Blue Jays: With a stabilized rotation, expect more from Danny Jansen

TORONTO, ON - JULY 04: Danny Jansen #9 of the Toronto Blue Jays hits his second home run of the game in the fourth inning during a MLB game against the Boston Red Sox at Rogers Centre on July 04, 2019 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON - JULY 04: Danny Jansen #9 of the Toronto Blue Jays hits his second home run of the game in the fourth inning during a MLB game against the Boston Red Sox at Rogers Centre on July 04, 2019 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images) /
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In his rookie season with the Blue Jays, Danny Jansen had to work with a revolving door of pitchers. That should change in 2020, and his offence will likely benefit.

The Blue Jays had several impact rookies make their MLB debut in 2019, and the likes of Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette, Cavan Biggio, and more mostly stole the spotlight. However, there were several more where that came from, and Danny Jansen‘s quiet contribution was among the best.

The 24-year-old made 107 starts last season, slashing just .207/.279/.360 over 347 at-bats, also chipping in 13 home runs, 12 doubles, and 43 RBI. It wasn’t the offensive contribution that Jansen or the team was hoping for, but it’s not out of the ordinary for a young catcher to struggle at the plate as opposed to behind it in the early part of their career.

For all of the training and preparation these players go through during their minor league climb, it’s a whole new world of information when they hit the big leagues. Scouting reports are more extensive than ever, and the demands on a catcher are different than at any other position on the diamond. It’s a lot of information to digest, and it’s a big responsibility that has to become the main focus.

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To complicate things even more for Jansen during his rookie season, the Blue Jays sent a carousel of pitchers for him to work with throughout 2019. According to baseballreference.com, the Blue Jays sent 38 different pitchers to the mound in 2019 (It was 39 if you include Luke Maile). For comparison sake, the Yankees used 32 in their injured-ravaged campaign, the Red Sox 27, and 29 from the World Series champion Nationals.

On top of that, the Blue Jays had 21 (!) different hurlers make at least one start, with only seven of them making at least 10 starts. Granted, several of those pitchers made their “starts” as “openers”, but even then Jansen would have to work with a “bulk guy” out of the bullpen to cover the innings. Again for comparison, the Nationals had just 10 starters in 2019, with two of them making just one appearance.

If the veteran additions of Hyun-Jin Ryu, Tanner Roark, Chase Anderson, and Matt Shoemaker (returning from injury) don’t drastically improve the pitching staff, they should benefit Jansen’s workload if nothing else. The young receiver will likely also have the added benefit of sharing the workload with Reese McGuire next season, and solid planning from the pitching staff could help both young catchers in that regard.

After earning a nomination for a Gold Glove award during his rookie campaign, Jansen has proven himself as a more than capable defender at the highest level. That should be enough to keep him around the big leagues for a while on it’s own, but in order to thrive it would be great to see him return to the type of hitter he showed he can be while playing in the minor leagues. After posting OBPs of .390 in Triple-A in 2018 and .400 across three levels in 2017, we know that Jansen can contribute with the bat.

With a greatly improved situation going into the 2020 season, I suspect that will allow Jansen to allocate his time and energy a little differently, and that could be a serious benefit. The Blue Jays don’t need him to be a middle-of-the-order threat, but if he can provide a boost from the bottom third and lengthen the lineup, that only makes the team more dangerous.

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Now that he has 138 MLB games under his belt between last season and his cameo in 2018, his offence was likely going to improve a bit with the experience he’s gained. With the potential for a reduced workload in the film room and with scouting reports, don’t be surprised if the Illinois native takes a big step on offence in 2020.

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