Going Deep: Danny Jansen Should Be On Your Radar

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The catcher position is one of the most demanding and important in baseball. The catcher is involved in every play defensively, catching the ball effectively to help their pitcher secure strike calls and helping call the game among many other duties. Offensively though, there is a low bar for catchers as often defensive value takes priority. The average line for a major league catcher this year is .229/.304/.373 with an 8.2% walk rate and 24% strikeout rate which is worth an 85 wRC+. Applying that to fantasy baseball, that line isn’t very fantasy relevant so I decided to take the average batting lines of the top 15 catchers in terms of wRC+ this season and it resulted in a line of .262/.334/.460 with an 8.4% walk rate, 21.6% strikeout rate, and a 117 wRC+. That line roughly represents what would be the 7 or 8th best hitting catcher this year and is the line of a quality starting level catcher in pretty well every fantasy baseball league. Is there a catcher in the minors that is close to the majors that can perhaps produce a line that matches or exceeds that? Most people will point to Francisco Mejia of the Cleveland Indians or Zack Collins of the Chicago White Sox or Keibert Ruiz of the Los Angeles Dodgers, but what about Danny Jansen of the Toronto Blue Jays?

Danny Jansen has quietly been one of the best hitting catching prospects for over a year now after correcting his vision by getting prescription glasses/goggles. Last year between 3 levels (A+, AA, and AAA) produced a .323/.400/.484 line with 10 HRs and a SB while walking more than he struck out, and that was worth a 150 wRC+. That batting line is notably better than top catching prospects such as Chance Sisco, Carson Kelly, Zack Collins, and even the consensus top catching prospect at the beginning of this season, Francisco Mejia, who put up a .297/.346/.490 line at AA with a 6.3% walk rate and 13.8% strikeout rate (9% swinging-strike rate) that was worth a 127 wRC+. Perhaps the most impressive part of last season’s success at the plate for Jansen was that he managed a super impressive 3.3% swinging-strike rate over the course of the season last year (3.1% at AAA). For reference, that 3.3% mark ranked 2nd best in the entire minors among those with at least 200 PAs and the best mark in the majors last year was Brett Gardner at 3.9%.

Jansen has continued his strong play at the plate this year at AAA Buffalo where he is currently hitting .303/.414/.478 with 4 HRs and 4 SBs while walking at a 12.5% rate and striking out at 13% clip. His current .401 wOBA and 156 wRC+ are both tops in the International League among qualified hitters to date. He’s also continued to show elite contact skills with just a 4.3% swinging strike rate (MLB average this year is 10.7%) which gives him a higher floor in terms of projecting his contact profile to the majors. These would be solid numbers for a top 1B or corner Outfield prospect let alone a catcher and that’s what has me excited about him going forward.

Now that we have established that he’s been performing really well both in 2017 and now 2018, let’s take a look at how his numbers compare to some of the best current hitting catchers in the major leagues today:

* Note that the MLB lines are career averages to date and that all minor league lines are from the player’s age 23 season unless otherwise noted.

Name PAs AVG OBP SLG BB% K% SwStr% wOBA wRC+
Buster Posey MLB .308 .376 .472 9.5 12 6.1 .364 134
Buster Posey AAA 208 .349 .442 .552 13.5 14.4 7.1 .431 156
Danny Jansen AAA 216 .303 .414 .478 12.5 13 4.3 .401 156

Posey has been one of the very best hitting catchers since his first extended stretch in the majors which came in 2010 and has routinely been among the top catching options in fantasy baseball throughout his career. Interestingly, Jansen compares favorably in a few metrics including walk and strikeout rates and actually ties Posey in wRC+ despite the lesser batting line as Posey gets knocked down for playing in the Pacific Coast League. Posey notably hit for more power than Jansen at AAA (Posey posted a .203 ISO and had a 55 power grade as a prospect compared to Jansen’s current .174 ISO and 45 power grade) but Jansen has notably shown better contact skills, notably in terms of swinging-strike rate. Jansen also notably outperformed Posey in their age 22 seasons at A+:

