Everything is coming together for Daulton Varsho

Photo credit:Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports
Thomas Hall
3 days ago
Daulton Varsho has been on quite the heater lately.
First, let’s start with his impressive two-way performance against the San Diego Padres during last weekend’s series at Petco Park. In typical Varsho fashion, the Toronto Blue Jays outfielder stole the show with his elite defence.
The spotlight shined on Varsho less than a full inning into Friday’s opener, as the 27-year-old made a leaping grab up against the left field wall to rob Xander Bogaerts of extra bases, catching a 104.7-m.p.h. fly ball that produced a .830 xAVG and would’ve gone out in 13 of 30 big-league ballparks.
And that was just night one in San Diego.
Varsho was at it again 24 hours later. With two outs in the bottom of the sixth, he managed to steal an opposite-field hit away from Padres rookie Jackson Merrill by making another sensational catch while up against the left-field wall, capping off six scoreless frames from José Berríos.
No one should’ve been surprised that Varsho’s fielding was a defining factor for the Blue Jays as they took two out of three from the Padres over the weekend. It was among the least shocking elements from that series, considering he was a Gold Glove finalist in his first season with the organization last year.
The former Arizona Diamondback led all big-league outfielders in defensive runs saved in 2023 with +29. But since he split time in left and centre field, that deployment caused his defensive value to be shared across multiple positions, helping Cleveland’s Steven Kwan capture the AL Gold Glove for a left fielder in a flawed awards system for outfielders.
Varsho’s case for a Gold Glove may be hurt by his outfield versatility again this season. However, it may not matter how many innings he logs in left or centre field if he continues to lead major league outfielders in both DRS (+7) and outs above average (+6) — which he’s currently doing through 23 games in 2024.
But it wasn’t just his defence that carried Toronto to a fourth straight series win in San Diego. So, too, did his performance in the batter’s box.
Following an 0-for-4 performance that included two strikeouts in Friday’s opener, Varsho responded with a three-hit showing on Saturday — his first of the season and third as a Blue Jay — beginning with his first-inning three-run blast that travelled a projected 381 feet beyond right field.
Varsho also added a double in Sunday’s finale, albeit in a losing effort, as the Blue Jays failed to complete a three-game sweep in consecutive series. Still, they entered Monday’s opener in Kansas City having won eight of their previous 12 games, many of which assisted by complete, all-around efforts from their top outfielder, whose bat has suddenly ignited.
This recent offensive surge continued against the Royals at Kauffman Stadium a night ago, with Varsho going deep again for the sixth time in his last nine games as a hitter. Not only did it provide his club with a five-run lead — one they wouldn’t surrender — but it also set new season highs as his longest (406 feet) and hardest hit (105.9 m.p.h.) home run of 2024.
Despite an encouraging spring, it was a real struggle for Varsho at the plate early on, going 4-for-30 (.133) with only one extra-base hit and eight strikeouts across his first 10 games. He wasn’t expanding his zone, nor was he chasing more — a patient approach that translated into four walks during the club’s season-opening road trip.
The left-handed-hitting outfielder’s process was as sound as it was in spring training. But the results weren’t coming. One reason for that was just five of the 22 balls he put in play over those first 10 games had an exit velocity of at least 95 m.p.h., resulting in a 22.7-per-cent hard-hit rate. Another is that over 30 per cent of the fly balls he put in play were pop-ups.
As the team flew to Toronto ahead of the home opener, George Springer sat next to Varsho on the flight, as he often does, and said he noticed an upper-cut finish to his teammate’s swing path, as Sportsnet’s Arden Zwelling recently outlined.
Springer believed that was the main culprit causing Varsho to swing underneath many of the pitches he had offered at and why he was struggling to generate hard contact — and, as it turns out, he was right.
So, after correcting his swing, Varsho took off during the homestand and has maintained that momentum on the current road trip. Even with a rough start, now he’s hitting .246/.316/.565 with a 154 wRC+ over 23 games on the year. With his impeccable fielding, he’s been worth 1.2 fWAR thus far — tying him for 10th-highest in the majors with former Blue Jay Marcus Semien, Willy Adames, Kyle Tucker and Ketel Marte. He and Tucker also sit tied for third in that category among big-league outfielders.
But wait, there’s more. Not only has Varsho been one of baseball’s most valuable outfielders in 2024, but he also leads the Blue Jays in fWAR as well as in home runs (six), RBIs (13), SLG (.565), ISO (.319) and offensive WAR (4.7).
One of the pieces of advice Springer offered to Varsho before they landed in Toronto was to stay the course with his approach and swing decisions, as Zwelling detailed. He had struggled with that when things weren’t going well in 2023. While it would’ve been easy to revert to those tendencies again this time, it’s often more advisable to trust the process over results.
So, that’s precisely what Varsho did.
The 5-foot-11 lefty has stuck to his strengths, offering at pitches he can create damage against. That zone covers the inner half and heart of the plate from the top of his knees to around the height of his belt.
Conversely, Varsho has taken pitches that have landed outside his sweet spot area (the areas covered in bright red in the chart above), specifically ones in the upper and outer half quadrants, which gave him the most issues last season and primarily contributed to his extended woes.
Source: Baseball Savant
By maintaining this approach, Varsho is now reaping the benefits of it with his quality of contact metrics, as he owns remarkable hard-hit (55.6 per cent) and barrel rates (11.1 per cent) in 13 games since the Blue Jays’ home opener on April 8.
Thanks to this recent surge, Toronto’s left-handed slugger has registered new career-highs in average exit velocity (88.6 m.p.h.), hard-hit rate (40.8 per cent) and barrel rate (10.2 per cent, 72nd percentile).
Source: Baseball Savant
Pitchers are going to adjust against Varsho. It is only a matter of time, especially considering he’s done almost all of his damage versus four-seamers — which he’s posted a +7 run value against — with all but one of his six home runs coming off a fastball.
They will start to attack him with more breaking balls and off-speed pitches, and that game plan was already set in motion Monday night in Kansas City, as he faced nine sliders and only one four-seamer in four plate appearances. The only issue, at least for the Royals, was one of Brady Singer’s sliders to Varsho caught too much of the plate and landed in the seats.
That outcome, of course, isn’t going to happen every game. But as long as he continues to capitalize on opponents’ mistakes, he should remain productive even after his .565 SLG and 154 wRC+ begin to normalize.
The final pieces of the puzzle are starting to come together for Varsho. He was already an extremely successful defensive outfielder and baserunner. Now, after making these offensive adjustments, he’s beginning to resemble more of the complete player the Blue Jays organization envisioned when they acquired him in the blockbuster that sent then-top prospect Gabriel Moreno and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. to the D-backs.
Though Year 1 of that deal certainly favoured Arizona, the second has the makings of becoming more of an even trade-off, with Varsho’s early-season complete performance making it seem he could finish closer to the near four-and-a-half win player he was in ’22.

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