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Better know your Blue Jays 40-man: Hagen Danner

Chicago Cubs v Toronto Blue Jays Photo by Cole Burston/Getty Images

Pitchers and catchers report in two weeks!!!!

Hagen Danner was the Blue Jays’ second-round pick in 2017. He was drafted as a catcher, but he wasn’t having much luck with the bat, and in 2019, they decided to see how things worked on the mound. He was added to the 40-man roster in 2022 to protect him from a Rule Five draft that didn’t happen.

A 25-year-old, right-handed pitcher, Danner was #19 on our top-40 prospects list last year. Matt wrote:

He was an easy addition to the 40-man after the season, seemingly poised on a fast-track to the big league bullpen with a couple promising outings in spring training. But Danner struggled to find the plate in four rocky outings in April for New Hampshire, missing the rest of the season with a sprained UCL though avoiding Tommy John surgery. Unfortunately, after a couple outings this spring, he’s sidelined with forearm inflammation. This is now a recurring issue injecting significant risk of fulfilling the obvious potential.

On the mound, Danner is a pure power pitcher, with mid-90s gas into the upper 90s. He pairs that with a sharp, swing-and-miss hammer slider. He’s actually got two different breaking balls, the slider in the mid-80s and a curve in the low-70s. Shape-wise, they’re very similar, just a different velocity bands. It’s two easy plus pitches, yielding legitimate high end upside of a late-inning impact reliever (role 45, ~70 ERA-).

To achieve that, beyond needing to demonstrate the ability to stay healthy, Danner has some work ironing out command. There’s plenty of middling relievers with premium stuff who get hit around due to a lack of location, and that outcome is a real risk. He’s also prone to sometimes losing the zone, with may be more a function of the inexperience. But the raw stuff is a great building block—if he can stay healthy.

The injury thing raised its ugly head again this year. Hagen was called up to the Jays in August (when Alek Manoah was sent down for the second time). In his first appearance:

Hagen Danner pitched, got an out and then, during the next at-bat, grabbed at his back after a pitch. He came out of the game. I don’t want to guess the injury, but I hope it isn’t serious.

It turned out to be a left oblique strain that kept him off the mound for the rest of the season.

In the minors, Danner had a 3.66 ERA in 33 games (mainly in Triple-A). In 39.1 innings, he had 56 strikeouts and just 11 walks. The worrying number was the 8 home runs.

He throws hard (he averaged 96.6 mph in that short appearance with the Jays). Reports say his fastball touches 98-99 mph. His best pitch is a slider (87-88 mph). He also throws a curve.

Don’t expect him to go more than an inning of relief (but then we don’t seem to allow anyone to throw more than an inning of relief).

The unfortunate part is that he’s only thrown 79 professional innings (plus 7.2 Fall League innings) because he started as a catcher, he’s had some injuries, and there was a minor league season lost to Covid. But he has talent and misses bats. Things I read about him often use the phrase, ‘high-upside, high risk’ reliever.

He only has one option year left, so it would be good if he established himself as a major leaguer this year. But he has an uphill battle to make the team out of spring training. The bullpen looks to have Romano, Swanson, Mayza, Green, Garcia, Rodriguez and Cabrera. That leaves one spot for Pearson, Richards, White or half a dozen others.

PECOTA figures Hagen to get 11 innings in the majors with a 4.97 ERA.

ZiPS has him at 39.2 innings, with a 4.08 ERA (ZiPS doesn’t figure playing time beyond ‘this guy could pitch in the majors.’

Steamer has hit at 19 innings and has a 4.02 ERA.

Poll

Danner will start the season

This poll is closed

  • 93%
    With the Bisons
    (217 votes)
  • 6%
    With the Jays
    (14 votes)
231 votes total Vote Now

Poll

Danner will end the season

This poll is closed

  • 40%
    With the Bisons
    (91 votes)
  • 32%
    With the Jays
    (74 votes)
  • 27%
    In another organization
    (62 votes)
227 votes total Vote Now

Poll

If the over/under on Hagen’s MLB innings is 15 I’d take the

This poll is closed

  • 42%
    Over
    (91 votes)
  • 57%
    Under
    (121 votes)
212 votes total Vote Now