Following his trade from the Athletics to the Rays, it has recently been announced that – at least for this season – John Jaso will be ditching his catcher’s gear aside from emergency situations. Jaso missed the end of last year due to a concussion and the team has decided that since they acquired him for his bat, they want his bat to remain in the lineup as much as possible and not risk any further health problems.
Obviously there is some risk in acquiring a player for your fantasy team that is coming off a season ending concussion. We have heard everything is fine and that he will be ready to go once spring training gets going, but there is still some inherent risk. Thankfully he will be moving from behind the plate, and the team has even said they plan on getting him work in the outfield and at first base. Whether he actually earns enough playing time at either the outfield or first base to gain additional eligibility is yet to be seen, but it is certainly not implausible.
So, getting back to why the Rays actually acquired him – his bat – let’s take a look at how good of a bat it actually is. I was surprised when I saw that aside from his second year with the Rays, Jaso’s lowest wRC+ is 115. Along with that, he has never posted an ISO below .100. He is not exactly a “power hitting catcher” but in two of the past three seasons his ISO has been above .160. An elevated stance since he departed from Tampa Bay the first time around looks like it is at least partially a reason for the increased power.
Jaso’s past limited playing time is a good reason why I feel he may be undervalued in fantasy drafts. I just acquired him in a very deep dynasty league and will be happy to play him at either my catcher or designated hitter position. If he is given 450 plate appearances, which is just under what Matt Joyce has been sitting at as a left-handed platoon option in Tampa Bay (albeit under Joe Maddon and not Kevin Cash), Jaso has the ability to hit in the mid-teens for home runs and add a likely impressive on base percentage at a position filled with those who are usually limited offensively. In deeper leagues Jaso is even more attractive, and of course in DFS he is a great option to consider given his likely place in the Rays batting order – Cash has preached a more consistent lineup than Maddon’s past groupings – and his success against right-handed pitching in his career (.272/.368/.424, 127 wRC+).
With that said, while he will be the team’s primary designated hitter and is right now slated to hit second, he will almost certainly be platooned. To me that is not a bad thing. Again, he will likely get more plate appearances this year as a DH or occasional first baseman or outfielder than he has in his past as a close to full-time catcher. Looking at him to hit in the range of 450-500 plate appearances is reasonable if healthy, and his production looks undervalued to me as he can help in runs, home runs, and avg/on base percentage while most catchers are one or two trick ponies.
Ben has been at RotoGraphs since 2012 and focuses most of his fantasy baseball attention toward dynasty and keeper leagues.