FACT OR FICTION:
Casey Janssen is a future front of the rotation starter.
If you're the type of fan that constantly needs to feed yourself baseball information and the parent club Toronto Blue Jays
aren't totally satisfying your baseball needs, many die-hard fans do as I do, which is to follow each minor league Blue Jays affiliate. It's a great opportunity to see where our baby Jays have come from, as they make their rise up thru the organization.
There is one glaring question that minor league Jay buffs are sure to be wondering – where the heck did Casey Janssen come from? To be honest, not even I knew, because I was too busy watching wider-known guys like David Purcey
, Zack Jackson, Josh Banks
etc… so I had to go to the source…I had to find out where this guy came from.
Janssen, born in Anaheim Hills, California, went to UCLA
, where he had a modest career, nothing extraordinary as he averaged an ERA of 5.20 ERA in his first three years there. The Baltimore Orioles drafted Janssen in the 49th round as a ‘draft and follow' player in the 2003 draft but after a discouraging season where his ERA was 5.88, the Orioles decided to pass on the right-hander, allowing the Blue Jays to come into the picture just as his stock began to rise.
Janssen, who has a four pitch repertoire, a natural sinking fastball, change-up, slider and curveball, saw his fortunes change during his 2004 Senior season. Whatever he tinkered with, it worked, as he had a 3.16 ERA and struck out 103 batters to only 30 walks. Teams definitely took notice, especially the Blue Jays who drafted the 6'3" righty in the fourth round, and began his professional career in short season A ball at Auburn for the Double Days. Casey continued his good fortunes with a solid season, posting a 3-1 record with a 3.48 ERA in 10 starts - things were looking up.
To begin the 2005 campaign, Janssen opened up with the Blue Jays new affiliate the Lansing Lugnuts. There's only one word to describe his performance – dominating! He sped out to a 4-0 record in seven starts, carrying a 1.37 ERA, striking out 38 batters and walking only 4. It was time for a change, and Casey needed to be challenged…Toronto needed to find out what they actually had in Janssen. They promoted Casey to High-A ball in Dunedin and he's getting used to the warm climates of sunny Florida as he continues to dazzle. He's made four starts, winning three of them, the other a no-decision, keeping a nifty ERA of 1.36, striking out eighteen and walking only one batter.
I can't remember a time where a pitcher has moved up so quickly as Janssen and kept producing at his rate, and if he continues at this pace, there's a very good chance he could see Double-A New Hampshire by the end of the year. So it begs the question. Is Casey Janssen for real? Is he the real deal?
Something must have clicked for the righty in that final season at UCLA, because prior to that, he was barely on anyone's radar, and was lucky to get chosen in the 49th round by the Orioles. He is certainly building on his momentum that he has gained during the passed year and a half but this writer tends to think he'll run into some trouble at higher levels. The jump in quality from ‘A' to ‘AA' is quite dramatic, not to mention ‘AA' to ‘AAA'. Hitters become more patient, realizing that there's more than one way to get on base besides getting a hit. If he is to succeed beyond A-ball, he'll need to adjust quickly, and become more of a pitcher, using the corners of the plate effectively and taking advantage of the sinking action on his pitches to induce groundballs.
While I'm impressed by his progress this season, the real challenge lies ahead at the levels above him. Casey will probably find those levels as make or break years to determine where his future lies. I tend to think of Janssen as a journeyman type of pitcher that will see him time at the major league level, but sparingly, like a Josh Towers
type – could probably hold down a fifth starters job, but will always need to look behind his shoulder to see who's coming up from behind. So as the future gets closer and closer, the statement above appears evident that this is indeed – FICTION!
Tune in next week as we turn our attention to the upcoming 2005 First-Year Player Draft and how it impacts the Blue Jays!