2011 Projection: John Jaso

The Tampa Bay Rays catching situation was a questionable one when the season started.  Once they acquired Kelly Shoppach, fantasy owners in two-catcher formats were scurrying for any information they could get on who was going to get the bulk of the playing time.  Was it going to be Shoppach?  Was it going to be the incumbent, Dioner Navarro?

By year’s end the answer was neither, as John Jaso emerged as the player who saw the most at bats of their trio.  Injuries played a factor, but with his inclusion on the playoff roster (and the omission of Dioner Navarro, who ultimately opted not to join the team for the playoff series), it’s obvious that Jaso has entrenched himself in the mix moving forward.

Navarro has probably sealed his own fate, and you would expect that he won’t be back with the Rays in 2011.  That would put Jaso in a position to see significant playing time once again, but should owners in two-catcher formats care?

Before we can answer that, we need to look at how he produced in 2010:

339 At Bats
.263 Batting Average (89 Hits)
5 Home Runs
44 RBI
57 Runs
4 Stolen Bases
.372 On Base Percentage
.378 Slugging Percentage
.282 Batting Average on Balls in Play

Jaso’s value is not in his power, which he certainly doesn’t have.  He showed a little bit more power in the minor leagues, hitting 47 over 1,799 AB.  Still, he never hit more then 14 in a season, and that came in 2005 at Single-A.

With a HR/FB of 4.5%, the 27-year old certainly could add a little bit of power (he is at the magical age where many players seemingly figure it out), but he’s not going to suddenly become a slugger.  It would seem like 10-12 would be his upside potential, and that’s probably pushing it.

His strength is his ability to get on base.  He posted a 14.6% walk rate in 2010, and actually spent a lot of time hitting out of the leadoff spot.  While that’s not an ideal spot for any catcher (he may be fast for a catcher, but that doesn’t make him fast), it says a lot that the Rays were willing to hit him there.

The Rays are going to undergo a likely overhaul this offseason, with Carl Crawford and Carlos Pena potentially leaving via free agency.  Crawford’s replacement, Desmond Jennings, is certainly a more prototypical leadoff hitter, as is B.J. Upton, who had a great resurgence late in the season (10 HR, 14 SB over the final two months of the season).

With those two likely hitting atop the lineup, Jaso is going to be moved down in the order.  That means less opportunities to score runs, certainly putting a dent in his potential value.

The average is another issue.  If you have a catcher who isn’t going to hit for power, he needs to be able to contribute somewhere else.  A .263 average based on a realistic BABIP just doesn’t really cut it.

Throw in the potential for Kelly Shoppach to eat into his playing time and there are a lot of reasons to be down on Jaso entering the year.

With that said, let’s take a look at what I would project for him in 2011:

.275 (110-400), 6 HR, 40 RBI, 45 R, 5 SB, .304 BABIP, .368 OBP, .390 SLG

Even in two-catcher formats, I’d rather have an option who could hit for a bit more power, even if it is at the expense of his average.  At least he would be helping me somewhere, as opposed to Jaso, who really doesn’t contribute.  He just doesn’t hurt you anywhere.

The bottom line is that I would consider Jaso as a last resort at this point.

What about you?  Is Jaso someone you would consider in two-catcher formats?  Why or why not?

Make sure to check out our 2011 projections:

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