Per Jon Heyman, the Diamondbacks have called up their 24-year-old catcher Daulton Varsho. Varsho, a consensus top-100 MLB prospect, the Diamondbacks’ #2 prospect per FanGraphs, and the club’s 2019 minor league player of the year, has never played above the Double-A level. Despite his minimal professional playing experience, the news of Varsho’s addition to the active roster is no surprise.
In the buildup to MLB’s “Summer Camp” restart, Diamondbacks GM Mike Hazen told Arizona Sports 98.7 FM that Varsho was “major league ready.” Additionally, the Diamondbacks are in need of a spark of offensive production that Varsho, last year’s Southern League (AA) leader in slugging and OPS through 103 games, and the first catcher to steal 20 bases at the Double-A and Triple-A level since at least 2006, may be able to provide. The club currently ranks last and second to last for slugging percentage (.275) and on-base percentage (.280) respectively in the National League through their first six games.
How Varsho will be deployed remains to be seen. He is first and foremost a catcher by trade. However, the Diamondbacks have two theoretically serviceable (Stephen Vogt) or better (Carson Kelly) catchers ahead of him. Yet these two active catchers have not been exceptions to the Diamondbacks early offensive slump. As a result they are liable to have their playing time cut to give Varsho a chance. Defensively, however, the young Varsho will likely appear rough relative to the veterans, particularly Kelly, who is known for being an above average pitch-framing catcher.
If the Diamondbacks are uncomfortable giving Varsho a catching role, they may consider using Varsho in the outfield. Like the catchers, only with the exception of newly acquired Starling Marté, the active-roster outfielders have been underwhelming thus far at the plate. While Varsho is primarily a catcher, just last fall the Diamondbacks were testing the athletic Varsho in the outfield for a potential position shift. Still, that experiment only lasted a brief four games. Should Varsho be given a chance to play as an outfielder, his lack of professional experience may be readily noticeable.
Finally, if the Diamondbacks feel that Varsho is not ready to play the field at all, it is possible they’ll limit his use to the designated hitter role. The line to fill that position was shortened as Kevin Cron has been sent down to the alternative site, per John Gambadoro. Furthermore, occasional-DH Jake Lamb’s struggles have carried into the early days of the 2020 season. While the team has been using Lamb more at first base, they may rotate him out in favor of Christian Walker in order to get Varsho more at bats.
While the form of Varsho’s use will remain a mystery until his debut, answers are likely to come soon. The club would not deprive Varsho from the regular practice provided by the alternative site if they did not intend to use him. Thus, Diamondback fans should be excited about this move to the big leagues. Varsho is one of the organization’s most prized prospects and now has a chance to make his mark at the major league level earlier than many would have expected.
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