Jansen: 136 PAs, 5.9% BB rate, 10.3% K rate, 3.5% SwStr rate, .369 AVG, .172 ISO, .442 wOBA, 184 wRC+
Posey: 346 PAs, 13% BB rate, 13% K rate, 16.7% SwStr rate, .326 AVG, .213 ISO, .428 wOBA, 157 wRC+

Yes, Jansen’s performance at Advanced-A came in a smaller sample, but he clearly has shown better contact skills at the same age and levels as Posey while being fairly close in power. Considering that Posey has been among the very best catching options in fantasy baseball, this sort of comparable has me excited at the prospect of Jansen going forward. Let’s take a look at some more!

Name PAs AVG OBP SLG BB% K% SwStr% wOBA wRC+
J.T. Realmuto MLB .282 .327 .439 5.4 17.4 8.3 .328 108
J.T. Realmuto AA (2014) 423 .299 .369 .461 9.7 13.9 8.4 .374 132
Danny Jansen AAA 216 .303 .414 .478 12.5 13 4.3 .401 156

Realmuto at the same age was playing at a level below, both literally and statistically as Realmuto was in AA and his numbers across the board do not compare with what Jansen is doing in AAA. Realmuto is interesting though because he’s perhaps the closest in terms of power profile to Jansen as they are within 17 points in terms of slugging% and 11 points in terms of ISO. Jansen’s 45 power grade also compares closely to Realmuto’s 40 power grade as a prospect. Jansen has shown much better contact skills with a swinging-strike rate of nearly half of Realmuto while playing at a higher level, and that likely indicates a higher batting average floor and ceiling for Jansen as a pro. In traditional scoring fantasy baseball formats, Jansen might end up being a fairly similar player to current Realmuto minus the double-digit SB upside.

Name PAs AVG OBP SLG BB% K% SwStr% wOBA wRC+
Gary Sanchez MLB .262 .339 .535 9.3 23.8 12.5 .367 131
Gary Sanchez AAA (2016) 313 .282 .339 .468 6.7 14.4 9 .361 131
Danny Jansen AAA 216 .303 .414 .478 12.5 13 4.3 .401 156

Sanchez was the top catcher in fantasy baseball drafts this year according to ADP, and despite a disappointing 2018 season to date, he is still considered among the top catching options in fantasy baseball now and going forward. At the same age and level, Jansen has clearly been the better performer though across the board as he has walked more, struck out less, and had a higher slugging%. Now, Sanchez as a prospect was known as a future big power bat (60-grade power as a prospect) which is how he is recognized/valued as today, but his power didn’t fully show itself until he reached the majors. That sort of HR power is not a part of Jansen’s game and so the slugging% lead that Jansen has on Sanchez at the same age and level should not be expected to continue. Still, it’s an interesting comparison and I could see both of these players being discussed among the top C options in fantasy baseball in the future.

Name PAs AVG OBP SLG BB% K% SwStr% wOBA wRC+
Yasmani Grandal MLB .240 .339 .438 12.7 23.8 9.8 .338 115
Yasmani Grandal AAA (2012) 235 .335 .443 .521 15.7 14.9 8.3 .421 151
Danny Jansen AAA 216 .303 .414 .478 12.5 13 4.3 .401 156

Grandal is interesting because he had a ton of success at the plate as a minor leaguer, but hasn’t quite been able to bring his high batting averages to the majors despite strong contact skills including above-average swinging-strike rates. Grandal out-performed Jansen at the same age and level in terms of traditional batting line, but similarly to Buster Posey above, wRC+ knocks him down for playing the Pacific Coast League. Grandal walked more than Jansen has this year in AAA, and that has largely been a strength of his in the majors and perhaps it will be for Jansen too? Grandal’s .186 ISO in the Pacific Coast League also likely compares similarly to Jansen’s .174 in the Eastern League but Grandal received above-average raw power grades as a prospect that has shown up the last 2+ years. The swinging-strike rates again are not close and that suggests that Jansen’s batting average floor and ceiling is above what Grandal has done as a major leaguer.

