Blue Jays: Daulton Varsho, Jays in the top 10 of FanGraphs' left field rankings
With FanGraphs' left field power rankings now available, the Toronto Blue Jays grab another top-10 spot heading into the 2023 season.
If you missed it, we previously reviewed the power rankings for catcher, first base, second base, shortstop and third base.
Daulton Varsho and the Blue Jays rank seventh, with a combined 3.1 WAR, in the oft-overlooked corner outfield position. The case can be made that they actually rank sixth, as they are tied with the White Sox.
The top teams are closer than the rankings would have you believe. While no one is touching Juan Soto and the Padres' 5.9 WAR or the Astros' 4.8 WAR, spots three to seven on the list are separated by only 0.7 points.
Behind Varsho on the Blue Jays' depth chart, Whit Merrifield projects to contribute 0.3 WAR with 196 plate appearances as a left fielder. Cavan Biggio looks to see action in left and chip in 0.1 WAR. Nathan Lukes and Spencer Horwitz round out the depth chart but don't project to make an impact.
One of the obvious improvements the front office made this offseason was the massive upgrade in outfield defense, of which Varsho is a big piece.
Dan Szymborski points out that teams are shifting away from stashing poor defenders in left field and are "more willing to play outfielders who look more like center fielders there now." He includes Varsho on the list of players who have spent plenty of time in center that now play the corner.
Varsho's 2.6 WAR projection doesn't match his 4.6 WAR from last season. However, it will be a marked improvement over the 1.3 WAR of the departed Lourdes Gurriel Jr. and Raimel Tapia, who combined for a -4 Runs Above Average as left fielders in 2022. Szymborski thinks Varsho will be a contender for a Gold Glove and could be a +15 run defender (yes, please!).
Varsho's bat should help his value on the offensive side of the ball. While "he's not going to be an offensive powerhouse," per Szymborski, "he hits for enough power that you can live with the suboptimal plate discipline and contact rate."
It's no secret that the 26-year-old got off to a slow start this spring as he acclimated to his new team. He has had some tantalizing hits though, including three doubles and a triple. When he finally hit his first home run, it was a rocket 401-foot, 110.1 mph no-doubter.
Between Varsho's stellar glove and powerful bat, Blue Jays fans can be assured that left field is in good hands this season.