The Blue Jays catching prospect depth remains strong, but production wasn’t consistent in 2017.
Over the past few years, Russell Martin has reigned behind the plate for the Toronto Blue Jays. He’s produced offensively at a league-average pace, and is projected to do so again in 2018. Behind the plate he’s been strong, playing up his fWAR over the past three seasons to 3.5, 1.9 and 1.8, respectively. His five-year, $82,000,000 contract will end after the 2019 season, when Martin will be 37-years old. In time, they’ll need a new full-time catcher, and the depth within the upper minor leagues right now should give them some comfort.
Through lopsided trades and strong drafts, the Blue Jays have built up a strong catching contingent. Highlighted before 2017 by Max Pentecost and Reese McGuire, 2017 was Danny Jansen’s breakout season, with the backstop finally healthy and mashing across three levels from High-A Dunedin to Triple-A Buffalo. The Jays also spent two of their first four draft picks on more catchers, selecting Hagen Danner 61st overall and Riley Adams at 99.
Meanwhile, Max Pentecost and Reese McGuire struggled to stay healthy, playing in just 117 games combined, but doing so with some of their strongest results as professionals.
|Danny Jansen||A+, AA, AAA||104||424||119||25||2||10||48||41||40||.323||.400||.484||.884|
|Reese McGuire||A+, AA||45||175||44||8||1||6||28||20||22||.295||.376||.483||.859|
Danny Jansen led the organization in just about every possible offensive category, but much of that was due to the lack of playing time from Pentecost. However, in 32 fewer games, Pentecost put up six more RBIs than Jansen and was only behind him in home runs by one. Over a full season, Pentecost is likely to put up significantly better production than Jansen, but he’ll do it playing behind the plate only about 30% of the time.
Hagen Danner struggled in his first season of professional ball in the Gulf Coast League, but there’s a ton of talent there. Also in his first pro season was college catcher Riley Adams, who excelled with the Low-A Vancouver Canadians.
Catchers of the Future
There’s no all-around stand out for Blue Jays MiLB catchers, with their top three all producing separate skill sets. McGuire is gifted defensively and gets on base. Pentecost is a slugger, but probably isn’t long for the position due to injuries and his teammates being stronger defensively. Jansen mixes in solid defense, but he also hits, just not at the level of Pentecost. Deeper down into the system is Riley Adams, who hit very well in 2017 in the Northwest League. In fact, Riley Adams might be the gem of the catchers in the system right now:
“Defensively, he’s one of the better rookie ball catchers I’ve seen this year, and his athleticism translates over to behind the plate very well. Riley Adams is active and quick behind the plate, reading balls in the dirt very well and showing off a strong arm. He’s got some work to do in consistency as far as his pitch receiving is concerned, especially on balls low in the zone (a typical point of struggle for taller, bigger catchers) but there’s a feel there already and I think he’ll improve in time.”
That’s from Baseball Census in a scouting report of Adams from this August. The report also praises his offensive capabilities as well:
“Adams will have a shot as a frontline starter behind the plate who could be an everyday guy with an above-average offensive profile for the position.”
At 21 years old and a solid college career behind him, Adams might be a fast riser through the Blue Jays system. If all breaks well with their catching prospects in 2017 and beyond (spoiler: it never does), there could be a significant catching logjam in the season before too long. Jansen might see MLB time in 2018, and Pentecost and McGuire aren’t too far behind. Hagen Danner might rebound from his mediocre start to his professional career, and being just 19 years old on Opening Day 2018 – he has plenty of time to evolve – and the two-position star might even find his niche throwing pitches rather than calling them, as he was a standout pitcher in the Little League World Series and with Team USA.
While Bo Bichette and Vlaimir Guerrero Jr. earn all of the attention for their play, the catchers within the Blue Jays system are nothing to be ashamed about, either. Look for Danny Jansen by Fall of 2018 and don’t be surprised if there are plenty of options in 2020 and beyond.
*Featured Image Credit: R Widrig- JFtC
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Roy’s earliest memories all involve baseball from the early 90’s and the Blue Jays dream teams. He became a Blue Jays fan while watching Carlos Delgado and Shawn Green evolve in Syracuse, NY at the run-down confines of MacArthur Stadium, nestled between highway and swamp. A lifelong baseball player, Roy still plays (P, C, 2B, 3B) in the 25+ Syracuse MSBL for the Liverpool Mets. He watches almost all games with his best buddy Sebastian, a five year old Pug, who could care less.