Name PAs AVG OBP SLG BB% K% SwStr% wOBA wRC+
Willson Contreras MLB .278 .359 .482 10 21.9 12.8 .360 123
Willson Contreras AA (2015) 521 .333 .413 .478 10.9 11.9 8.6 .413 156
Danny Jansen AAA 216 .303 .414 .478 12.5 13 4.3 .401 156

Contreras has a somewhat similar story to Jansen as a late breakout C prospect, going from an outside the top-20 on his team prospect in 2014 after posted a 97 wRC+ as a 22-year-old at A+, to a 23-year-old that posted a 156 wRC+ in AA as a catcher and ranked 10th best in his organization among prospects in 2015. Interestingly, Contreras posted a very similar batting line in AA to Jansen’s at AAA to date, ultimately posting the exact same wRC+. Jansen has notably walked more and struck out less while posting a swinging-strike rate that is half of Contreras, all while playing at a higher level. Overall I think Jansen could have a similar type of batting profile to Contreras, except with a higher contact and batting average floor.

Name PAs AVG OBP SLG BB% K% SwStr% wOBA wRC+
Francisco Cervelli MLB .274 .361 .386 10.2 18.5 7.8 .332 107
Francisco Cervelli AAA (2012 at 26 years old) 417 .246 .341 .316 9.4 19.7 8 .309 89
Danny Jansen AAA 216 .303 .414 .478 12.5 13 4.3 .401 156

Cervelli did play at the AAA level as a 23-year-old, but the sample size wasn’t ideal so I decided to compare his AAA season as a 26-year-old. Even at an advanced age and with MLB experience under his belt at the time, Cervelli’s numbers don’t compare to what Jansen is doing this year at the same level. I included Cervelli in this comparison because he combines the high walk rate and strong contact skills that Jansen is known for, plus Cervelli is showing some power this year and ranks 2nd among catchers with at least 110 PAs in wRC+. The underlying metrics are what is important in this comparison such as the walk and strikeout and swinging-strike rates which are considered a strength of Cervelli as an offensive catcher. Clearly, Jansen is much more advanced than Cervelli in these metrics at the same level, while also being 3 years younger and that likely indicates a higher ceiling and floor as a professional.

Name PAs AVG OBP SLG BB% K% SwStr wOBA wRC+
Salvador Perez MLB .269 .300 .443 3.6 15.4 8.9 318 98
Salvador Perez AA (2011 at 21 years old) 309 .283 .329 .427 5.2 9.7 6.6 .337 102
Danny Jansen AAA 216 .303 .414 .478 12.5 13 4.3 .401 156

Perez is a very different type of hitter compared to Jansen, he’s a free swinger with strong contact skills and some pop. In traditional 5×5 fantasy baseball leagues, Perez has been one of the more consistent performers and may actually produce pretty similarly to how Jansen is expected to once he reaches the majors as those scoring formats don’t care about walks. Perez reached the majors at 21, and at 23 he put together a .292/.323/.433 line in the majors that was worth a .329 wOBA and 106 wRC+. It’s a difficult comparison to make between Perez and Jansen given these factors, but it’s clear that Jansen likely has a better batting average floor thanks to good pitch selectivity and terrific swinging-strike rate that are evident in the table above, plus he should get on base at a much higher rate thanks to his patience. Jansen also may offer fairly similar power numbers minus the breakout 27 HRs last year from Perez. Overall, Jansen’s numbers to date suggest he has a good chance to outperform Sal Perez type numbers in pretty well every metric.

