In an appearance at home on seven pitches Tuesday night, Daulton Varsho mainly threw strikes and took balls. He was patient, struggled to count a batter, then coaxed a walk against Rockies’ closest Daniel Bard, setting the stage for the winning run to score. It was just a trip to the plate, but it was encouraging for the Diamondbacks.
For years, Varsho has been ranked as one of the organization’s top prospects, a quick, multi-positional talent who has produced the plate at every minor league stoppage. But as he nears the 200 batting mark of his major league career, he has at times appeared to be outmatched. His swing decisions looked questionable. His numbers are atrocious.
In the midst of a disappointing season, the Diamondbacks’ primary focus has shifted from wins and losses to projects like Varsho. Infielder Josh Rojas and outfielder Pavin Smith have already taken steps to establish themselves as regulars in the major leagues; if Varsho could do the same, it would mark another step for the organization towards building its next core of daily players.
“At this point, where we’re at, I think growing a guy like ‘Varsh’ is the daily goal,” said Diamondbacks co-scorer coach Rick Short. “Growing up guys like him and keeping the conversations going to make him better.”
Thanks to 71 at-bat appearances, Varsho reached .141 with just a .421 OPS. Counting the 37 games he played in his first major tournament exposure last season, he has a .169 / .267 / .291 line in 195 home plate appearances. To be fair, there is reason to believe that Varsho has been unlucky this season. His batting numbers indicate that his batting average and strokes should be about 75 points and 150 points higher, respectively.
There are other reasons to be hopeful about his chances. On the one hand, he has yet to enjoy consistent playing time, instead having rare opportunities to start consecutive days.
Moreover, his struggles are not unusual for a young player. Most players need time at the major league level to learn and adapt.
Varsho seems to believe his problems mostly boil down to two things: luck and timing. On the luck side, he pointed to a handful of balls he’s hit hard recently that haven’t fallen for hits, saying he just has to keep doing what he’s doing and keep hoping that the results will come.
“I just know it’s going to fall into place by the end of the year,” he said. “Usually when you look at the end of the year, things have gone pretty well. I was on top of the roller coaster when I was in Triple-A. Arriving here takes you through the ups and downs of the season. I’m not really too worried about it.
Varsho admits his timing hasn’t been right, an issue he says has had the effect of making an otherwise good at bat looking worse than he is at reality. That is, he thinks his approach to plate was good, he just thinks he missed some achievable shots because of the timing.
“It’s not my fastball that’s there in these counts,” said Varsho. “You look at what separates the good guys from the big guys is that the big guys never miss their ground. You look at guys like (Mike) Trout, (Fernando) Tatis (Jr.), Ketel (Marte): They never miss their argument in their tally. It’s a great learning step and you do it at the highest level. I have to keep grinding it and it will work out eventually.
Short offered more possibilities for Varsho’s struggles – and he brings the prospect of having been familiar with Varsho for years. Prior to coaching four years ago, Short spent eight seasons as an area scout, and it was in this role that he signed Varsho as a second-round pick in the 2017 draft.
Short wondered if part of Varsho’s problems could be linked to his success at minors. Varsho is such a pure hitter, with a short swing and a natural bat-to-ball ability, he might have been able to manage against less pitch without having a refined approach.
“I think he’s been such a good hitter his entire life that he can move the barrel around the strike zone and maybe hit balls that other guys can’t hit,” Short said. “Even when his swing breaks down, he has the ability to put the barrel on the baseball. But at the major league level, they present a better scout report and they perform more consistently. “
So far in his career, Varsho has been more aggressive than the average major league hitter. His overall swing rate (51.5%) is above the major league average (46.7). He swings more than average on out-of-zone throws (32.6 against 31) and throws in the zone (76.1 against 68.3).
Short wondered if Varsho would need to tighten his approach in certain cases, perhaps looking for specific ground in a specific spot more often rather than trying to cover every inch of the strike zone.
“I think that’s a big part of maturing as a young hitter,” said Short. “In minors, they submit to a screening report but probably don’t perform like they do here. He becomes stubborn about what terrain he wants and what part of the area he wants. I think that will help him on the plate.
“It’s just about making him comfortable, settling down, developing his knowledge as a hitter. I know we want it to happen quickly, but unfortunately it doesn’t happen that way. It takes time. It’s a real thing. Not everyone is Fernando Tatis Jr. who can come in and storm a city and a league. Most of the time it takes a little while to settle down. I think once there everything will be fine.
The Diamondbacks have changed the start time of their July 17 game against the Cubs from 5:10 pm to 1:10 pm The change avoids a potential conflict with Game 5 of the NBA Finals.
* Southpaw Madison Bumgarner (shoulder) threw a 21-length lifter box on Wednesday, Lovullo said, adding that Bumgarner’s next outing will likely come in another appearance in rehab. He started in an Arizona Complex League game on Monday.
* Right-hander Zac Gallen (hamstring) threw a 30-length lifter box on Wednesday, an encouraging sign that he could be back relatively soon from the hamstring injury that sent him to the injury roster in the morning. last week.
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