During the spring of 2011, John Jaso was near the top of a number of sleeper lists for fantasy catchers. His outstanding walk rate won him a place both in the heart of Rays manager Joe Maddon and at the top of the Tampa lineup in 2010. The general consensus was that this potential late-round selection was going to be a beast in the ways on-base percentage, runs scored and maybe even swipe a few more bases than the average backstop. But after posting a .224/.296/.449 slash line with a barely-average 5.8-percent walk rate during the first month of the 2011 season, as well as showing almost no improvement the month after, the experiment quickly came to an end. It was back to the bottom of the order and on several occasions, the bench.
Coming into this season, Jaso was headed over to Seattle where Miguel Olivo was already starting and the team was on the cusp of adding Jesus Montero to the mix. If the crowding behind the plate wasn’t enough to convince you to leave him be, the expected lack of playing time due to his inability to hit lefties should have been. He saw very minimal work in April and when he did get an opportunity in May when Olivo got hurt, he still failed to produce. Statistically, he just wasn’t worth anyone’s attention.
But then June rolled around and Olivo was struggling at the plate still. Maybe it was the lingering groin injury or maybe he just woke up one day and realized he was Miguel Olivo. But whatever the case was, with Montero working more as a DH, Jaso was getting another opportunity and he wasn’t about to let this one slip away again. He was determined to be an effective producer and suddenly 2010 Jaso re-emerged.
Perhaps he was a bit overzealous, which led to the 19.2% strikeout rate, but with the assistance of a 17.3% walk rate and a .404 BABIP, Jaso posted a .336/.442/.465 slash line for the month of June and started finding himself, not just in the lineup more often, but batting near the top half of the order more as well. And despite a 2.30 GB/FB in July, he still continued to hit .300 with a .422 OBP. By the end of the month, Olivo was being phased out.
Now here we are in the tail end of August and Olivo is virtually nowhere to be found. Jaso has been the Mariners’ cleanup hitter almost all month long, at least against right-handed pitching, and is putting up numbers that make you wonder why you haven’t had this guy as your second catcher all year long. His 20.8% walk rate makes you rub your eyes in disbelief and when you start to re-focus you notice that it is accompanied by a 9.7% strikeout rate and a .286/.431/.500 slash line. He’s cut the GB/FB down to 1.57 and has also see a slight uptick in power lately.
Everywhere you look within Jaso’s numbers, there’s been steady improvement that brings you to where he is right now. He isn’t going to dazzle you with any kind of crazy power, but what he can do is steadily help you across the board. He should continue to hit for a high average, kick in some decent runs scored and RBI and just maintain a level of production that can only help you down the stretch in your quest for a championship.
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