Blue Jays catching prospect Danny Jansen offers an enticing combination of power and plate discipline from a capable defensive catcher, but injuries and struggles in his 2015 season leave a number of questions going into 2016.
Hon. Mentions Part 1 Hon. Mentions Part 2 #30: Freddy Rodriguez
#29: Evan Smith #28: Deiferson Barreto #27: Chad Girodo
#26: Roemon Fields #25: Rodrigo Orozco #24: Reggie Pruitt
#23: Joe Biagini #22: Carl Wise #21: Tom Robson#20 Matt Dean
#19: Andy Burns #18: Guadalupe Chavez #17: Ryan Borucki #16: Jose Espada
The right-handed hitting Jansen was drafted out of high school in the 16th round of the 2013 MLB draft, and his minor league career to date offers more potential than results. This shouldn’t come as a big surprise, as the majority of high school draftees, especially one’s destined to stay in the catcher role long-term, often have an adjustment period to pro-ball, especially once they graduate from rookie baseball.
However, Jansen offers a unique ability as a catcher to hit for power and control the strike zone much better than his peers and the typical 20-year-old prospect. All while having the ability to provide solid defense behind the plate. First-and-foremost, he needs to stay on the field; if he can manage that, he could have a chance to move himself much higher on prospect lists during the 2016 season.
Name: Danny Jansen
Position: C Age: 20
Height: 6’3 Weight: 230 lbs.
Throws: Right Bats: Right
Acquired: 16th Round – 2013 MLB Draft
Jansen spent his 2014 season with Bluefield in the Appalachian League, and he saw success, albeit over a small sample size. Through 124 AB’s, Jansen put up a slash line of .282/.390/.484/.874 with 5 HR and an impressive 16:17 BB:K ratio. Of course, you can’t put too much worth into 124 AB’s of rookie ball, but as I mentioned previously, the success points to some potential.
His .411 wOBA and 153 wRC+ were fantastic and his .201 ISO showed the power was for real. That success led to some sneaky hype heading into the 2015 season, and he was labelled as a guy who could have a big year if he could get full time AB’s above rookie ball.
His 2015 saw him often injured, which caused him to miss a number of games in the middle of the season, inhibiting our ability to see a full season of AB’s from the young man, and along with those injuries came the struggles.
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He started the year in Lansing, and was given the opportunity to succeed. He got off to a terrible start, slashing .156/.310/.267/.577 in April, despite a 10:6 BB:K ratio. His May was much better at .243/.303/.443/.745, and he caught fire right before he went down with injury. Between May 12th and May 27th, he went 14/44 (.318) with 2 HR, 13 RBI and a 3:6 BB:K ratio. It looked like he was starting to turn a corner and adjust to the pitching in Lansing, then he got injured and didn’t return until August 10th.
After returning, he went to Bluefield, hit the ball well, then struggled again down the stretch with Lansing. Overall, it was a year of underwhelming numbers. But there are some positives to take out of this. His first season of baseball above rookie league saw him produce a solid 10.3 BB% and 12.0 K%. He was dragged down by a .213 BABIP (he doesn’t look to be a high BABIP guy though – very pull happy and lots of balls in the air), and the mid-hotstreak injury derailed his season.
Among the positives, there are some concerns. He’s entering his age 21 season, so there’s no reason to believe he can’t make the necessary adjustments.
(2014 Spray Chart – Danny Jansen – Acquired from MLBfarm.com)
(2015 Spray Chart – Danny Jansen – Acquired from MLBfarm.com)
Clearly, there are some issues here with regards to his pull tendencies. Virtually all his power is to left field, and he only had two singles in 2015 that reached the outfield that were to the right side of second base. This will make his susceptible to shifts, and pull-heavy hitters tend to be prone to striking out more. He hasn’t had strikeout problems as of yet, as he’s largely known as a tough player to strike out, but that could change without an approach adjustment, especially with the talent and smarts improving as he moves up.
(2015 Batted Ball Breakdown – Danny Jansen – Acquired from MLBfarm.com)
He put a total of 154 balls in play in 2015, and only 13 of them were categorized as line-drives. That’s a staggeringly low 8% LD rate, and is undoubtedly correlated to his extremely low BABIP. Further extending this issue, is his tendency to put the ball in the air in the infield. Infield pop-up’s are outs nearly 100% of the time, and can do damage to a hitter’s overall numbers. It’s a small sample of batted ball data, but there’s no questioning that this needs to improve.
On the defensive side of the ball, the majority of reports are good, and he’s largely believed to stick behind the plate. His CS% has been a solid 29% each of the last two years, and his arm strength is considered a strength.
For 20-year-old prospects, the good will always come with some bad (well, most of the time), and that’s definitely the case with Jansen. However, he’s going to be one of my favourite prospects to track this year because of his unique ability and potential.
I’d assume he’ll be heading back to Low-A Lansing, and if he hits the ball well, he could be lined up for a mid-season promotion to High-A Dunedin, which would put him in a terrific spot heading into 2017. Barring injury, I look at him as one of the guys on this top-30 list who could be much higher this time next year.