After two picks that were widely foreseen to start the night, with the 61st overall pick the Blue Jays threw a bit of a curveball in selecting Huntington Beach high schooler Hagen Danner as a catcher. It's the last part that was somewhat surprising:
#BlueJays taken Hagen Danner as a catcher, not a pitcher. Very interesting— Frankie Piliere (@FPiliereD1) June 13, 2017
A little bit surprised that the Blue Jays took Danner as a catcher. I preferred him on the mound, but, industry was torn.— Christopher Crawford (@Crawford_MILB) June 13, 2017
I like Hagen Danner, love he was announced as a catcher. He's athletic, tough, caught gold medal game for @USABaseball18U. Has toughness— John Manuel (@johnmanuelba) June 13, 2017
In a draft class loaded with potential two-ways players, Danner was one of the top ones (along with teammate Nick Pratto who was selected 14th overall). In fact, Danner has been on the prospect radar for a long time (more on that below), and it was his potential on the mound that was most lauded, ranking as the #2 player in this high school draft class as recently as 18 months ago.
On the mound, he had feel for three pitches, the best being a low-90s fastball with movement, but also what can be a hammer curveball. That arm of course translates very well behind the plate, as does his overall athleticism. MLB Pipeline notes:
[Danner] has the chance to a special catcher. He has good hands and a plus arm defensively and while he's a below-average runner, his athleticism helps him move well behind the dish. He swings the bat well from a crouch set up, with quiet pop that could end up being average power in the future.
The high school catching profile is a tough one, with very few actually becoming regulars behind the dish. Danner will already have experience catching better pitchers than most given his background, and there's always the possibility of going back to the mound if things aren't working out in a couple years.
As mentioned above, Danner is arguably the best known high school prospects in this draft class, with one of the longest track records. In 2011, he was on the Little League World Series champion. He's been all over the showcase circuit. Huntington Beach high school is one of the more storied baseball programs in the US. As a freshman he was a key reliever for a highly ranked team; as a sophomore they where California state champions. Danner also won gold with the Team USA U18 team in 2016. He joins former teammate and 2016 Blue Jays draftee Dom Abbadessa in the system.