Is Hagen Danner the Blue Jays closer of the future?
While there have been some early season hiccups from the backend of the Blue Jays bullpen, Jordan Romano's job as closer is one of the safest in the relief corps. His 68 saves since 2021, including nine already this year, have earned him good job security.
Despite Romano's impeccable run as one of the league's top closers, part of the front office's job is constantly looking to the future and trying to map out potential paths to guarantee the franchise's continued success.
So who might be in line to take over a future opening as Toronto's closer?
Familiar names that might get bandied about include some current Blue Jays relievers. Think newcomer Erik Swanson or former No. 1 prospect Nate Pearson. Looking further ahead, there's a chance the team could groom a youngster in the minor leagues to fill the role.
Enter Hagen Danner, the 24-year-old catcher-turned-pitcher, who MLB.com names as a potential future closer for the Blue Jays.
After moving from behind the plate to the mound, Danner emerged as a shutdown reliever in 2021 in High-A with the Vancouver Canadians. He racked up 42 strikeouts with a 2.02 ERA and 0.93 WHIP in 25 appearances.
The talented right-hander throws a fastball that gets into the high-90s (he hit 97 mph this spring). His secondaries are an above-average slider which he classifies as a slutter (slider-cutter), and a solid 12-to-6 curveball.
After missing most of 2022 with an elbow issue, he was healthy enough to pitch in the Arizona Fall League and showed off his swing-and-miss stuff with eight strikeouts in 7 2/3 innings against some of the best minor league players. He then dealt with forearm inflammation this spring and just made his Double-A season debut with the New Hampshire Fisher Cats.
His MLB Pipeline scouting report points out that while Danner's pro experience as a pitcher is limited, his experience as a catcher makes him far more advanced than his 41 1/3 innings would suggest.
As for when we could see Danner in the majors, he's already on the Blue Jays' 40-man roster, and the club protected him from the Rule 5 draft, obviously not wanting to take a chance on any other teams "recognizing his potential and polish."
While there's no indication that he's in line for a promotion, even to Triple-A, with only three innings so far this season, the possibility remains that he impresses in the New Hampshire bullpen and gets the bump to Buffalo before too long.
MLB Pipeline thinks there's a chance Danner could make his major league debut this season. Even if that happens, he won't be threatening Romano's job any time soon, but it could give Jays fans an up-close look at their future closer.