JOHN JASO, FIRST BASEMAN
|Born: September 19, 1983
Drafted: 12th Round, 338th Overall, 2003 (Devil Rays)
How Acquired: Free Agent
College: Southwestern (CA) College
WTM’S PLAYER PROFILE
|Jaso spent most of his career as an offense-oriented, left-handed hitting catcher. He’s always had excellent plate discipline, putting up high OBPs to go with good averages and variable degrees of power. He missed significant time with concussions, though, in 2013-14 and didn’t catch at all in 2015. He’s played a little in the outfield corners, and five innings in the majors and 18 games in the minors at first. Jaso has seldom faced LHPs in the majors, getting just 226 of his career total of 1857 plate appearances against them, with a .542 OPS. He has a career line of 274/368/429 against RHPs. The Pirates signed him to a two-year deal for 2016-17, calling for $4M each year.
Jaso did about half the catching for the Rays’ New York-Penn League team, throwing out 20% of base stealers. He didn’t do much at the plate besides showing good plate discipline.
The Rays sent Jaso back to the NYPL, where he split his time between catching and first base. He made significant improvements at the plate, hitting for average, getting on base and showing doubles power. Baseball America rated him the Rays’ 30th best prospect after the season.
Rotator cuff problems limited Jaso’s ability to catch for much of the year and ended his season in early August. He continued making progress at the plate, hitting for good power. In fact, the 14 HRs are still his career high at any level. BA ranked Jaso 15th in the Rays’ system after the season.
The Rays were cautious with Jaso following the shoulder problems, so he got only limited time behind the plate, none of it until mid-June. He caught just 24 games and otherwise served as DH. He continued to hit well, although his power dropped off. BA rated him 18th in the Rays’ system.
Jaso stayed healthy and caught 70 games, throwing out 35% of base stealers. He continued to hit well, with solid power and outstanding strike zone judgment. He ranked as the Rays’ 13th best prospect and they added him to their 40-man roster in November.
Oddly, Tampa sent Jaso back to AA and he stayed there until mid-July. For the first time since his initial pro season, he didn’t hit especially well, although he drew a huge number of walks. He caught regularly, throwing out 27% of base stealers. After moving up to AAA, he hit for much more power. The Rays called him up in September and he saw limited action. He again ranked as the Rays’ 13th best prospect.
Jaso spent the season in AAA and had only a decent season. He also threw out only 17% of base stealers. The Rays did not call him up.
Jaso played three games in AAA, then got called up and spent the season as the Rays’ primary catcher against RHPs. He didn’t hit for a lot of power, but he showed extraordinary plate discipline and got on base a lot. Jaso threw out 23% of base stealers and finished fifth in the rookie of the year voting.
Jaso continued as the Rays’ catcher against RHPs, but he had the worst struggles of his career at the plate. In mid-July he went out for a month with a strained oblique. After the season, the Rays seemingly gave up on Jaso and traded him to Seattle for troubled relief prospect Josh Lueke.
Jaso bounced back in a big way with Seattle, posting a 142 OPS+, hitting for the best power he’d shown by that point in his career. Seattle, however, traded Jaso to Oakland in a 3-way deal that brought Mike Morse from Washington after the season
Jaso continued to get on base with the A’s, athough he didn’t show the power he’d shown the previous year. He struggled with base stealers, throwing out only 13%. He sas out briefly a couple times with hand injuries, then went out for the season in late July due to a concussion.
Jaso apparently started looking to drive the ball more, as he had an uncharacteristically low BB:K ratio, but his power improved again. He served as DH in 35 games and caught in only 54, throwing out just 11% of base stealers. Jaso again suffered a concussion, which cost him a little over a month late in the season. After the season, Oakland traded him back to the Rays.
Jaso injured his left wrist sliding in early April and didn’t return to the Rays until early July. He didn’t catch any games all year, serving mainly as DH while playing eight games in the outfield corners. His power returned to his 2012 level and his plate discipline mostly bounced back as well. After the season, Jaso signed a two-year deal with the Pirates.
As planned, Jaso became the Pirates’ first baseman against RHPs, platooning primarily with David Freese. Initially, his acquisition appeared to be brilliant, as he put up excellent numbers in April and good in May. He hit a miserable slump in June and July, though, leading to calls for the Pirates to bring up Josh Bell. The team hesitated to do so, though, ostensibly due to concerns about Bell’s defense but also possibly due to Clint Hurdle’s apparent reluctance to take veteran players out of the lineup. Bell at long last joined the Pirates for good in late August and played more or less regularly after that. Jaso still got considerable playing time due to injuries to Starling Marte and Gregory Polanco, with Bell seeing considerable time in right. Jaso bounced back strongly in the season’s last two months, as shown by his monthly slash line:
On the season, Jaso showed his usual strong plate discipline and very modest power. He had only 25 plate appearances against LHPs. Defensively, he was probably just a little below average; the Pirates continued to use Sean Rodriguez heavily as a defensive sub at first.
During his mid-season slump, Jaso looked like a player who might be washed up, but he rebounded very strongly. His batted ball data shows a mixed story. He saw a decrease in his percentage of line drives and a very sharp increase in ground balls (from typically around 40% to over 52%) starting back in 2015 and both tendencies stayed the same in 2016. His percentage of hard-hit balls, as classified by Fangraphs, dropped from a career-high level in 2015, but remained a little above his career norm in 2016. His percentage of softly hit balls increased sharply. Brooks Baseball characterized his exit velocity as average.
Jaso spent the season mainly as a fourth outfielder. He got 46 starts in the corners and only seven at first. As before, he seldom faced LHPs, with only 34 plate appearances. Overall, his playing time was reduced, despite the extended absences of Starling Marte and Gregory Polanco, as the Pirates gave time to Adam Frazier and Jose Osuna. Jaso seemingly sacrificed contact ability for power, as his average declined, while his K rate and ISO increased. He was hampered by a low BABIP of .243. He also again had trouble with extended slumps; that included an 0-for-17 start to his season and a stretch of 35 ABs without a hit. His ups and downs included two months with an OPS over 1.000 and three with an OPS between .374 and .503. Defensively, he was very bad in the outfield.
Jaso was set to become a free agent after the season, but he said once the season ended that he’d probably retire. With Jordan Luplow and Austin Meadows available, it wouldn’t make sense for the Pirates to look to bring him back anyway.
|Signing Bonus: N/A
MiLB Debut: 2003
MLB Debut: 9/6/2008
MiLB FA Eligible: N/A
MLB FA Eligible: 2017
Rule 5 Eligible: N/A
Added to 40-Man: November 20, 2007
Options Remaining: 0 (USED: 2008, 2009, 2010)
MLB Service Time: 7.032
|June 3, 2003: Drafted by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in the 12th round, 338th overall pick; signed on June 9.
November 20, 2007: Contract purchased by the Tampa Bay Rays.
November 27, 2011: Traded by the Tampa Bay Rays to the Seattle Mariners for Josh Lueke and a player to be named later or cash.
January 16, 2013: Traded by the Seattle Mariners to the Oakland Athletics as part of a three-team trade, with A.J. Cole, Blake Treinen and Ian Krol going from the Athletics to the Washington Nationals; and Michael Morse from the Nationals to the Mariners.
January 10, 2015: Traded by the Oakland Athletics with Daniel Robertson, Boog Powell and cash to the Tampa Bay Rays for Ben Zobrist and Yunel Escobar.
November 2, 2015: Became a free agent.
December 23, 2015: Signed as a free agent with the Pittsburgh Pirates.