Blue Jays: Why no Danny Jansen love?
By Jim Scott
Danny Jansen was recently named the Jays’ #4 prospect and #71 in the top 100 by Fangraphs. Why are people so surprised?
When Baseball America came out with their top 100 prospects for 2018 on January 22nd, Danny Jansen was nowhere to be seen. Ditto on mlb.com’s top 100 list – they rated Danny as the 8th best catching prospect. Ditto Keith Law’s ESPN list. Ditto Baseball Prospectus’ Top 101 list.
Then came the Fangraphs top 100 list, which ranked Danny as the Jays’ #4 prospect and #71 overall, surprising more than a few.
In writing about Jansen, fangraphs said:
"We’re buying that Jansen’s 2017, which included more walks than strikeouts across three levels of the minors, is a sign of real improvement, perhaps due to the new prescription frames he got before the season. He’s a fringe receiver with an above-average arm, which is fine, but he is difficult to strike out and should reach base plenty. He’s a near-ready everyday catcher."
They rated him as a 50/60 hit tool with 50 power and 45/50 fielding with a 55 arm (a 50 grade is major league average, so these ratings are impressive).
But why should this come as a surprise?
Toronto Blue Jays
Jansen earned a .323/.400/.484 batting line across 424 PAs in 2017. Not too shabby for a player at any position, but exceptional for a catcher. For reference, Francisco Mejia, Baseball America’s top-rated catching prospect, had a .297/.346/.490 line and finished second to Jansen in the Baseball America 2017 MiLB All-Star Team.
So let’s talk about that All-Star team.
The first-team All-Star 1B was Rhys Hoskins of Philly. Rhys did not qualify for the BA 2018 top 100, as he made 212 plate appearances for the Phils in 2017, earning a holy-cow-Batman 158 wRC+. The 2B was Bo Bichette (BA #8). 3B was Nick Senzel (BA #7) and Fernando Tatis Jr. (BA #9) was the SS. The outfielders were Ronald Acuna (BA #1), Austin Hays (BA #21), and Eloy Jiminez (BA #4). The DH was some guy named Vladimir Guerrero Jr (BA #3).
Are you seeing a pattern here?
Of the 9 first-team all-star position players, one made a spectacular mlb debut, six were rated in the top 10 of the BA 100, and one was rated 21st (still pretty darn good!). And then there was Danny – not even in the top 100, despite beating out Mejia (who was ranked #20).
Now, to be fair, I somewhat understand the apparent contradiction. The all-star team selection gives strong weight to the past season, so a player who explodes out of nowhere can still get an all-star nod. The BA100 rankings place greater weight on the reviewers’ judgement about the prospects’ future potential. And as fangraphs put it, “scouts’ opinions of Jansen were all over the map during the first few years of his career”. So it is reasonable that the lists could rank Danny below Mejia, who has a far better prospect pedigree, on the basis that Danny’s 2017 performance is not (in their eyes) sustainable.
But still – ranked only the 8th best catching prospect, and not even in the top 100?
The bottom line
I am admittedly a DanFan, and so might well be biased. But he was (and is) in the top 5 Blue Jays 2018 prospects on my list, and I agree with Minor League Ball that he is a prospect you need to know. I will even go out on a limb and predict that, of all the Jays’ prospects (yes, including Nate Pearson!) Danny will have the highest ratings jump in 2018 … that is, if he is not already in The Show by season’s end!