Drafted in the second round by the Toronto Blue Jays in 2017, Hagen Danner failed to live up to expectations in his few months of professional baseball. Still, his performance and versatility lands him 15th on our top Blue Jay prospect list.
For Hagen Danner, versatility is his selling point. As a catcher and pitcher in high school before being drafted by the Blue Jays, Danner received praise for his talent at both positions, but was drafted as a catcher.
His experience at both positions gives him a unique defensive insight that sets him apart from other catchers, and raised his speculated value at the time of the draft, although he was selected some 20 picks lower than MLB Pipeline had predicted.
Position: C Age: 19
Height: 6’2 Weight: 185 lbs
Throws: Right Bats: Right
Acquired: 2nd round pick, 2017 MLB draft
Danner played just 34 games in organized baseball in 2017 with the Bluefield Blue Jays, batting just .160 with an on-base percentage of .207. Still, despite his offensive struggles, the defense and experience as a pitcher that set Danner apart rang true in 2017. Little, if any, stock should be put into Danner’s 2017 numbers.
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“[Danner] received positive reviews for arm strength and his ability to receive the ball,” Ryan Mueller of JaysFromTheCouch wrote a few weeks ago. “While he still needs to work on his footwork/blocking and game calling (which catcher doesn’t at 19-yrs-old), Danner currently grades out as above average for his work behind the plate.”
Given the short amount of playing time for Danner in 2017, it doesn’t seem like much has changed in his scouting report since the time he was drafted. Baseball America, which correctly predicted Danner would be drafted 61st overall, gave the catcher a similar report. Danner, since being drafted in June of 2017, has had little time to focus on a single position. If given time to fully focus on his offensive tools, he could improve greatly and pan out as a strong prospect for the Blue Jays.
Not everyone was so high on Danner. Keith Law, prior to Danner’s drafting, wrote, “Danner is a bat-first catcher who almost certainly moves off the position in pro ball.”
At the time of the draft, teams were skeptical about whether he would sign with the team that drafted him. Committed to UCLA, Danner called the institution his “dream school,” but quickly signed with the Blue Jays after being drafted.
While more advanced and highly-touted prospects in the Blue Jays’ organization may block Danner in the coming years, his focus now should be on what he can impact: his offense. Danner’s strong defensive background should carry him far, but without the offense to support him, it seems unlikely that he’ll become a mainstay at the major league level.
In 2018, the first full season of organized baseball for Danner, the key is to develop offensively and put up the numbers that he was expected to in 2017. At the same time, he can rely on his strong defensive ability and slugging bat to climb in the coming years. Danner is a strong prospect with clear upside but has looming negatives that should be addressed in 2018.