Daulton Varsho's defence was better than advertised, but his hitting left fans frustrated

Wild Card Series - Toronto Blue Jays v Minnesota Twins - Game Two
Wild Card Series - Toronto Blue Jays v Minnesota Twins - Game Two / Adam Bettcher/GettyImages

It cost a lot for the Blue Jays to acquire Daulton Varsho, and in the beginning, things were looking up. But for most of the season, fans were bringing up the fact that when you look at the trade on paper, it leaves you scratching your head. Trading a fan favorite in Lourdes Gurriel Jr., and the catcher of the future in Gabriel Moreno for a guy who hit .235. And for the Jays, it was the lack of hitting that led to their downfall.

Coming into this season, Varsho was seen as a defence-first player with some decent pop and well above-average ability on the basepaths. What the Jays were hoping for was likely around the same amount of home runs as in 2022 (27), reduced strikeouts (145 in 2022), an increase in walks (46 in 2022), and maybe a tick up on his average (.235 in 2022). They only got one of those things, as he cut his strikeouts by 10. Everything else, to the dismay of those watching, stayed around the same or got worse.

If you want to see one of the most interesting Baseball Savant pages, take a look at Varsho's. He is in the 95th percentile for both baserunning and fielding. He's in the second percentile for fielding. If there was ever a need for a designated fielder, it would be him. But that's not the whole purpose they brought him in for. Varsho was excellent on the bases, but you simply can't steal bases if you don't get on base.

Next year, Varsho will either be the starting center fielder or the left fielder, depending on if Kevin Kiermaier is brought back. If Varsho finds himself in left, he'll be in contention for the Gold Glove that in my personal opinion he was robbed of (my theory is that he played too much center field), and if he's in center, he'll be battling against Kiermaier to get that award.

One thing not a lot of people knew was just how good of a bunter Varsho is. He ranked third in MLB in bunts in play with 17 (which was first in the AL), and it's part of the reason why his lefty/righty splits are so funny to look at. His average is 90 points higher against lefties (.292 vs .202), but his slugging is 15 points lower (.377 vs .392.) Yes, he had much fewer at-bats against pitchers of the same handedness as him, but it seemed like every time he was facing them he was dropping a perfect bunt down the line.

As the season progressed, Toronto tried Varsho out up and down the lineup but unfortunately nothing seemed to click. He was the only player on the team to have at least one at-bat 1-through-9 in the order, and when they found a place where he started to excel (9th) it was already too late. With Kevin Kiermaier's return to Toronto still a question mark, that might be where Varsho will see a lot of time. Kind of like a pseudo-leadoff hitter.

Arizona's World Series push really didn't help Varsho's cause, especially with the emergence of Gabriel Moreno as the catcher of the future for the Diamondbacks. Looking back at it now, Toronto likely made the wrong choice on which catcher to keep, but if you look back at every move they've ever made, you're definitely going to get annoyed. In a nutshell, Varsho's hitting needs to take a huge step up next year, because you don't trade away a Silver Slugger nominee and Gold Glove winner for someone who you're wondering will stay above the Mendoza Line. Recency bias aside, Varsho's defense gets an A+, his baserunning gets an A, his bunting gets an A+, and his hitting gets a D, so let's balance it out.

Final Grade: B-

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