More backstops of interest
Earlier today we looked at San Diego Padres catching prospect Austin Allen and St. Louis Cardinals prospect Andrew Knizner, both currently tearing up the Double-A Texas League. We’ve recently received some questions/comments about two other young catchers: Danny Jansen of the Toronto Blue Jays system and Sean Murphy of the Oakland Athletics organization. Let’s take a quick look at them too.
Jansen ranked sixth on the pre-season Toronto Blue Jays Top 20 prospects list with this comment:
6) Danny Jansen, C, Grade B: Age 22, 16th round pick in 2013 from high school in Appleton, Wisconsin; hit just .206/.299/.331 in 2015 and .218/.316/.269 in 2016 but exploded in 2017 with .323/.400/.484 line in High-A, Double-A, Triple-A, 10 homers, 41 walks, 40 strikeouts in 368 at-bats; outburst attributed to physical maturity and recovery from ’16 hand injury; excellent strike zone judgment, power has improved as he’s grown stronger; talented receiver with low error and passed ball rates, positive scouting reports on athleticism; still needs to improve throwing, caught just 24%, but all other backstop skills quite good; catcher development is weird; I’m not a skeptic overall and expect he’ll continue to get on base but I am not sure about the power; ETA late 2018.
Jansen is currently with Triple-A Buffalo in the International League. The Bisons have played just 11 games this year due to poor weather, of which Jansen has played in nine, six behind the plate and three at DH. He’s hitting .281/.410/.469 with five walks and six strikeouts across 32 at-bats. He’s caught just one of seven runners but hasn’t given up any errors or passed balls.
The sample is tiny obviously but it is entirely in keeping with his pre-season profile: impressive strike zone judgment with some power, reliable receiving but some issues with baserunners. I see no reason to change his rating at this time.
Sean Murphy ranked 10th on the pre-season Oakland Athletics Top Prospects list with this comment:
10) Sean Murphy, C, Grade B-: Age 23, third round pick in 2016 from Wright State University; hit .297/.343/.527 in 165 at-bats in High-A but slumped to .209/.288/.309 in 191 at-bats in Double-A; excellent throwing arm and a reliable defensive catcher, will get to majors on his defense alone but future will depend on the bat; flashes above-average power and will draw walks but uncertain what his batting average will look like against the best pitching, has never hit particularly well with wood; some caution with the hitting is advisable but overall I like him. ETA 2019.
Like Allen and Knizner, Murphy is crushing the Texas League, hitting .377/.419/.667 through 17 games with 11 doubles (!) already and three homers. His defense has had a few glitches so far, with just two of 11 runners caught along with two errors and a passed ball. Murphy has always been an impressive defender so I think the glove stuff is just an issue of early-season sample size.
My pre-season rating of Murphy at Grade B- was criticized by several commentators at the time who felt that I was under-valuing good reports from the Arizona Fall League. The comment about Murphy not hitting particularly well with wood was especially viewed as off-base.
My thinking, which I did not express fully in the comment, was based on Murphy’s past track record of struggling in wooden bat college leagues, his poor hitting for Midland last year (.209/.288/.309) both on paper and when I saw him in person, and his mediocre track record of hitting outside the California League and the AFL, both of which are biased in favor of offense.
Was I wrong? Quite possibly. He’s certainly showing more power this year and Texas League pitchers haven’t figured out how to exploit his 2/13 BB/K ratio yet. Indeed, on paper it looks like he’s being more aggressive and less passive this year and reaping benefits from a more aggressive approach.
I think you can make a case to move him up to a B-/B, with more possible if he keeps hitting. I haven’t seen him in person yet this year but will try to do so.