Featured Photo: Daulton Varsho (C, Diamondbacks)
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Each week Jared Wyllys digs into his notebook and shares some info on a prospect of his choice, then passes along some select entries from our 2018 Prospect Spotlight Library. This week, we get a closer look at a young White Sox arm who received some veteran guidance this spring.
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Prospect Focus: Daulton Varsho (C, Diamondbacks)
Success as a minor league prospect has a lot to do with adjustments. Maybe unlike any other stage in their career, guys in the farm system have to be as fungible as possible. Diamondbacks catching prospect Daulton Varsho has done this, going from wood bat leagues as a college amateur in Wisconsin to the High A California League in the span of just over a year.
Varsho bypassed a stop with Arizona’s Midwest League affiliate, going straight from the Class A Short-Season Northwest League in 2017 to Visalia this year. Nine games in, Varsho is already noting the difference in competition.
“You definitely see the starting pitchers able to locate their pitches a lot better. And not getting as many wild pitches as we did in short season,” Varsho said. “You do see relievers in the bullpen having a better IQ in understanding what to throw in certain situations.”
So far, Varsho has adapted as a hitter easily, going .303/.410/.576 with two home runs. He chalks this up to his intentionality about learning his opponents.
“Right now, I’m trying to see as many pitches as possible and trying to create a log to understand every pitcher,” Varsho said. “You learn people’s strengths and weaknesses, and you learn what pitches are their out pitches, and understand what they’re going to throw in certain points and times in a game.”
This is good practice at any level, and some of this wisdom undoubtedly comes from his father, Gary Varsho, who spent eight seasons in the majors. It’s helped him too with the semi-transient lifestyle of a baseball player, especially one in the minor leagues. Varsho said he felt like he knew what to expect of the travel thanks to his Dad, but experiencing it firsthand has still taken some adjustment.
But while he’s in the California League, Varsho is looking to master his craft behind the plate. He works with a talented pitching staff that includes Jon Duplantier and Sam McWilliams, and Varsho said his primary goal for this season is to gain their trust and help them grow.
“I try to help them further their stuff a little bit more and try to educate them to throw some pitches in different counts that they might not usually do,” Varsho said. “You start looking at their repertoire, and you look at what they can throw, and they have to be comfortable and confident in every pitch in every situation, and I’m trying to get them there.”
Varsho’s pedigree is legit — being the namesake of Phillies great Darren Daulton doesn’t hurt either — and in his first year of full-season ball his ability to adapt and learn quickly is showing in the numbers he’s putting up.
Weekly Featured Spotlights: Cal League Notebook
Greg Deichmann | OF | Athletics (High A Stockton)
Ht/Wt: 6’2”/190 B/T: L/M Age (as of April 1, 2018): 22y, 10m
Oakland selected Deichmann in the second round last year after an impressive college career at LSU. The left-handed hitter profiles as a power-first bat on an outfield corner. The A’s showed confidence in Deichmann’s polish by skipping him over Low-A Beloit to start his first full pro season in 2018. Instead, he’s playing right field every night in the Cal League, hitting in the middle of Stockton’s lineup.
His only plus tool is 60-grade raw power, able to drive the ball with over-fence loft to both fields in BP. Deichmann makes explosive contact when he barrels one up, impacting the ball with serious exit velocity and carry. His left-handed power fits a corner profile with ease, though the question is how much of it Deichmann will be able to bring into games: a collapsed backside creates the uphill plane he needs to put the ball in the air, but there isn’t much barrel control through the zone. He crushes mistakes, but well-placed fastballs – especially ones elevated at the letters – create contact issues for a lengthy uppercut.
While he’s likely to come with a healthy dose of swing-and-miss, Deichmann shows the patience and approach to take walks and draw himself into fastball counts. Defensively, he can remain in right field and moves well enough to play in either corner. He won’t add value with the glove, but he’s a playable defender with average range. The likely role is a power bat off the bench or playing everyday in the strong-side of a platoon.
–John Eshleman, April 14, 2018
Reggie Lawson | RHP | Padres (High A Lake Elsinore)
Ht/Wt: 6’4”/205 B/T: R/R Age (as of April 1, 2018): 20y, 8m
San Diego selected Lawson 71st overall in the 2016 Draft as a rangy, projectable high schooler. He has continued to fill out and add to a physical 6-foot-4 frame, now weighing in at 205 pounds. Still wiry, Lawson will keep adding stuff and repeat his delivery better as he grows into his body.
I saw his first start of the year, where he showed a plus fastball that sat 93-to-95 mph and touched as high as 97 with tailing action. He creates steep downhill plane and gets quality extension, allowing him to pitch up in the zone with success. It is easy to project up on his future control and command, and at maturity Lawson’s fastball looks like a double-plus out pitch. His go-to secondary is a mid-70s curveball that flashes swing-and-miss action at best with 12-to-6 shape. The breaker is more a chase pitch now, but he has a feel for it and will be more effective with his curve once he’s able to land it for early-count strikes. Like many young pitchers with a power fastball/curveball mix, Lawson’s changeup is behind his primary two pitches. Even so, he’s able to fade the ball at times, and with 86-to-87 mph velo, there’s plenty of separation off his fastball.
A physical athlete with premium velocity and plus feel to spin the ball, Lawson has all the ingredients you look for in a big league pitching prospect. He’s definitely raw in terms of his ability to show three pitches and command the ball, but I’m willing to project aggressively given the frame and excellent mound presence that he possesses. If he can develop more of a well-rounded feel to pitch, the ceiling is a #3 starter. His two-pitch mix is tempting in the bullpen, and he could be a high-leverage reliever if it doesn’t click as a starter.
–John Eshleman, April 14, 2018
Hudson Potts | 3B | Padres (High A Lake Elsinore)
Ht/Wt: 6’3”/225 B/T: R/R Age (as of April 1, 2018): 19y, 5m
Potts was a surprise first-rounder in the 2016 Draft, signing for a below-slot $1 million bonus as a shortstop from the Texas prep ranks. He has moved to third since signing, and while that puts more pressure on his bat, he launched 20 homeruns last year in Low-A Fort Wayne while adding 20 pounds of muscle.
Despite having played shortstop in high school, his weight gain has translated to fringy range at the hot corner, though his throws are strong across the infield. A level swing that shoots line drives and shows gap power in batting practice produces over-the-fence power in game action more than it does BP: in both my looks this season (Spring Training and April), he hasn’t shown enough pop to grade out as average in the raw power department. He’s likely to finish with fringe-average game power with the ability to hit more doubles than dingers.
I like Potts’ hit tool, and it gives him more chances than some prospects to find opportunities. In my April look, he worked his way into fastball counts and manipulated the barrel to drive gaps to both sides of the field. With no standout tool, Potts will be challenged to find a regular role. He projects as a hit-first bench or platoon option, likely to get work in corner outfield spots to increase his versatility and add more ways to get the bat into the lineup.
–John Eshleman, April 11, 2018