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Blue Jays: 2021 will define Danny Jansen’s future in Toronto

Aug 23, 2020; St. Petersburg, Florida, USA; Toronto Blue Jays catcher Danny Jansen (9) bats during the fourth inning of a game against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Mary Holt-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 23, 2020; St. Petersburg, Florida, USA; Toronto Blue Jays catcher Danny Jansen (9) bats during the fourth inning of a game against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Mary Holt-USA TODAY Sports /
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Danny Jansen will likely be the Blue Jays regular catcher again in 2021, but this season will go a long way toward defining his future in Toronto.

That might be a bit of a strange thing to say about an emerging 25-year-old catcher who has received a Gold Glove award nomination, but it’s the reality of the situation in Toronto at the moment.

If he wants to control his own destiny, the main thing Jansen will need to do is find a way to contribute more offence. Not that he’ll need to be a major producer with so many talented hitters around him, but last season’s slash line of .183/.313/.358 over 120 at-bats isn’t going to cut it. It was a small sample size with just a 60-game season, but his career line isn’t much better at .208/.297/.370 over 548 at-bats.

He ended up as the primary catcher last season mostly because Reese McGuire was even worse at the plate, which eventually saw McGuire lose his spot on the MLB roster. However, I can’t help but wonder if the same wouldn’t have happened to Jansen if the season were a little longer. I’m confident he would have improved on his .183 batting average, but it might not have mattered with the emerging talent coming behind him.

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That starts with Alejandro Kirk, who has pushed his way into several of baseball’s Top 100 prospect lists after his successful 2020 season. Despite not having played above High-A prior to last year, Kirk impressed enough that he was brought to the big leagues to try and inject some offence into the position, and he did just that.  His sample size was even smaller, but the stocky backstop impressed by going 9-24 in his limited opportunity, good for a .375/.400/.583 slash line.

If not for the need to develop Kirk’s defence a little more, there’s a very good chance he’d get the first crack at the starting job with the Blue Jays this year. That could still happen, but my expectation is that he’ll begin the year in Buffalo, and really focus on honing his defensive chops. He’s still only 22 years old and has just160 professional games under his belt, but he’ll arrive sooner than later.

And if it’s not Alejandro Kirk coming for Jansen’s job, Gabriel Moreno might not be far behind. The 20-year-old joins Kirk among the Blue Jays top 10 prospects, and is expected to be MLB-ready by 2022. Personally, I half-expected the Jays to trade Moreno this winter since they have five catchers on their 40-man roster, but I’m happy to see he remains in the system. Moreno very much impressed during a short stint in the Venezuelan Winter League, hitting .373/.471/.508 across 18 games and 70 plate appearances, and he’ll likely start his season in Double-A, but I don’t think it’ll be long before he’s knocking on the door as well.

As for Jansen, right now he should be pretty much a lock for the most-days starting job behind the plate with the Blue Jays, and he’ll bring up the rear of the batting order. The most important part will be how he guides the pitching staff, something he did a good job of in 2020, but he’ll need to find a way to at least hit above the Mendoza line, and hopefully a lot better than that.

Next. Paxton was interested in playing for the Blue Jays. dark

Perhaps the pressure of the talented youngsters coming behind him will give him the push he needs, but if not, 2021 might be the last time he’s the projecting starting catcher to begin a new season.

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