Blue Jays: Has Danny Jansen lost the starting catcher’s gig?
The Blue Jays have shown a lot of faith in Danny Jansen to turn things around, but lately it seems like Charlie Montoyo is looking in a new direction again.
We can hardly blame the skipper if that’s the case, as Jansen has had a horrific first third of the 2021 campaign. Over his first 41 games covering 107 at-bats the backstop is hitting just .150/.242/.262 with three home runs, three doubles, and only eight RBI. Quite frankly, his spot in the batting order has been a black hole thus far.
It looked like Jansen might be losing his grip on his starting job back at the end of April when Alejandro Kirk started to get a more regular opportunity. Fortunately for Jansen’s sake, Kirk being sent to the 60-day Injured List opened up another opportunity as the undisputed starter, but he just hasn’t been able to take advantage.
In addition to his offensive struggles, Jansen hasn’t been bringing the same type of defensive value to the field either. He has posted a dWAR of 0.4 so far according to Baseball Reference, but he’s really struggled with keeping baserunners accountable this season. So far Jansen is just 2-19 trying to gun down would-be base stealers, good for just an 11% rate. For a guy that’s bringing virtually nothing with the bat, that’s just not going to fly.
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With Kirk still on the IL it looks like Montoyo has grown tired of waiting for Jansen’s bat to come around. With that in mind, we’re seeing an unlikely reemergence from Reese McGuire lately. He hasn’t been setting the world on fire with his performance either, but the bar is pretty low at the moment and so far McGuire has offered an improvement on what we’ve seen from the catching position.
After getting the start on Saturday afternoon, his third over the last four games, McGuire’s 1-4 effort at the plate pushes his slash line to .231/.286/.256 over his first 39 at-bats. Again, that’s pretty low-end offensive production, but we’re also talking about a 76 point improvement on Jansen’s batting average.
Arguably more important is that McGuire has done a better job on the defensive end, which is a bit of a surprise. You can see that the pitching staff is growing more comfortable with him as he gets back into the big league fold, and he started Saturday’s game having thrown out 3-8 potential base stealers as well, which is a big improvement over Jansen even if the sample size is small.
The more I watch the Blue Jays this season, the more I think it’ll make sense to acquire a veteran catcher this summer as long as they’re still chasing a postseason spot. It won’t have to be a long-term solution by any means, but at the moment it’s pretty difficult to argue in favour of the in-house options being good enough. It’s possible that Kirk could take that role when he eventually makes a healthy return, but that’s also a lot to ask from a relatively inexperienced big leaguer who is still just 22 years old. I’m confident that one of Kirk or the uber talented Gabriel Moreno is the long-term solution, but the Jays may need an upgrade for 2021.
There’s still time for things to change, but now that it seems like Jansen has maybe lost the starting job to a second back-up over the first 56 games, it’s probably time to start thinking about addressing the situation.