Jays From the Couch continue our comparison of Toronto Blue Jays position players to their AL East counterparts
The Blue Jays said good-bye to Russell Martin prior to the 2019 season to make way for Danny Jansen. Danny struggled with the bat in his first full season in the BIGS but performed very well behind the plate. This was a pleasant surprise since all previous scouting reports indicated Jansen would be a bat-first catcher. While its possible for other position players to play in all 162 games, it is extremely unlikely to see a catcher behind the plate for 162 games. Therefore, we will list the likely starting catcher and the likely backup to rank the ALE catcher duo. Using Roster Resource, we run through the other American League East catchers. Although there are multitudes of interpretive rankings for this position, this is the order I saw them in:
- Blue Jays- Danny Jansen and Reese McGuire
- Yankees- Gary Sanchez and Kyle Higashioka
- Red Sox- Christian Vazquez and Jonathan Lucroy
- Rays- Mike Zunino and Michael Perez
- Orioles- Chance Sisco and Pedro Severino
To rank and differentiate this pool of strong candidates, I based my decisions on the combination of various factors:
- Career WAR
- Age (whether they’re approaching their peak or closure to regression)
- Contractual situation – the length and cost of players control influences their value
- Steamer WAR Projections for 2020 – what is their anticipated production
- Offense – what is their track record
- Defense – what is their track record
#1 Toronto Blue Jays – Jansen
|Career WAR||1.7 (BR) and 2.2 (Fangraphs).|
|Contractual Situation||Arbitration-eligible in 2022, UFA in 2025.|
|2020 Steamer WAR Projection||2.2|
The Toronto Blue Jays have the best young catching duo in the game. Despite struggling at the plate in 2019, Jansen still displayed some pop with a .153ISO. Danny produced a .275wOBA and 68wRC+ while posting a .230BABIP and .207 batting average. Although his .279OBP might suggest it, Jansen showed good patience at the plate with an 8.1BB%. He finished somewhere in the middle of the league with an 88.7mph exit velocity (41st percentile) and a 40% hard-hit (55th percentile). Jansen’s .275wOBA was in the bottom 3% of the league. Baseball-Reference gave Jansen a 0.3 oWAR.
In his rookies season, Danny Jansen showed he’s very capable of handling a major league pitching staff. Baseball Savant has Jansen in the 66th percentile for framing. Unfortunately, Jansen’s Pop Time was in the 25th percentile. According to Fangraphs, Jansen finished displayed great defensive ability with 12DRS and 2 rSB (a measure of controlling the run game). He allowed 42 stolen bases, throwing out 19 for a 31CS% (League average 27%). Baseball-Reference gave him a 1.4dWAR for his play in the field.
Danny Jansen is a valuable piece on a young, up and coming Blue Jays squad. Combining his age, defensive ability, offensive potential, and contract over the next 5 years, Danny Jansen helped Toronto claim the top spot on this list.
Reese McGuire is actually listed as the primary catching option for the Blue Jays according to Roster Resources. It is possible but I’m not there yet with McGuire. Reese owns a career 1.2WAR (FG) and 1.3WAR (BR). He is under team control until 2026 (FA), with his first arbitration year coming in 2023. Steamer projects McGuire will put up a 1.3WAR in 2020.
In just over 100 at-bats, Reese posted an impressive .227ISO with a .299 batting average while finishing with a .364wOBA and 128wRC+. Baseball Savant shows Reese had an 86mph exit velocity, 3.8 Barrel%, and a 24.1Hard-Hit%.
Behind the plate, Reese McGuire finished with 3DRS and 0rSB thanks to the small sample size. He allowed 14 stolen bases with 5 caught stealing for a 26CS%.
Danny Jansen is expected to produce more at the plate but McGuire is expected to be the superior catcher. McGuire had an unfortunate incident in Florida which could affect his playing time. I hope not but our society is a funny thing these days. If this incident doesn’t linger than McGuire has a chance to split time behind the plate with Jansen. It wouldn’t be surprising for McGuire to regress offensively in 2020.
