Blue Jays: Danny Jansen’s encouraging ‘quality of contact’ numbers

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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Danny Jansen may have struggled with the bat in his rookie season with the Blue Jays, but the numbers show he should see some improvement in 2020.

It’s pretty easy to forget how many talented first and second year players the Blue Jays have on their roster. That’ll happen when the list is headlined by the likes of Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette, Cavan Biggio, Lourdes Gurriel Jr., and more.

However, the Blue Jays certainly had a lot more where that came from in 2019, and one of the key pieces was their starting catcher, Danny Jansen. The 24-year-old played in 31 games after a late-season promotion in 2018, and after the Blue Jays traded Russell Martin last winter, Jansen was handed the keys to the starting catcher’s role last season.

As you may be aware, things went fairly well for the Illinois native, particularly on the defensive side of the ball. In fact, Jansen was impressive enough that he earned himself a nomination for the Gold Glove award last season, an honour that went to Roberto Perez of the Cleveland Indians. Still, just being nominated in your first full season is impressive, and Jansen looks like he’ll be a defensive asset for many years to come.

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His performance at the plate was a bit of a different story in 2019, as Jansen struggled to replicate the kind of offensive numbers he had put up while in the minor leagues. He finished the season by slashing .207/.279/.360 with 13 home runs and 43 RBI over 347 at-bats, and was generally pretty streaky as a hitter throughout the year. However, according to a deeper look at the numbers on Statcast, Jansen had “one of the largest gaps between his expected and actual numbers, based on quality of contact”.

Without getting into a long-winded explanation of how these stats work, Jansen’s “quality of contact” last year was better than his final numbers would tell you. Statcast uses measurements like xBA, which stands for “expected Batting Average”. According to Jansen’s quality of contact, his slash line should have looked more like .247/.314/.418, which is a pretty significant improvement.

With that in mind, Statcast’s projections systems like Jansen’s potential in 2020 as well, even if he’ll likely be doing some job sharing with Reese McGuire this year. They have Jansen projected for a slash line of .249/.326/.431, and if you combine that output with what he did defensively last season, Jansen could quickly become one of the more valuable two-way catchers in baseball.

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When you consider that Jansen also had to deal with a carousel of pitchers last season, all while adjusting to his first full season in the big leagues, it’s no wonder that his offensive numbers suffered a bit. However, with a deeper look, Jansen hit the ball better than what it looks like, and with some improved luck and continued development, the 2020 campaign could be a big year.

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