For most of the season, Daulton Varsho‘s offensive production has been like an underwhelming approximation of his 2022.
That looks like it might be about to change.
Although Varsho’s .222/.290/.404 line might not leap off the page, he’s been significantly better recently, slashing .267/.323/.533 in his last 15 games.
Without context those numbers look excellent, but not like a blazing hot streak. His 136 wRC+ in those games is star level, but not outlandish for a hitter having a strong stretch.
The way Varsho has authored his recent success is even more encouraging for the outfielder than the results, though. One reason for that is the fact that he simply isn’t striking out.
The 26-year-old entered the season with a career strikeout rate of 24.0 per cent and he’s gone down on strikes just four times in his last 15 contests, posting the lowest K% of his career over a span of that length.
The clearest explanation for this stretch has been far better plate discipline from Varsho. While he hasn’t piled up walks during his recent stretch, he’s chasing fewer bad pitches.
In his last 15 games, he’s chased just 22.7 per cent of pitches outside the zone, far less than his 34.9 per cent in the first 46 contests of 2023. While he’s taking more pitchers’ pitches, he’s been as aggressive in the zone as ever, swinging at 73.3 per cent of balls in the zone — a rate matching his approach earlier in the year (74.1 per cent).
At the same time that Varsho has cut down on his strikeouts, his power stroke has come alive. His ISO in his last 15 games sits at .267 and he’s hit four home runs — including a 446-footer that is his longest of the season, and the second-longest of his career.
That power production is supported by contact-quality numbers that are significantly better than what he managed earlier in the season.
Average Exit Velocity
First 46 games
Last 15 games
If Varsho had gotten a few more bounces going his way in the last three weeks he’d be in the midst of a sizzling run that would be elevating his 2023 numbers in a profound way.
As it is, he’s in the middle of a stretch where he’s doing everything right by avoiding strikeouts and making hard contact consistently, but his rewards haven’t been proportional to the quality of his at-bats.
Varsho’s luck isn’t going to magically even out over the rest of the season, but what he’s doing now may have something to tell us about where he can go from here.
It’s not realistic to expect him to run a single-digit strikeout rate while providing considerable power, but the fact he’s capable of doing that for a couple of weeks at a time is undoubtedly a good sign for the Toronto Blue Jays.