Toronto Blue Jays catcher Danny Jansen is coming off one of his best seasons in 2023, but injuries continued to be a thorn in his side. The veteran established career-highs with 17 home runs, 15 doubles, and 53 RBI. He put up those numbers despite missing the last month of the season with a fractured finger.
For weeks, it seemed like Jansen couldn’t get through an at-bat without getting hit on the hand with a pitch. That unfortunate part of the game caused the backstop to miss three weeks in late May. The frequency of getting plunked is due to the stance “Jano” opts for, which exposes his hands.
As has been the case throughout his career, Jansen was a streaky hitter last season. He was slow out of the gate, with just four hits (all singles) in his first 35 ABs, but then heated up with six homers and a .848 OPS over his next 23 games before the first IL stint.
When he returned on June 13, D.J. had a rough night with four strikeouts but rebounded to hit .289 (24-for-83) with eight home runs, five doubles, 13 runs scored, and a .990 OPS over his next 29 games. August saw the 28-year-old start strong with another homer, but then a cold stretch (2/21, 0 XBH) followed.
After all of the unfortunate luck with getting struck in the hand while at bat, it was positioned behind the plate that Jansen suffered a crushing blow. On the first of September, a foul ball fractured his middle digit and ended his season. It’s a shame because Danny was amid another hot streak, with eight hits in his last 24 at-bats.
The Blue Jays starting pitching core four of Kevin Gausman, Jose Berrios, Chris Bassitt, and Yusei Kikuchi were one of the best quartets in the majors in 2023, and Jansen and fellow backstop Alejandro Kirk deserve some credit for that. The ability to handle a staff and call an effective game is a catcher’s primary responsibility, and the now six-year veteran has excelled at those elements.
Jansen recorded two catcher-framing runs and a 47.7% strike rate, both middle-of-the-pack numbers in those categories. He did excel at the zone 14 framing ((left-middle corner) with a 69% strike rate, and also had a 53.7% in the high strike zone 12. D.J. provides a clear target for the pitcher without being too obvious about the call. He’ll need to work on framing for the upper-right and middle-right zones.
With the larger bases and limited pickoff attempts introduced into the MLB rulebook this past season, an increase in stolen bases was expected. Steals and stolen base percentages were up significantly across the majors, and like many catchers, Jansen saw a dip in his caught-stealing numbers, throwing out just eight of 60 base-runners (13%), the lowest of his career.
When the Jays traded away Gabriel Moreno to the Diamondbacks (insert groan here), they sent a clear message to Jansen and Kirk that they were the guys behind the plate. Most people expected Kirk to be the one to handle the brunt of the catching load, but he regressed while Danny continued to mash. He’ll be entering his final year of arbitration eligibility and will tie Russell Martin for second place on the team’s all-time home run list for catchers (66) with his next big fly.
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