#2 New York Yankees – Gary Sanchez
|Career WAR||11.3 (BR) and 11.4 (Fangraphs)|
|Age||27 yrs old|
|Contractual Situation||1-year deal worth 5M. Abr in 2021 and 2022. FA in 2023|
|2020 Steamer WAR Projection||2.9|
The Yankees backstop appeared in 106 games in 2019, smashing 34HR (most by a catcher in 2019) and posting a .293ISO. This is the kind of production New York can expect for the next few years from the young catcher. He has 105 HR in 372 games, spanning just over 3 full seasons.
Sanchez finished with a 91.0mph exit velocity (84th percentile) with 52 Barrels and 19.1 Barrel% (Top 1% in the league). His 41.2 Hard-Hit% was in the 65th percentile. Sanchez posted exceptional .552 xSLG (Top 8% and 92nd percentile) and .363xwOBA (84th percentile).
Defensively, Sanchez exhibits an impressive Pop Time of 1.95 sec to 2nd base, 6th in the majors and in the 86th percentile. His ability to steal strikes ranks in the 30th percentile. Gary Sanchez finished with -2DRS and 2rSB in 742.2 innings. Sanchez allowed 7 passed balls, 30 wild pitches, and 36 stolen bases. He threw out 11 base runners for a below league average 23CS%.
Much of Sanchez’ value rests in his young age and his potent bat. While he’s disappointed in the batting average department, his ability to put the ball over the wall is impressive.
Kyle Higashioka appears to be the front runner to back up Sanchez. Originally drafted in 2008 by the Yankees, he made his MLB debut in 2017. He has 1.005 service time, hitting his arbitration years in 2022 and his FA years in 2025. In 2019, Higashioka posted a 0.0WAR with a .214BA, 3HR, and 12 hits in 56 at-bats. He finished with a 9.1Barrel% and 87.4mph exit velocity.
#3 Boston Red Sox – Christian Vazquez
|Career WAR||3.2 (BR) and 9.0 (Fangraphs)|
|Age||29 yrs old|
|Contractual Situation||In his 3rd year of a 4-yr contract with an 4.52M AAV. Club option in 2022.|
|2020 Steamer WAR Projection||2.7|
Christian Vazquez was finally healthy in 2019. He put some impressive numbers with a .276BA, .331wOBA, and 102wRC+. Much of Vazquez’s value comes from his work behind the plate, making his 23HR and .201ISO in 2019 a little unexpected.
The oft-injured catcher posted an 88.7mph exit velocity (41st percentile) and a 38.5 Hard-Hit% (47th percentile). His 24 barrels ranked 146th and resulted in a 6.7 barrel%. Baseball-Reference gave Christian Vazquez a 2.3 oWAR.
Defensively, Christian Vazquez played 119 games behind the plate (918.0 innings) with a 5DRS and 2rSB. He possesses a strong accurate with excellent catch-and-throw skills which allowed him to throw out 22 baserunners for a 38CS%. He allowed 9 passed balls, 55 wild pitches and 36 stolen bases. Baseball Savant has his Pop Time listed at 1.97 sec with is 11th in the league and the 70th percentile. His ability to frame pitches fell in the 74th percentile.
Jonathan Lucroy and Kevin Plawecki will battle for the backup position this spring. But I don’t think it will be much of a battle with Lucroy the victor. The 33-yr-old agreed to a minor league deal with the Red Sox on February 18th after .232 batting average with 8 home runs and a .123ISO in 101 games. Lucroy spent 2019 with the Los Angeles Angels and Chicago Cubs. He posted a negative WAR (-1 BR and -0.5 FG) and now owns a career WAR of 37 according to FG. Steamer projects he will be good for a 0.2WAR in 2020.
#4 Tampa Bay Rays – Mike Zunino
|Career WAR||7.0 (BR) and 13.9 (Fangraphs)|
|Age||28 yrs old|
|Contractual Situation||1-yr @4.5M. FA in 2021|
|2020 Steamer WAR Projection||1.9|
The 2019 season a disappointing one for the 6-foot-2 catcher. The former 1st round draft pick batted just .165 with 9HR and a .147ISO in 90 games with the Rays. Mike Zunino finished with a .235wOBA and 45wRC+, for a 0.3WAR season.
