When the 2005 season began many of the minor league followers had high expectations for the likes of Josh Banks, Shaun Marcum, David Purcey, Zach Jackson and the other top pitching arms in the Jays system. However, no pitcher in the Jays organization had the season that the winner of this season’s award did. This years Minor League Pitcher of the Year is Casey Janssen!
Janssen began the season as Lansing’s ace and received the nod as the opening day starter and gave everyone an indication of what was going to be shown in 2005. The UCLA product picked up the victory as he tossed seven hitless innings, issuing just one walk and striking out seven hitters. In his second start the right-hander once again shut out the opponent while he was in the game as he tossed six scoreless innings. Five more starts and Janssen was 4-0 with a 1.37 ERA in seven games. He had walked just four in forty-six innings and opponents were hitting .174 off him.
“I had a little bit of bitter taste in my mouth when I found out I would be starting in Lansing, since I wanted to start out at a higher level out of the gate, but unfortunately that did not happen” said Janssen. “I had a blast in Lansing and the entire season was one heck of a ride.”
Janssen made his first start with Dunedin of the Florida State League on May 14 and continued pitching well. He allowed one earned run or less in his first six starts of the season and had a 4-0 record with a 1.18 ERA in six starts with Dunedin through June 9. Janssen had four more starts left with Dunedin and received a promotion to Double-A on July 5. He finished 6-1 with a 2.26 ERA with Dunedin.
“I was very lucky to have a bunch of very good coaches this season” the right-hander told ITD. “They gave me lots of tidbits regarding what approach to take when facing a team or a specific hitter. The organization wasn't looking to re-invent the wheel with me, but rather stick with what I got and fine tune that.”
On July 10 Janssen made his first start with New Hampshire and to nobody’s surprise he threw seven innings of scoreless ball against the Portland Seadogs, the leagues top hitting team. The 24-year-old suffered a slight setback during his second start of the season as he was hit in the right hand by a line drive, but missed just ten days. Overall Janssen made nine starts with New Hampshire and went 3-3 with a 2.93 ERA. In forty-three innings he issued just four walks and recorded forty-seven strikeouts. The bottom line was that Janssen proved he can locate his pitches at that level and throw all his pitches for strikes.
Said Lansing’s manager Ken Joyce: “He has command of the game, he knows what he wants to do, he hits his spots and he works both sides of the plate.”
“The biggest adjustment when you move up a level is to still believe in your ability and your stuff. You are moving up for a reason and the organization believes you can succeed at that level. The hitters get more selective and look for a certain pitch, in a certain area when you reach Double-A. They are more polished and don't swing at bad pitches, so you have to adjust your game to them and towards that” Janssen said.
Janssen said that his cutter was a very good compliment to his fastball this past season. He has seen lots of success as hitters look for his fastball and get fooled when he throws his cutter.
“I try to throw strikes and not walk too many batters.”
Janssen might very well go back to UCLA and thank his college coach for his success. The right-hander played first base at UCLA before being converted to a pitcher, not by his choice, but by the coach’s word.
“It wasn't my choice. I loved to hit, but at the time, the way UCLA was headed, they needed me to be more successful as a pitcher than a hitter. They felt like my value would increase if I was just a pitcher and I focused on that. As it turns out, it did and it has been the best thing for my career.”