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South Side Sox Top Prospect No. 67: Taylor Varnell

Despite little success late in college as a starter, Varnell dominated in Arizona after the draft

Turnabout: Varnell was simply nasty in the AZL in 2018.
Kim Contreras (@FireLeagueKim)/South Side Sox

Taylor Varnell
190 pounds
Throws: Left
Age: 23
SSS rank among all left-handed starters in the system: 5

As a senior, Varnell picked a bad time to have his worst college season. After spending a year with Western Oklahoma State JC in the bullpen, he transferred to Oral Roberts, where he had 3.28 and 2.02 ERAs during his sophomore and junior seasons; while his sophomore campaign was cut short due to labrum surgery, Varnell bounced back in 2017 with a terrific junior season out of the bullpen.

When Varnell returned to the starting rotation in 2018, he had a lousy season, with a 5.95 ERA and 1.49 WHIP over 59 innings, allowing 58 hits and 30 walks while striking out 62. He had his best game against Alec Bohm, Greyson Jenista, and the Wichita State Shockers, when he allowed just two hits and two walks while striking out seven over five innings. The White Sox must have seen enough then to take a chance on the Sayre, Okla. native, drafting him in the 29th round and announcing him as a reliever.

In 10 starts for the AZL White Sox, Varnell overpowered hitters to the tune of a 1.97 ERA and 0.88 WHIP, while allowing just 30 hits (.175 BA) and 10 walks (5.4 BB%) in striking out 61 (33.2 K%) in his 45 2⁄3 innings of work.

Varnell has actually fared better against righties (.159) than lefties (.242). It is understandable why the White Sox would consider him a reliever; he had far more success out of the bullpen in college than he ever did as a starter, and there is also an injury history with him as well. But in 2018, Varnell far exceeded his career high in innings — prior to this season, his top college output was 26 2⁄3 innings, and this year, he was shut down at 104 23 .

Varnell does have the arsenal to succeed as a starting pitcher going forward. His fastball has significant movement, and currently maxes out at 92-93 mph. He also features an outstanding changeup, which runs 78-80 mph and helps explain why right-handed hitters are batting just .175 against his offerings. However, Varnell’s best pitch may be a 12-6 curveball that has been likened to that thrown by Barry Zito.

Varnell begins the 2019 season in the Kannapolis starting rotation.

Take a look!

2019 South Side Sox Top 100 Prospects

67. Taylor Varnell, LHSP
68. John Parke, LHSP
69. Mike Morrison, RHRP
70. Zach Remillard, 3B
71. Luis Martinez, RHSP
72. Zach Lewis, RHSP
73. José Nin, RHRP
74. Colton Turner, LHSP
75. Jhoandro Alfonso, C
76. Ramon Beltre, 2B
77. Charlie Tilson, CF
78. Hunter Kiel, RHRP
79. Jason Bilous, RHSP
80. Nick Johnson, RHRP
81. Danny Dopico, RHRP
82. Harvin Mendoza, 1B
83. Logan Sowers, RF
84. Maiker Feliz, 3B
85. Brayan Herrera, RHSP
86. Craig Dedelow, LF
87. Wilber Pérez, RHSP
88. Kyle Kubat, LHRP
89. Johan Dominguez, RHRP
90. Mitch Roman, 2B
91. Ty Greene, C
92. Tanner Banks, LHSP
93. Jake Elliott, RHRP
94. Kevin Escorcia, LHRP
95. Luis Rodriguez, RHSP
96. Ian Dawkins, LF
97. Victor Diaz, RHRP
98. Travis Moniot, LF
99. Will Kincanon, RHRP
100. Brian Clark, LHRP

More information on South Side Top Prospects.