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Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Why Daulton Varsho is the next baseball unicorn you need to know

When Arizona Diamondbacks catcher Carson Kelly landed on the injured list with a strained oblique last week, it made news for the top prospect summoned to take his place — outfielder Alek Thomas. But beyond the hype of an exciting young player, there was also something noteworthy in Arizona’s decision to call up an outfielder to replace a catcher.

That left the Diamondbacks with just one backstop on the roster, or so it seemed. But in reality, Kelly’s replacement was already on the team — playing center field.

Daulton Varsho started 22 of the D-backs’ first 27 games in center field, but originally rose to the majors as a catcher. With Kelly on the IL, he has pivoted back behind the plate.

Batting leadoff most days, the stocky but speedy Varsho is powering Arizona’s surprising start. With six homers and a healthy walk rate, his wRC+ (a park-adjusted measurement of offensive output) shows that he’s been 34% better than the league average hitter so far. Add in elite defensive metrics in center field, and he’s been one of the 10 best position players in baseball, by FanGraphs WAR.

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: May 11, 2022 at 11:47 PM | 31 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: daulton varsho

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   1. Walt Davis Posted: May 12, 2022 at 12:41 AM (#6076407)
Ed Kirkpatrick

See also IKF, the C/SS.

And of course Dale Murphy transitioned.
   2. The Duke Posted: May 12, 2022 at 12:55 AM (#6076411)
That would be humorous if Dale had transitioned
   3. Cooper Nielson Posted: May 12, 2022 at 06:30 AM (#6076418)
Not mentioned in the article, Brandon Inge came up as a catcher and seemed to be a pretty good one. He was displaced when the Tigers signed Pudge Rodriguez and became a super-utility player, starting 58 games at 3B, 34 games at C, 14 games in CF, and 6 games in LF in 2004.

After that, he mostly settled in as a 3B (Gold Glove-caliber, though he never won one), but in 2008 he started 56 games behind the plate and 12 in CF.
   4. JJ1986 Posted: May 12, 2022 at 07:07 AM (#6076419)
Varsho's not even the only OF/C on the Dbacks right now. Cooper Hummel can catch.
   5. Howie Menckel Posted: May 12, 2022 at 07:36 AM (#6076420)
Hummel has caught and played OF already for AZ this year.
swing and a whiff to the author for not knowing that.
   6. I Am Not a Number Posted: May 12, 2022 at 08:48 AM (#6076424)
Ron Brand transitioned from catcher to shortstop at age 30. Half a century ago this made sense to the upstart Expos.
   7. Ron J Posted: May 12, 2022 at 09:13 AM (#6076425)
#6 After they traded Maury Wills the primary SS was Bobby Wine. This will drive teams to experiment.

Jamie Quirk played a little SS too. And OF.
   8. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: May 12, 2022 at 09:48 AM (#6076426)
Didn't the Cubs play Willson Contreras in the OF a bit?

Rany Jazyeryli was just complaining about how the Royals were going to play top catching prospect MJ Melendez in RF, arguing it would hurt his development, but with Salvy in place, I think it is worth seeing if he has positional flexibility.
   9. sunday silence (again) Posted: May 12, 2022 at 10:53 AM (#6076428)
Manny Sanguillen in Rf says hello.
   10. BDC Posted: May 12, 2022 at 10:55 AM (#6076429)
Yankee SS Isiah Kiner-Falefa caught 73 games for the Rangers. He had been an infielder in the minors, but he's not exactly Rogers Hornsby with the bat, and for a while it looked as if he would stay in the majors as a catcher if he stayed at all. He could go right back behind the plate if needed in an emergency.

Lotta these unicorns around :)
   11. The Mighty Quintana Posted: May 12, 2022 at 11:24 AM (#6076432)
Well, he was named after Dutch, so I hope he can catch a little.
   12. Rally Posted: May 12, 2022 at 01:51 PM (#6076441)
Son of Gary Varsho, but named after Darren Daulton. Interesting how the name alone seems to have given him the playing abilities of Darren.

People might not remember Dutch for his speed. He didn’t have much by the time his bat developed, though he was a good percentage base stealer. In 1983 he was 21 playing in AA. That year he had a .911 ops, hit 19 homers and stole 28 bases. Took him almost a decade to get through injuries and advance beyond a backup role.

In 2019 Varsho was 22 in AA, another lefty hitting catcher, he had an .899 ops, hit 18 homers and stole 21 bases. It was the most Dutch like prospect season I’ve ever seen and what are the odds the guy doing is named after, but not related to him?
   13. Rally Posted: May 12, 2022 at 01:54 PM (#6076442)
If we’re going to talk about catcher/outfielders got to at least mention Brian Downing. Pretty good defensive catcher until he hurt his arm. Not fleet of foot, but a very reliable OF. At one point he held a record for errorless games, not sure if he still does.
   14. BDC Posted: May 12, 2022 at 02:14 PM (#6076447)
Coke owed; I eye-skipped Walt's mention of IKF, C/SS :)

