The Toronto Blue Jays have a dynamic duo behind the plate and more people should be talking about how exciting that is
The Toronto Blue Jays are not likely to draw North American attention for much of anything, if we’re being honest. Even the frenzy caused by signing Hyun-Jin Ryu disappeared quickly. Granted, a scandal over garbage cans and buzzers has taken over. However, the point is that we know there isn’t much attention paid to Canada’s only MLB team. That means when there are talented players, they don’t get nearly the credit they deserve. Ask Carlos Delgado.
For example, take a look at Fangraphs Depth Charts and their projected fWAR. Jansen & McGuire (McGansen? Jansire? The name is a work in progress) are projected to have the 3rd highest value in all of baseball at 3.9 fWAR behind only the White Sox and Phillies. And, it should be pointed out that those teams’ value is buoyed by Yasmani Grandal‘s 4.7 fWAR and J.T. Realmuto‘s 4.2 fWAR.
Here’s the breakdown of Janguire’s (?) WAR calculation: Bat: -8.4/ BsR: 0.3/ Fld: 12.7
Of note, is the combined defensive value. Heading to Baseball Savant, there are some very interesting metrics by which catchers can be measured. Firstly, “Pop Time” measures “the time from the moment the pitch hits the catcher’s mitt to the moment the ball reaches the fielder’s projected receiving point at the center of the base”. The league average on steal attempts to second is 2.01 seconds (!). McGuire sits 18th in MLB with a time of 1.97 seconds. Jansen is 58th at 2.05 seconds. Obviously, the lower this time is, the better. Based on a limited understanding of how to do so, it is assumed that it is something that can be worked on with repetition.
Secondly, Baseball Savant measures “Catcher Framing”, which is something folks might be a bit more familiar with. Essentially, it is how good a catcher is at gaining strike calls for his pitchers. Teams spend a lot of time looking at how many runs a catcher saves his team – calculated “on a .125 run/strike basis” – and it is a factor in how much a catcher gets paid. For perspective, Austin Hedges was the best in baseball in 2019 with 20 Runs From Extra Strikes. Jansen put up 7 Runs From Extra Strikes, while McGuire was not listed because “To qualify, a catcher must receive 6 called pitches per team game.” Defensively speaking, the Blue Jays have a tandem that is very good and could get even better.
Offensively, they are projected to be lacking. But, that is based on Jansen’s atrocious 2019 that saw him slash .207/.279/.360 for a Ryan Goins-esque wRC+ of 68. It is very reasonable that, given 2019 was his first as the everyday catcher, his entire focus was on learning pitchers and helping to get the most out of them, which was no small task. Your overall production would drop off dramatically if you were saddled with trying to help the likes of Edwin Jackson pitch at the big league level.
Given his offensive production in the past, it would not be crazy to think Jansen’s bat could bounce back in 2020. Even his 31 games in 2018 produced a wRC+ of 116, which would be more than acceptable, even if it is shy of his 2018 AAA mark of 146 or his 2017 values of 184 in A+, 121 in AA and 172 in AAA. He is capable of handling the bat and we shouldn’t be surprised to see a better performance in 2020.
As for McGuire, his big league offensive production in 30 big league games was a rather nice surprise. Known as more of a defensive catcher, we all figured he’d slide in as a nice back up for Jansen. But, he ended up slashing .299/.346/.526 for a wRC+ of 128, which is generally up from his MiLB norm. Fangraphs shows he’s projected to see a dip down to 82-88 wRC+. Given his defensive abilities, that is acceptable.
However, it is entirely possible that the two combine to form a rather significant offensive force out of the catcher position. Let’s remember that high producing catchers who are skilled defensively are a rarity and get paid as such. The Blue Jays could have a duo that produces 20+ HR, 70+ RBI, hits .250/.325/.420 and plays exceptional defense. They’re projected to combine for 3.9 fWAR, with a real possibility of surpassing that.
It is no wonder the Blue Jays were getting calls on their catchers (we haven’t even talked about the relatively rich catching depth in the minors). Considering the rather low production out of the catching position, on both sides of the ball, that we’ve come to expect, Toronto has a very exciting young pair that has lots of time and opportunity to improve. They’re both 24 years old!
The team should be excited about them and we should be too!
*Featured Image Courtesy Of DaveMe Images. Prints Available For Purchase.
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Shaun Doyle is a long time Blue Jays fan and writer! He decided to put those things together and create Jays From the Couch. Shaun is the host of Jays From the Couch Radio, which is highly ranked in iTunes, and he has appeared on TV and radio spots.