Finding offense at catcher in 2019 is not an easy task. Among 27 catchers with at least 300 plate appearances in 2018, only 12 hit at a league-average level or better. The median of that group was a 93 wRC+. Going back to the turn of the century, giving us 19 seasons total, catchers in 2018 ranked last among that group in batting average (.232), second-to-last in on-base percentage (.304), and last in slugging percentage (.372). It was one of the worst offensive groups in recent memory and there’s no reason to think they’ll suddenly improve as a whole.
That’s why at this point in time, having a player that can hit at an above-average level with the capability to handle any duties behind the plate is extremely valuable. That criteria can probably only fit a few players, with nods perhaps going to familiar names at the position such as: Wilson Ramos, J.T. Realmuto, Yasmani Grandal, Buster Posey, Yadier Molina, Yan Gomes, Willson Contreras, and Gary Sanchez.
There is one player though that has a chance to join the best of the best at the position. Now with Russell Martin being traded to the Dodgers and more plate appearances opening up for the Blue Jays at catcher, Danny Jansen will look to a step towards being one of the premier catchers in the game.
If you’ve followed prospects at all, Jansen’s name shouldn’t be a new one to you. Ranked as the #65 prospect in all of baseball, placing #5 among catchers, according to MLB Pipeline. His talent is already well known in this game.
His talent went to another level though in 2018. Starting with playing in a career high in games, he arguably put up his biggest season at the plate, hitting for a career-high 130 DRC+. A lot of this was centered around the power, with his ISO sitting at a career-high mark of .198.
Using the brand new visual tool at Prospects Live (high recommend), the power surge in 2018 becomes more apparent with his career rolling chart for ISO.
And the cause of this can be found in the same chart showing his career rolling average for GB-rate.
This carried over into his brief stint at the major league level towards the end of last season, as he hit fly balls on 47.7 percent of his batted balls. The power/contact skills stuck around too, hitting for an adequate .185 ISO to go along with a lowly 6.8 percent swinging-strike rate.
Now after further showcasing his abilities and playing time opening up with aforementioned Martin trade, Jansen seems to be the primary at catcher for the Blue Jays in 2019. Looking at the projections (Steamer600), it’s apparent that his outlook is superb. At the catching position, he projects to have the fifth best wRC+ and fifth best prorated fWAR for 2019 (trailing only Posey, Sanchez, Grandal, Realmuto).
Top catcher prorated fWAR projections for 2019
Only 95 plate appearances into his big league career, Danny Jansen’s projections have him up there with All-Star caliber players. His outlook had to play partially into the motivation to trade Russell Martin and free up space behind the plate. He has yet to make a name for himself in the major leagues, but don’t be surprised if 2019 is the season that happens.