Ivan Rodriguez used to do infield practice with the Rangers sometimes, taking grounders at 2B. Maybe a lot of catchers do, but he was the only one I ever really noticed. Eventually Pudge did play two innings at second base, for the 2006 Tigers. And it wasn't a joke appearance; he went from C to 2B in the eighth inning of a close August game against the Red Sox, the result of a pinch-hitting move. Rodriguez caught a popup from Kevin Youkilis for his only ML chance at second base.
   15. Adam Starblind Posted: May 12, 2022 at 02:28 PM (#6076449)
Gary Carter, emergency third baseman.
   16. Misirlou cut his hair and moved to Rome Posted: May 12, 2022 at 02:34 PM (#6076452)
Seems to me this isn't all that unusual. Plenty of catcher have moved from behind the plate to somewhere other than 1B. Still unmentioned here are Biggio, Russell Wilson, Charlie Moore, Joe Torre, Todd Zeile, B J Surhoff...
   17. Misirlou cut his hair and moved to Rome Posted: May 12, 2022 at 02:36 PM (#6076453)
Gary Carter played 130 games in the OF before becoming a full time C.
   18. VCar Posted: May 12, 2022 at 03:33 PM (#6076469)
will add Bench to Miserlou's list in #16
   19. Misirlou cut his hair and moved to Rome Posted: May 12, 2022 at 03:50 PM (#6076474)
I didn't forget about Bench. I listed players who weren't complete disasters upon the switch. Bench was a full time 3B in 1982 and had -15 fielding runs in about 2/3 of a season. Berra probably deserves a mention though.
   20. Walt Davis Posted: May 12, 2022 at 03:51 PM (#6076475)
It's not C/OF that makes a unicorn, it's C and CENTER field. Cs getting out from behind the dish is common and so are lumbering corner OFs. But Cs with the speed to play CF (and doing so) are rare. Similarly C/SS is rare.
   21. Walt Davis Posted: May 12, 2022 at 04:00 PM (#6076476)
#19 But Bench played elsewhere regularly during his C years, including 38 starts at 3B in which TZ rates him as average. He even made 2 starts in CF at 22. Including those 3B starts, I count 162 non-C starts for Bench through age 32. Bench would generally start about 125 games at C and 20-25 games elsewhere in his prime.
   22. Ron J Posted: May 12, 2022 at 04:13 PM (#6076478)
The funny thing about Carter is that he played outfield because the managers before Dick Williams thought he had bad mechanics behind the plate. Williams thought the idea of catching Barry Foote rather than Carter was nuts.
   23. sunday silence (again) Posted: May 12, 2022 at 07:25 PM (#6076490)
Alex Trevino was an interesting player for the NYM, SFG etc. He never really got untracked as a hitter but he played 3b and OF as well as C.
   24. JimMusComp misses old primer... Posted: May 13, 2022 at 01:02 PM (#6076549)
Taylor Ward is doing it now. He’s played 3B, LF, RF, etc.

Now mainly RF. But, former catcher.
   25. Pat Rapper's Delight (as quoted on MLB Network) Posted: May 13, 2022 at 01:21 PM (#6076553)
Roger Bresnahan was mostly a catcher, but made over 20% of his career starts in center field and at least one start at every position including pitcher.

P    C  1B  2B  3B  SS  LF   CF  RF
1  937  30  17  37   7  15  221  40 
   26. Jack Sommers Posted: May 13, 2022 at 06:50 PM (#6076604)
beyond stolen bases, probably the coolest thing about Varsho is the athleticism he shows on defense. Some of the plays he made the other day behind the plate were amazing,

On one pitch, that was so far outside it was literally OFF THE CHART on game day, he slid out smothly and snared the ball, saving a wild pitch. Next pitch the batter, Soler, hit into inning ending double play.

Then there was a wild pitch on strike 3 that did get by him and all the way to back stop. He got back there incredibly quick, got off a quick strong throw, to nab the runner just in time.

then he had a caught stealing with super quick pop time. Savant is not publishing those this year but I'm told he has a 1.85 pop time the quickest recorded so far this year.

And in centerfield he just runs all over the place and makes great catches on balls you think he can't possibly get to. And he is taking good routes to go with his speed. He;'s 3rd in outfielder jump and 5th in directional OAA.

All of that is confirming what my lying eyes have been seeing from the press box all year. It's really impressive.
   27. Howie Menckel Posted: May 13, 2022 at 07:33 PM (#6076609)
Gary Varsho says Daulton's middle name is from another teammate - but the middle not is John, not Vukovich.

Vukovich, a former coach to young Gary Varsho, is infamous for an astonishing MLB "season" aka career of 607 PA spread over 10 different seasons.

career line of .161/.203/.222 for an OPS+ of 20 !

the 95-loss 1971 Phillies gave Vukovich 233 PA to ruin the offense with a 15 OPS+.

the 88-loss Brewers were impressed enough in 1973 to give him 141 PA and an OPS+ of 8.

he then got cups of coffee - including one extra grande of 66 PA - five times from the Phillies from 1976-81.

you'd think he was a C or SS or maybe CF - but he was a 3B.

his most similar player is ex-Indian sacrificial lamb to end the 2016 World Series in the Cubs' favor Michael Martinez, who had a much more "impressive" 38 OPS+.

   28. Misirlou cut his hair and moved to Rome Posted: May 13, 2022 at 08:53 PM (#6076622)
Vukovich was once famously pinch hit for in the first inning, with his parents in attendance.
   29. Jack Sommers Posted: May 13, 2022 at 11:09 PM (#6076652)
he 95-loss 1971 Phillies gave Vukovich 233 PA to ruin the offense with a 15 OPS+.

When I replayed the 1971 season on Strat he might have gotten 40 at bats. The Phillies did somewhat better if I remember.
   30. Jose Canusee Posted: May 13, 2022 at 11:24 PM (#6076656)
No CF's but also recall Joe Ferguson, Carlton Fisk and Mike Heath in the OF. In the crappy late Finley And Bryce Harper was a prep catcher who didn't play OF but was drafted as one.
   31. Howie Menckel Posted: May 14, 2022 at 12:05 AM (#6076660)
Vukovich was once famously pinch hit for in the first inning, with his parents in attendance.

that's kind of - I don't know.

I mean, he's one of the 1000 baseball players on Earth (probably), which is awesome, and he plays on a major league field. that has to be a win for proud parents.

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