Daulton Varsho’s early spring stats provide hope for optimism heading into 2024

Tampa Bay Rays v Toronto Blue Jays
Tampa Bay Rays v Toronto Blue Jays / Cole Burston/GettyImages

In December of 2022, the Blue Jays acquired 26-year-old outfielder Daulton Varsho from the Arizona Diamondbacks in exchange for outfielder Lourdes Gurriel Jr. and catcher Gabriel Moreno, #7 on MLB Pipeline's Top 100 prospects for 2022.

Varsho hasn't exactly made Blue Jays fans eager for his at-bats since he first took the field for the club. He has given them no reason to give him the benefit of the doubt, given the amount of assets the team gave up to acquire him. His lack of power and his questionable approach at the plate didn't do well for the Blue Jays' faithful.

Many predicted Varsho would have another dismal season going into this year's spring training. However, he has performed well so far and appears to have addressed the majority of his flaws at the plate. In just 23 plate appearances this spring, it's evident that he has improved his approach at the plate, and the numbers tell the story.

Last season, Varsho ranked in the 51st percentile in Chase% among qualified hitters. He swung at 28.1% of pitches outside the strike zone. Mookie Betts ranked first in the league in that category, swinging at only 16.6% of pitches outside the zone. This spring, Varsho swings at only 7.7% of those pitches.

This spring, he has also significantly increased his contact percentage on pitches inside the strike zone. Last year, he hit 81.8% of pitches in the zone. In 2024. He hits 91.3% of those pitches, an increase of almost 10 full percentage points. An improvement in all those categories led to an increase in BB% ( 7.7% in 2023 to 26.1% this spring) and a big drop in K% (23.2% in 2023 to 4.3% this spring).

Though this is really impressive, the biggest change in his approach might be the increase in balls hit to the pull side of the field. Varsho pulled only 48.0% of the balls he hit in 2023. It increased all the way to 73.3% in his first 8 spring training games. For reference, Varsho hit 95% of his home runs to right-field or right-center field last season. So it's safe to say that an increase in pulled fly balls will lead to an increase in home runs for Varsho in 2024.

Even though these numbers are undoubtedly not sustainable over the course of an entire season, Varsho is showing some extremely encouraging signs, and when combined with his elite defense, he could transform into a 4-win player for the Blue Jays.