Name PAs AVG OBP SLG BB% K% SwStr% wOBA wRC+
Jonathan Lucroy MLB .281 .342 .429 8.1 14.4 5.9 .336 108
Jonathan Lucroy AA (2009) 506 .267 .380 .418 15.4 13 4.9 .370 127
Danny Jansen AAA 216 .303 .414 .478 12.5 13 4.3 .401 156

This is an interesting comparison as Lucroy posted the closest swinging-strike rate to Jansen’s to date, plus they have identical K rates and both walk at a higher rate. Jansen notably has matched or out-performed Lucroy at the same age in every category except walks, all while playing at a higher level. Lucroy had a very nice stretch between 2012 and 2016 where he was among the best fantasy options at the catcher position, and I think his skillset is arguably the closest in this article to Jansen. Lucroy notably had a power spike in his later 20’s and that may be a similar career arc for Jansen going forward. The fact that Jansen has been better at the same age while playing at a higher level can only be a good thing right?

As you can see, Jansen at the same age and level compares well against the top catchers in the majors offensively and has been one of the best hitters at the highest levels of the minors overall. When you add in that he is close to the majors playing at the AAA level and I don’t understand why he hasn’t received more attention. He doesn’t rank among the top 100 prospects on MLB.com’s Prospect watch, and only ranks 5th among catching prospects. That resource takes defense into account, but that shouldn’t be too much of a concern with average scouting grades on his fielding and arm. He’s also throwing out 21% of the SB attempts at AAA which isn’t great but would rank 22nd best in the majors right now ahead of names like Yasmani Grandal and Wilson Ramos. He’s going to be good enough defensively to play every day in the majors, and his bat looks to be a big asset both in real life baseball and for fantasy teams. Especially when you consider that he will likely get the opportunity to play alongside Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette among others in the future! I think he’s vastly underrated and he should be on more radars as we get closer to his promotion which I think comes sometime in the 2nd half of the season. He’s ready for a new challenge, and he looks ready to contribute to your fantasy teams at a position that doesn’t offer a lot of quality options. He should be on radars in all leagues at this point.

Adam Garland

Adam is a marketing professional 9-5, but a fan and nerd of the beautiful game of baseball 24/7. The Dynasty Manager here at Pitcher List, he's known for his "Going Deep" articles on both MLB and MiLB players and has a strong reputation of identifying valuable players before the consensus. His passion though is MLB prospects, and he loves digging into scouting reports and dissecting the stats of prospects trying to understand what they mean. He plays in multiple dynasty leagues of varying sizes, and he hopes he can help with yours! He's also always up to talk baseball/prospects with anyone, so please don't hesitate to strike up a conversation here or @AdamGarlando on Twitter!

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Comments


King Donko

“He’s also throwing out 21% of the SB attempts at AAA which isn’t great but would rank 22nd best in the majors right now”

I don’t think it works like that.

Ben Pernick

I’m so glad I grabbed him with the last minor league draft pick in my AL-only 2-catcher home league this year. Nobody even knew who he was at the time. I hope he comes up this year as the Martin/Maile tandem has been so, so bad.

theKraken

I really don’t think it is worthwhile to compare Milb to MLB… its not going to translate. Comparing AAA to AAA isn’t worth much either – the stats may look comprable, but that is just the outcomes – the process is what matters. MLB stars are what they are because of their development, not what they were – they are the group of prospects that continued to do things right or had a sustainable skillset. You could pull a huge list of AAA studs that flopped. I’ll take the under on Jansen’s peak vs all of these player’s peaks. I don’t think Jansen is a bad prospect, but I am very wary of plate discipline fueled success – all of those wStats weight BB too much IMO. Fangraphs was all in on him as well… which kind of tells me that people who look at the stats love him, but those that have laid eyes on him don’t. He doesn’t appear to have elite hit or power tools – which is per-requisite for me to invest anything in a C spec. The worst thing about C specs is that even when they break through, they probably are not good enough at catching to play very often… then you are looking at a multi-year investment for ultimately mediocre production… and that’s if they can withstand the positional rigors.. which few can. It is all so complicated and impossible to project. I would place him in my top 5 or so catching prospects… but I think Mejia is the only one worth anything – good time to buy on him!

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