The High-Five of Tampa Bay Catchers: No. 3, John Jaso

The Tampa Bay Rays have never been known for their catchers. Approximately 36 different players have fielded the position for the Rays in the ballclub’s 21 years of existence, yet no one man stands out as the undeniable “best.” Conceding this point, I turned to Baseball-Reference.com for the numbers and to my own gut for the opinion to compile a list of the High-Five of Tampa Bay Catchers.

So far, grit and magic have defined the catchers on this list  (John Flaherty at No. 5 and Dioner Navarro at No. 4). Today, we turn to cool.

No. 3: John Jaso

Close-up of John Jaso in sunglasses with towel over his head.

PITTSBURGH, PA – JULY 20, 2017: John Jaso #28 of the Pittsburgh Pirates. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

The Tampa Bay Numbers:

Games: 273
At-Bats: 780
Runs: 108
Hits: 199
HR: 15
RBI: 93
OPS: .737
WAR: 4.0

The cool factor. John Jaso had it (well, has it) in spades, and I won’t deny I considered it in this ranking. However, Jaso’s stats had already earned him a spot in my top five long before the cool demanded attention. Let’s start with the numbers.

In 2010, his rookie year, the Chula Vista, CA native caught 719.0 innings for the Rays, posting a .992 fielding percentage. Jaso had 30 assists, 5 errors and 7 passed balls. Admittedly, not fantastic. But remember, individual defense numbers are rarely the whole story for the men who play behind the plate.

The team ERA in 2010 was 3.78 (second in the AL). The staff recorded 1,189 strikeouts (second in the AL) and allowed only 611 earned runs on the season (again, second in the AL). The catcher’s role in those stats should not be undercut. So, in this highly unscientific ranking, they are not.

Now, let’s look at the offensive numbers for John Jaso in 2010. He hit .263 in 404 plate appearances, driving in 44 runs and recording 89 hits. The rookie catcher also stole four bases, walked 59 times and finished the year with a .750 OPS. No wonder Jason finished fifth in the AL Rookie of the Year balloting that season. In fact, of the five catchers that comprise the High-Five, Jaso’s BA, BB and GDP numbers for 2010 were the best in the field.

Unfortunately, Jaso’s numbers in 2011 dropped. They weren’t a violent fall, but the decrease in output was noticeable. So, the Rays traded Jaso to the Seattle Mariners in November of 2011. Jaso would return to Tampa Bay for 70 games in 2015, before moving on to the Pittsburgh Pirates for two years.

At the end of the 2017 season, Jaso unexpectedly announced his retirement. “Really I just want to live a simple life. I have a sailboat, so I just want to sail away,” Jaso said, to among others, Elizabeth Bloom of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette after the game on Oct. 1.

And that was it. John Jaso simply sailed away from the game, dreadlocks and smiles in tow.

In May 2018, there was a sighting of a suntanned, tie-dyed, pony-tailed former catcher in the stands of Tropicana Field. The man, in shorts and tank-top, tried to walk down to the dugout to say hello to his old teammates. According to an article by Michael Clair of Cut4, the ushers stopped him. Former baseball players never look so cool.

Next: #4: Dioner Navarro

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Here, on the High-Five, we welcome cool and will proudly sit John Jaso at seat No. 3 in our standings.

Tomorrow, No.2 will be revealed. No hints allowed.