Offensively, Mike Zunino averaged an 88.4mph exit velocity and an 11.3 Barrel%. His 36.9 Hard-Hit% was the lowest since his rookie season in 2015. He didn’t do a very good job of attacking balls in the zone, chasing a career 34.1%.
Mike Zunino finished with a 1.1 dWAR in 2019. In 689.2 innings behind the plate, he amassed 9DRS (career 49DRS) and 2rSB. Zunino allowed 27 stolen bases but caught an impressive 17 for a 39CS%. He allowed 4 passed balls and 25 wild pitches.
A strong, athletic catcher with some pop, Zunino will never win a batting title but he could still develop into an excellent everyday catching option. For this series, contractually he lacks team control and his 2019 was very disappointing. It wouldn’t surprise me to see him climb the rankings next Spring.
Michael Perez has one year of service time with two minor league options. He won’t be arbitration-eligible until 2022 and won’t hit free agency until 2025. Perez appeared in 22 games with the Rays in 2019. He batted .217 with a .303wOBA and 91wRC+. Perez struck out at a 34.5% clip while walking 14.5%. In his limited playing time, he posted a nice 92.5mph exit velocity and 7.4Barrel%.
#5 Baltimore Orioles- Chance Sisco
|Career WAR||0.3 (BR) and -0.2 (Fangraphs)|
|Age||25 yrs old|
|Contractual Situation||Arbitration eligible in 2022 and FA in 2025.|
|2020 Steamer fWAR Projection||0.3|
The Orioles’ former 2nd round pick from 2013 struggled with the bat for the second straight season. Sisco has the potential to be an everyday catcher but will likely be the RHB half of a Righty/Lefty platoon which will include Pedro Severino. Therefore, Sisco should get the lions share of the reps behind the plate. In 59 games, Sisco finished with a .210BA, 8HR, and a .729OPS. He struck out 30.8% and walked 11.1% while producing a league average-ish .319wOBA and 96wRC+.
According to Baseball Savant, Chance finished with an average exit velocity of 89.0mph and 10.4Barrel%.
In the field, Sisco’s -10DRS and -8.5FRM would suggest he has some work to do. His average pop time to 2nd base was clocked at 2.10 seconds in 2019 and 2.09 in 2018. He allowed one passed ball and 20 wild pitches. He only threw out 17%, catching 5 and allowing 25SB.
As things currently stand, Sisco doesn’t have much value beyond his current contract and potential future returns. Fortunately, he plays on a rebuilding team and should have a long leash to prove his worth in 2020.
Pedro Severino appeared in 96 games for Baltimore in 2019. He finished with a .249BA and knocked 13 home runs. He proved the dreadful O’s with a 0.5WAR catcher, producing a .316wOBA and 94wRC+. His exit velocity and Hard-Hit% were both in the 22nd percentile while his framing was in the 19th percentile. He does a decent job controlling the running games with a 1.99 sec pop time to 2nd base and 24CS%. He will hit his arbitration years in 2021 and will hit free agency in 2024. If Sisco struggles, we can expect Severino to take over everyday duties.
It is possible that Toronto’s dynamic duo of Jansen and McGuire are currently overhyped. McGuire may end up being nothing more than a glove-first catcher while Jansen may never figure out how to consistently hit major league pitching. Despite these possibilities, their abilities behind the plate should prove Toronto with plus WAR in 2020 and for the next few seasons.
According to Steamer projections, the Blue Jays catching tandem is projected to produce a 3.6WAR. The NYY tandem is also projected to produce a combined 3.6WAR with Boston producing a combined 2.9WAR. Tampa and Baltimore bring up the rear with WARs of 2.2 and 0.7 respectively. I gave Danny and Reese the edge over Sanchez because this is Blue Jays site and I am biased.
It will be interesting to watch how much patience the Baltimore Orioles will show with their 2019 1st round Draft pick, Adley Rustchman. His presence on the O’s roster should change these ranking next Spring Training.
*Featured Image Courtesy Of JFtC Ryan Mueller
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Lover of all things Toronto Blue Jays. Blue Jays MiLB fanatic. I strive for average while stumbling onto above average. Rogers isn’t cheap. Baseball is a business. Your right, but I’m more right.