6"2" 205 lbs DOB: 9/19/1983
Bats: Left | Throws: Right
Acquired: 2003 Draft, 12th Round, 338th Overall
One way or another, this will be John Jaso's last year on the list. Jaso is the oldest player to make either of our top 15 lists, having turned 26 this past September. He ranked #5 on the hitter's list last season, but a disappointing season with the bat along with little tangible defensive progress combined to knock him down to #14.
Jaso has always been an offense-oriented catcher with a good batting eye, posting OPSes over .800 from 2005 through 2008. The problem has been staying healthy and playing passable defense. While Jaso remained healthy throughout 2009, he was unable to make any strides defensively, while he struggled at the plate.
His batting eye was solid(he drew 46 walks against 49 strikeouts), but two completely awful months led to the season line of .266/.362/.366. After a typical Jaso-ian start in April, he completely fell off in May, hitting just .137(seven hits in 51 at-bats). He rebounded in June before another rough month in July, where he hit .243 with only five walks and zero extra-base hits. A strong August and September helped raise his season stats.
Jaso underwent shoulder surgery early in his career, and his arm strength has been suspect since. While he's been able to play entire seasons behind the plate(98 games played at catcher the past two seasons), he threw out only 17% of attempted basestealers in 2009. Minor footwork improvements haven't been able to mask the rest of his poor defense.
Jaso's bat didn't profile well at any other positions(like 1B) even before 2009, so now there are major questions about his future. He'll remain at catcher, but he didn't see any major-league time in 2009 even with the Rays dire catching situation, so it doesn't seem like the organization is all that high on him. Even if his bat bounced back to pre-2009 levels, it's tough to see where Jaso could get time in the majors. He doesn't hit well enough to DH to play 1B, and his defense just doesn't seem good enough to earn a shot.
With Jose Lobaton also on the 40-man roster(and both seemingly ticketed for Durham in 2010), some of the questions about Jaso's future should be answered. At 26 years old, he's basically a finished product, but his proximity to the majors still means something.