The Toronto Blue Jays may have a star about to break out behind the plate in Danny Jansen
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I bet a number of you are wondering what I’m on, to write this article. I assure you, I’m quite sober.
After (then) catching prospect Danny Jansen got glasses in the winter of 2016, his MiLB career hit another trajectory. His OPS numbers were .884 in 2017 and .863 in 2018 prior to his call up to the Blue Jays.
Unfortunately he hasn’t had nearly the same success in his MLB career to date.
Many Jays fans were ready to give up on Jansen back in April. After posting a 116 wRC + in 31 games as a 23 year old rookie in 2018, his bat had gone relatively cold. With wRC+ numbers of 68 in 2019, 84 in 2020 and MINUS 40 in April of 2021, it looked like MLB pitching had caught up with him.
Not so fast.
Jansen was projected as a bat first catcher based on his performance in the minors. However, to be a number one catcher on what was hoped to be a future contending Jays team, he needed to be a capable defender. Jansen’s 17.4 DEF rating in 2019 was 8th best among all MLB catchers and it earned him a top three finish in AL Gold Glove voting that season. It’s reasonable to assume that a majority of his off field practice was devoted to becoming the best defensive catcher and game caller he could be. Adjusting to hitting major league pitching may have taken a back seat.
As we all know, 2020 was a crazy year in many ways. Good or bad, it’s hard to know if any player’s performance in the 60 game season in 2020 could be indicative of future performance for anyone. Jansen’s overall numbers weren’t very good. Sure he had an .853 OPS from September 9, 2020 – September 27, 2020. Sure his two home runs accounted for the only offence for the Jays on September 30, 2020, the day they were eliminated from the 2020 playoffs. But considering such a small sample size, it was hard to tell if this was a hot streak, or Jansen figuring it out at the plate in MLB.
Fast forward to 2021. Jansen was one of many Jays hitters to have sub par numbers in April. His .063 BABIP confirmed what my eyeball test told me – he hit several balls hard with nothing to show for it.
From May 1st through the end of the season, Jansen looked like a much different hitter. His 151 wRC+ during that time period is very good for any MLB hitter and outstanding for a catcher. 151 for the season would have put him second among major league catchers with a minimum 50 plate appearances, behind only Yasmani Grandal (159).
Further breaking down Jansen’s post April 2021 surge, his .289 BABIP over that period certainly isn’t unsustainable, at least in theory. His .279 average and .348 OBP are numbers I could see him coming close to each season. His .600 slugging % might be unsustainable, however. Over a full season, that would have put him 4th in all of MLB behind Bryce Harper (.615), Fernando Tatis Jr.(.611) and Vladimir Guerrero Jr.(.601).
Even if Jansen’s career slash line, going forward, is closer to .279/.348/.500, he would still be a very good hitting catcher.
Jansen’s overall numbers on both sides of the ball in 2021 were actually quite good. His overall wRC+ of 105 was 19th best among 80 MLB catchers with a minimum 50 plate appearances. His 6.4 DEF rating was 24th out of 103 catchers with a minimum 20 innings caught, and this number might have been higher if Jansen hadn’t been limited to 70 games played in 2021 due to two separate stints on the IL.
Jansen was top quartile on both offence and defence in 2021 as compared to his catching peers. Not someone the Jays should consider parting company with as some fans have suggested they should. He is someone they should keep as part of their future. At this point my biggest concern regarding Jansen’s future is his health. He had two IL stints in 2021 due to the same right hamstring injury. It’s reasonable to be concerned that this same injury could recur in subsequent seasons. If he can manage to stay healthy there is reason for considerable optimism regarding Danny Jansen’s future.
*Featured Image Courtesy Of DaveMe Images. Prints Available For Purchase.
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