Blue Jays: What Danny Jansen has to do to keep the starting job
With Alejandro Kirk coming on strong for the Blue Jays, there are a few things that Danny Jansen will need to do to keep his starting job in 2021.
The most obvious answer is that he’ll need to contribute a little more on offence, and that would be a fair statement. The soon to be 26 year old hasn’t done much as a big league hitter, slashing .208/.297/.370 over his first 548 at-bats, covering parts of three seasons. Last season in particular was a rough performance with a bat in his hands, as he finished with a .183 average over 43 games and 120 at-bats.
However, once again offence shouldn’t and likely won’t be Jansen’s main focus. As the receiver tasked with guiding a pitching staff that has a ton of question marks, the Illinois native will likely focus on what he does best behind the plate. He’s proven to be an above-average defender already in his young career, earning a past Gold Glove nomination and posting a dWAR mark of 1.4 in 2019 during the last full season.
That focus on defence will be important for a few different reasons. First, and as I’ve already alluded to, the Jays have plenty of questions to answer about their pitching staff, both with the starting rotation and the bullpen. There is a lot of depth to draw from and plenty of raw talent, but even as an optimist I’ll concede that there are potential issues, especially after a Spring Training that saw them lose Kirby Yates for the year, and others like Nate Pearson, Robbie Ray, and Thomas Hatch deal with injuries as well.
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Regardless of if they’re all healthy or not, Jansen will have to guide his pitching staff against some of the toughest lineups in baseball in the AL East. His experience with that job will likely prove to be a tremendous asset, especially working with younger arms like Pearson, Hatch, or Anthony Kay, among others. I know Kirk has received positive reports for his defensive work throughout spring training, but that’s a tall order to ask of a 22 year old rookie who hadn’t played above A-ball until last year.
If it were strictly about offensive contributions, Kirk would have a sizeable lead over the incumbent starter. However, we’ve seen in the past that the Blue Jays didn’t need offence from all nine spots in the batting order, as Pat Borders brought a .287 OBP to the table during their championship seasons in 1992 and 1993. Like the current Blue Jays lineup, those championship teams were incredibly dangerous throughout the rest of the lineup, so it wasn’t the end of the world if the 9-hole hitter wasn’t a premium hitter.
With the likes of George Springer, Bo Bichette, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Teoscar Hernandez, Marcus Semien, Cavan Biggio, Lourdes Gurriel Jr., Rowdy Tellez, and Randal Grichuk hitting ahead of him, how much offence will the Jays really need from the catching position?
In my mind, if Jansen can bring his average closer to the .247 mark he had during his first 31-game big league stint, that should be more than enough to continue making the majority of the starts as the catcher. With everything else he brings to the table, the Blue Jays would be wise to keep Jansen as the main man behind the plate.