The 2020 Toronto Blue Jays Minor League Handbook is now available! Visit our Handbook home page for more information!
Now is a great time to subscribe to the Blue Jays from Away Premium Content Section!
We continue our look at the 2020 Blue Jays by examining one of the Jays’ young catchers: Danny Jansen.
Jansen was originally a 16th-round draft pick out of high school in Appleton, Wisconsin back in 2013. Scouts liked Jansen’s bat-to-ball skills but he was considered a longer-term project, mostly due to the fact that he had come from a northern climate which limits the amount of baseball he was able to play through his high school years.
Jansen’s early minor-league career was dogged by injuries, starting in his second year in 2014 when he injured his knee as a member of the Bluefield Blue Jays. In 2015 (with Lansing) and 2016 (with Dunedin), he played a maximum of 57 games and his offensive output was limited by injuries and lack of playing time.
Jansen really started to blossom in 2017, however, and his bat started to take off as he hit .323/.400/.484 at three levels, starting at Dunedin and finishing with 21 games in Buffalo.
In 2018, Jansen spent most of the year in Buffalo, playing 88 games and hitting a solid .275/.390/.473 with 12 home runs and 21 doubles before he was called up to The Show and made his major league debut on August 13. He played in 31 games for Toronto, hitting .247/.347/.432 with six doubles and three home runs in 95 plate appearances, striking out only 17 times, holding his own against big league pitching.
Jansen played regularly in 2019 as one of the Jays’ primary catchers, playing in 107 games but his offense dropped off and he hit just .207/.279/.360 with 12 doubles, a triple and 13 home runs (coming in at an OPS+ of 70 — basically, Jansen produced offense at a rate 30% below the average big leaguer). Despite the weak hitting, his defense took a big step and he was able to accrue 1.1 WAR (according to Baseball Reference).
Jansen came into 2020 with the starting catcher job pretty much sewn up, and the Jays were looking to have him and another catching prospect, Reese McGuire, splitting the playing time. In spring training, Jansen looked incredible, hitting .500/.565/1.200 with four home runs in just nine games before things were shut down.
When the season started again, Jansen had cooled considerably and he hit just .155/.307/.268 through the first month and a bit of the season. But as the season wore on, he found his stride a bit more, posting a .224/.321/.490 slash line over the last month of the season (18 games) with four of his six home runs coming over that span. Overall, while Jansen hit for just a .183 batting average, his .313 OBP and .358 SLG were much better with the OBP improving on his 2019 numbers considerably. That was good for an 85 OPS+ (now he was just 15% worse than the average big leaguer in terms of offensive production) and he had a WAR of 0.6 (according to Baseball Reference, 0.4 according to Fangraphs) over 43 games.
Jansen did have a huge Game 2 in the wildcard series against Tampa Bay, hitting two solo home runs and accounting for all of the Blue Jays’ runs in that game, giving us some hope for his production in the future.
That said, some of the advanced metrics give us pause. His exit velocity was very poor in 2020 as it dipped to 85.1 mph on average, sitting in the fifth percentile in the league. He also was in just the 31st percentile when it came to the percentage of his balls that were considered hard-hit. On the bright side, he was above average in barrel percentage (55th percentile), whiff percentage (56th percentile) and was near the top of the league in walk rate (88th percentile) although his pitch framing was seen as being in just the 26th percentile.
The Blue Jays have some interesting decisions to make around their caching situation for 2021. While the Jays are not really considered major players for free agent J.T. Realmuto, they could make a splash on a catcher the way they did with Russell Martin several years ago. They also have growing depth at the position with Alejandro Kirk making his big league debut in 2020 and with Gabriel Moreno being added to the club’s 40-man roster in November and making a some noise at the Alternate Training Site last season.
The big question for Jansen is whether he can make an impact in 2021, otherwise, he could be overtaken or even traded.
If you like us here, like us on Facebook!
All photos are copyright Blue Jays from Away (2013-2020) and may not be used without permission.