2015 Sleeper Alert: John Jaso

I’ll freely admit that this column is highly speculative in nature, and based on plenty of assumptions. However, that’s kind of what this time of year is for as a fantasy writer. It’s the time of year when you start going through your “What ifs” for the next season, and I think I have a pretty intriguing “What if” scenario for John Jaso.

For the second consecutive year, Jaso had his season cut short due to continued concussion symptoms. For very good reason, this has led to some speculation regarding Jaso’s future behind the plate, or possible lack thereof. The A’s already took steps in 2014 to get his bat in the lineup at designated hitter, but even with his 32 starts at DH, the 47 starts he made behind the dish proved to be too many, and Jaso’s 2014 season ended just like 2013 did.

Again, I’m just speculating here, but it seems that Jaso could pull a Joe Mauer, and make the move to first base. (Hopefully, unlike Mauer, Jaso could bring his bat with him to his new position…) I’m not going to break down all of the implications that could have on Oakland’s roster — a straight platoon behind the plate between Stephen Vogt and Derek Norris, Brandon Moss spending most of his time in left field or at DH — but it’s worth thinking about the impact such a move could have on Jaso’s 2015.

From an organizational standpoint, the idea of a Jaso platoon with Nate Freiman at first base is the kind of move that made “Moneyball” work in the first place. Here’s what that platoon looks like, based on each man’s career splits:

  • Jaso vs R (1,434 PA) – .272/.368/.424, .793 OPS
  • Freiman vs L (233 PA) – .279/.326/.470, .796 OPS

With a Jaso/Freiman platoon, we’re looking at what is essentially an .800 OPS at first base, which would have been good enough for fourth in the American League in 2014. (Obviously, each guy would face at least some same-handed pitching, but even still, there’s plenty of value to dream on here.) Not to mention both players would likely cost less than $3 million combined. That’s cost efficiency at its finest.

From a fantasy perspective, this could all make Jaso solid gold for 2015. Even if his days behind the dish are over, he’ll still be catcher-eligible next year. Playing on the high side of a platoon at first base — plus picking up some starts at DH — would give Jaso an excellent shot at seeing more playing time than ever before. The 404 plate appearances he logged as a rookie in 2010 is his current high-water mark. Most importantly, the move would dramatically reduce his chances of suffering through yet another concussion-shortened season.

So what’s the upside here? I’m thinking 2014 Trevor Plouffe with ~100 fewer plate appearances. Would you be interested in around 475 PA of a catcher-eligible Trevor Plouffe? Of course you would. That player would likely be a top 6-8 catcher, and Jaso could very conceivably be that player next year.

Because I am a real journalism, I did a quick Google search for “john jaso first base.” After doing so, I discovered that, just two years ago, the Mariners had Jaso playing first in Spring Training, so it certainly wouldn’t be a surprise to see Oakland do the same thing, two concussion-shortened seasons later.

Keep an eye on Jaso this offseason.┬áIf he does move off of catcher, he could provide one season of top-level fantasy production at that position, before fading away into fantasy oblivion. And, of course, feel free to let me know whether I’m crazy or whether I’m onto something.

Scott Strandberg started writing for Rotographs in 2013. He works in small business consultation, and he also writes A&E columns for The Norman Transcript newspaper. Scott lives in Seattle, WA.

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You’re onto something. I had McCann and Jaso at catcher in a 18 team Roto league and for most of the year Jaso ranked higher (until the McCann starting to hit thing, and the Jaso going boom thing). I’m in, and might trade Jaso at the midpoint if his numbers are good (before the boom thing again).