John Jaso Ready For Expanded Role With Oakland Athletics

By Thom Tsang
Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

John Jaso might not be the best defender behind the plate, nor does he have Derek Norris‘ home run power; but, the Oakland Athletics brought him in to catch, and he plans on doing more than his fair share of it in 2013.

Yes, after having spent 2012 with the Seattle Mariners in a backup capacity, Jaso is ready to show that he can be a primary catcher in the league. Or at least, the leading half in a platoon, anyway.

That’s likely the type of role he’ll have with the Athletics in 2013, as the team will be looking to start Jaso behind the plate in games when they face right-handers, against whom he owns a more-than-playable .270/.368/.421 with 19 homers over 897 PA.

Sure, the fact that he can’t hit lefties at all (.532 OPS) means that he’ll never truly be a number-one catcher on this, or any other team. That said, Jaso has a sneaky amount of pop in his bat, and his excellent on-base skills (1.09 BB/K, .359 OBP) should earn him more looks with the Athletics squad even when he’s not catching, now that the team has an open DH spot to play with after the departure of Chris Carter.

Jaso has had limited experience as a designated hitter with just 55 games, but the 178 at-bats he had doing it yielded near-elite results. The 29-year old put up a .281/.422/.472 triple slash as a DH, hitting six homers at a 20-homer pace…if he had 600+ PA, anyway.

He won’t get that in Oakland, of course, not even with the chance to catch most games. After all, there are all those outfielders that will need their times at the plate, too.

What Jaso will likely get, though, is an opportunity to eclipse the 361 he had with the M’s last season, and the career-high 404 he got with the Tampa Bay Rays in 2010; he could be in line to receive 450+ PA over the full season, with even 500 being a distinct possibility, and he’ll get most of those behind the plate.

Even before John Jaso was freed this off-season, he was already a 2.7 fWAR player with the Mariners. If he can maintain his form at the plate, there’s no reason why he couldn’t top the 3.0+ fWAR mark with the A’s in 2013.

Which might just put him among the top-10 most valuable catchers, by the way.

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