After a brief 30 game “cup of coffee” in the major-leagues, many including myself were thinking that Danny Jansen would eventually come up, compete, and ultimately take over the starting Catcher job for what was and still is a young Toronto Blue Jays team. For the time being that has come to fruition as Jansen has taken over the primary catching role for the Blue Jays over the past two seasons. Despite this being his fourth year in the league, there have been many bumps in the road. But in reality Jansen has just over 600 career major league plate appearances (626) to his name and has appeared in only 181 career games. Jansen carries a lackluster .208/.297/.370 slash-line thus far with a 9.7% career walk rate that reached a career high this past season of 14.3%, and a very respectable 20.8% career strikeout rate through his short time in the Majors.
As mentioned previously, Jansen’s major league career thus far hasn’t necessarily been up to the standards that many had set for him. Now with Alejandro Kirk entering the Catcher mix and questions about Jansen’s struggles at the plate in 2019/2020, the future outlook on the Jays starting Catcher position gets a little murky. Even with the struggles, Jansen is managing to show glimpses of what management and we as fans want to see from a starting catcher and this article will go through some of what makes Jansen an interesting placeholder at the Catching position.
In Jansen’s late-season debut in 2018, He would show off the tools that got him to the majors, ending the season with a .247/.347/.432 slash-line and a 115 wRC+ through a small sample of 95 at-bats. Jansen has never been a power hitter in his career, through the minor leagues his career high in home runs came in his 2018 breakout season where he hit 12 in 360 PA’s at AAA. You are more likely to see gap power from Jansen rather than seeing him blow up stat-cast.
|Hard Hit %
Jansen was poised at having a breakout season coming into 2020 given the progressions he had made, which included good hard contact in the 2019 season despite the lackluster slash-line. But unfortunately, things wouldn’t go as planned and Jansen would end up taking a dip all across the board. Jansen’s inability to make hard contact/meaningful contact is easy to see when you look deeper (see chart below)
2020 was the end result for what is basically the absolute worst-case scenario for a hitter like Jansen. One of the small victories was increasing his line-drive % up to 24.7% compared to 20.4% the previous year, and Jansen would also decrease his ground ball rate from 38.7% down to 36%. Catching is a premium position that values defense over hitting, but any improvement is a good sign for his development.
Jansen has what i am going to call a “happy zone” when the ball leaves his bat. (see image below)
As mentioned previously, Jansen is a hitter that finds greater success when his launch angle is in the giant red zone which is the 10-35 degree launch angle range. But the final obstacle remains, is he going to pull the ball more? (see chart below)
in 2020 when Danny Jansen made contact to his pull/middle side, he had a .375 batting average and a .513 wOBA. When he hit the ball to the opposite side of the field that batting average would creep down to .140 with a .127 wOBA. Jansen’s batted ball profile was poor, but he made up for his losses swinging the bat with his ability to get on base via the walk.
Jansen’s career-high walk rate would rank in the 88th percentile in 2020 (14.3%). This past year Jansen took a major step forward with his chase % dropping from 25.3% in 2019 to 19.9% this past season, shortened by the global pandemic.
August does not care.
The month of August was a very bad month for Danny Jansen.
Danny Jansen’s slash-line if you ignore the month of August looks like this:
.229/.351/.451 with a 122 wRC+
Now the point of this article isn’t to say Danny Jansen is the next best thing at catcher, Jansen has a very good possibility of being considered an above-average catcher that can contribute on both ends. His cannon of an arm coupled with good athleticism behind the plate is an asset, even with stolen base rates down across the board. Jansen will have to fight off Kirk/McGuire for right now and given how well Kirk performed in his small rookie sample in 2020, even if his defense is average, one could see the Jays leaning Kirk if Jansen doesn’t put the ball to the bat more often. Many scouts compare Kirk to a more offensive Dioner Navarro, and it isn’t difficult to see why with his sneakily athletic short stature. Something especially important will be on the defensive side of the ball for Jansen who had a +12 DRS in 2019, but that number fell down to -4 in 2020. Considering how the Jays tend to split the playing time between catchers, Jansen might not be able to find a consistent rhythm if he doesn’t get it going by mid-season.