Blue Jays catching prospect Danny Jansen rebounded from a tough 2016 season with a strong showing in the Arizona Fall League
The Blue Jays, like many teams across the league, are relatively thin when it comes to natural catchers in their pool of legitimate prospects.
Reese McGuire’s arrival in 2016 changed that, of course, and we still await to see what the future holds for Max Pentecost positionally. Beyond that, Danny Jansen is on the next tier but has been slowed by injuries since being drafted in 2013.
Jansen, now 21, broke a bone in his left hand in May of 2015, causing him to miss over two months. In 2016, he broke another bone in that same hand and missed two-plus months again.
Name: Danny Jansen
Position: C Age: 21
Height: 6’2” Age: 225 lbs.
Throws: Right Bats: Right
Acquired: 2013 MLB Draft (Round 16)
The 2014 season gave Jansen’s prospect stock a jolt — one that it is still riding in some senses — as he posted an OPS of .872 over 38 games in Bluefield.
He’s appeared in 53 and 57 games over the past two seasons, giving him 184 for his minor-league career, so much of Jansen’s stock relies on upside as opposed to established results.
Jansen’s .218 average and .585 OPS in 2016 both need work, and the hope is that a combination of reps and health will supply that. He looked much better with the Mesa Solar Sox this fall, who won the Arizona Fall League. Jansen appeared in 20 games, hitting .282 with 11 RBI and a pair of triples.
The biggest tool working in Jansen’s favour is that he’s a catcher who should stick at the position long term. He has the build necessary at 6-foot-2, 225 pounds, and will be behind the plate every day as he develops.
Another factor benefitting Jansen is that, frankly, the bar is not high for catchers offensively. Jansen’s overall long-term game profiles as being solid in all areas with no glaring weakness or overwhelming strength. In centre field or at shortstop, that may not fly. At catcher, that can be a quick ticket to a backup job in the MLB, or at least a long career on the fringes in the upper minors.
I expect Jansen’s numbers to climb this season, so with a contact-focused swing and quality hitter’s eye, his offensive value could stabilize.
For his career, Jansen has 96 strikeouts compared to 81 walks, though that ratio did widen in his difficult 2016. Maintaining a high walk rate and low strikeout rate will be critical for him if his power stroke does not develop (though, given his strength, it should).
Looking to 2017, Jansen is a candidate to return to high-A Dunedin. He was younger than the league average last season, so a second look at that league’s pitching should benefit his development.
If Jansen can push 100 games with an OPS closer to (or above) .650 while keeping his defence tidy, the Blue Jays will be pleased and his stock will stay true. A full season will also provide a better sample size for his splits (especially in terms of slugging percentage), which could be a key for him moving forward.