Thursday, January 15, 2009

Top 15 Hitters: #5 John Jaso

John JasoJohn Jaso
6’2’’ 205lbs 09/19/1983
2008: Montgomery/Durham/Tampa Bay
Acquired: 2003 Draft, Round 12

The Rays’ top catching prospect, Jaso has made his name at the plate since being drafted out of Southwestern CC (California) in 2003. Jaso was forced to open 2008 in Montgomery to work on his defense despite his stellar showing in the Southern League in 2007.

Jaso’s 2007 with Montgomery was excellent. He hit .316/.407/.484 in 2007 with 12 HR. His .316 average was good enough for second in the Southern League. Despite this success, Jaso found himself back in Montgomery to start 2008 where he hit .270/.409/.406 in 281 at bats before getting the promotion to Durham where he posted a vital of .278/.339/.481 in just 108 at bats. Jaso slugged 12 homers between both levels in 2008. He saw limited action in the big leagues during a September callup where he had only 10 plate appearances.

Although his bat is above average for a catcher, there are questions about his defense behind the plate. The Rays decided to let him repeat AA in 2008 in order for him to continue working on his skills behind the plate. A good athlete for a catcher, he is adequate at blocking balls and calling a game, however his arm strength is below average. He has battled rotator cuff problems in the past but has managed to stay healthy the past two seasons. Despite a below average arm, he threw out 35% of runners trying to steal in 2007.

Jaso’s hitting tools are all average or better for a catcher. He has good pop and is a left handed hitter as well. Perhaps Jaso’s best skill is his well above average plate discipline. He walked in 13.1% of his plate appearances in 2007 and 17.6% of his plate appearances in 2008 with Montgomery, although those numbers did slip after his promotion to Durham. Jaso has posted K rates of around 10% for most of his career.

Jaso figures to fight for the backup catcher’s role with Shawn Riggans during of Spring Training. He is most likely to find himself in AAA to start the year though. His defense still needs to improve but there is little doubt that his bat is big league ready or very close to it. Already on the 40-man roster, Jaso will likely see some action with Tampa in 2009 and would be the Rays first in house option for a callup if Navarro or Riggans go down with an injury.

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