One year ago, Danny Jansen and Ryan Borucki may not have been household names among Toronto Blue prospects. After whirlwind seasons in the minors, both are now mentioned in the same breath as the club’s most promising prospects: Vlad Guerrero Jr, Bo Bichette and Anthony Alford.
At the end of the 2016 season, neither Jansen or Borucki cracked Baseball America’s list of 2017 Top 10 Blue Jays Prospects. However, after both posted monster seasons, they vaulted themselves into Baseball America’s 2018 Top 10 Blue Jays Prospects list; Jansen at seven and Borucki at ten.
Both Jansen and Borucki started the 2017 season in Single-A Dunedin, were then promoted to Double-A Hampshire by mid-season and landed in Triple-A Buffalo by August. To rocket up three levels over the span of one year is quite rare, let alone a pair of battery mates who made the journey together.
During the Blue Jays Winter Fest, they spoke about what it was like to graduate all the way from Single-A Dunedin to Triple-A Buffalo during the 2017 season.
Jansen: It was a whirlwind. I can speak for Borucki as well, that’s a year I’m not ever going to forget.
Borucki: We just both got hot at the right time. It was one of those opportunities where we took the place of guys because there were so many moves in the big leagues. I make the joke that I was just trying to chase him. I couldn’t stay away from him for too long.
Borucki: And I’ll say I couldn’t get away from him.
As teammates who have played together since 2014, Jansen and Borucki developed a good chemistry. Borucki says having his old catching partner behind the plate made him feel at ease.
When you move up levels, there’s always that anxiety and you’re a little nervous. When you’ve got a guy back there, especially with Danny, having him in Double-A for my first start and Triple-A, you just have a sense of ease. You just feel comfortable.
It’s tough being with a catcher who’s never caught you before and you don’t know how he thinks, but Danny’s been catching me since Bluefield in 2014. He knows me probably better than I know myself.
As Borucki tweeted earlier this week, it all started for him and Jansen back with the Bluefield Blue Jays in Rookie Ball, along with fellow Winter Fest attendee and Blue Jays prospect: Jordan Romano.
it all started in bluefield pic.twitter.com/VVRwNIxN6B
— Ryan Borucki (@ryan_borucki) January 19, 2018
Both players struggled with injuries earlier in their careers, but Jansen and Borucki put it all together in 2017. When asked about the key to his turnaround, Borucki attributed his success to locating his fastball.
For me, it was my fastball command. I started commanding the outside part of the plate on my arm side a lot more consistently than I used to. That’s a big key especially when you get to Double A, you have to be able to establish one side of the plate.
Along with staying healthy in 2017, Jansen posted an exceptional season at the plate for a catcher; slashing .323/.400/.484 over the course of 104 games. More than anything for Jansen, the main factor to his success was unplugging and worrying less about his swing.
For me, it was just having a different mentality. The last couple years, I’ve been hurt a little bit and I missed some time, but also I was always thinking about mechanics at the plate and just doing way too much. So, I came in this year stubborn and “I’m not going to think about mechanics – I’m going to try something different and be hard-headed.”
Borucki isn’t a high-velocity pitcher; rather, he relies on location and deception to get batters out. His bread-and-butter pitch is his changeup, regarded by many as a Major League-calibre pitch.
He sets a quick tempo on the mound and works relatively quickly to the plate. Borucki admits he draws influence from another crafty lefty who happens to be a former Blue Jay: Mark Buehrle.
I wear number 56 now after him now. I grew up in Chicago and I watched him all my life as a White Sox fan. The way he pitches, the way he competed, how calm he was, how he worked fast, that’s how I model my game.
In comparison to previous years, the Blue Jays’ catching depth has improved by leaps and bounds. What once was a shallow position in the organization has now grown to become a talent-rich position. Along with Jansen, fellow catching prospects Reese McGuire and Max Pentecost headline the Blue Jays’ bountiful depth behind the plate.
Jansen himself was recently named the eighth best catching prospect in baseball by MLB Pipeline (McGuire ranked sixth just one year ago). Toronto now boasts a vastly improved catching system and Jansen says it starts at the very top with the Blue Jays’ catching coordinator.
Ken Huckaby is our catching coordinator and he told us ‘It’s all about trying to build the best catching program in baseball so people want to come to us’. It’s a brotherhood.