous reasons why San Diego should put him in their system. Firstly, the left-handed batter excels in every offensive category. He is the best hitter among college catchers, including Evan Skoug. With a short, compact swing and good strike zone management, he is projected to hit for a .270 batting average at least on a year-to-year basis while posting high OBP numbers as well. With a knack of getting on base, Varsho can do even more harm as he has faster wheels than most other catchers, with his running ability seen as a plus. When comparing his speed to catchers at the MLB level, the name J.T. Realmuto comes to mind. Similar to the Marlins’ backstop, the Panther has the ability to have stolen base numbers in the double digits.
When not hitting for contact, Varsho can flex his muscle and put the ball in the air for extra bases and home runs. Rated as an average power hitter, he has room to grow into his 200 lb. frame and could be an above-average power hitter when all is said and done. However, his height, 5’10”, does limit the power impact he will ultimately have, unless he takes an aggressive fly ball habit like Ryan Schimpf. Yet, hopefully that doesn’t happen as San Diego has already seen the low batting average that comes with such an approach. In short, the young catcher has exceptional skills at the plate. But how about behind it, since defense should be a catcher’s number one focus?
Well, Varsho is no slouch behind the dish either. With strong blocking and receiving, he rates as an above-average fielder. His one issue is throwing out base runners. With a weak 40-grade arm, he will have trouble with catching the opposing players trying to steal. However, he does make up for his weak arm with good footwork which allows him to quickly move out of the crouch and start his arm action. This all amounts to a successful catcher at the pro level though, especially since the game is becoming more fascinated with pitch framing. Look at MLB players similar to him on defense, such as Francisco Cervelli and Russell Martin, and you’ll see good talent. In conclusion, the college draftee has more than enough ability to stay behind the plate. However, if he can’t, he is a fast learner and can play left field adequately.
Lastly, by signing the catcher, the Padres can pick two elite prospects before him and then start saving for a top-tier athlete who slips.
As described in this article, Cole Brannen and Daulton Varsho would be great picks for the Padres to make during the Competitive Balance Round B. Both are extremely gifted athletes who can come close to having all the five tools a scout looks for. Also, they are likely to save San Diego money if drafted, which could lead to getting another exceptional player who ends up falling in the draft.