Connect with us

Uncategorized

Blue Jays prospect Hagen Danner progresses on mound after hitting struggles

Published

on


TORONTO – Late in the summer of 2019, the cumulative effect of relentless failure at the plate started getting to Hagen Danner. Drafted as a catcher in the second round by the Toronto Blue Jays a couple of years earlier, the Huntington Beach, Calif., native came out of the gates slow at low-A Lansing, buried himself during a six-hit, 24-strikeout May, recovered with a solid June but then cratered again immediately after.

As the 0-fers piled up, the game he loved stopped being fun, his anxieties spiked and he headed to the batter’s box hoping for a hit, rather than believing he was going to get one. A feeling that “hitting really isn’t what I was meant to be doing,” became stronger as the finish line neared.

“It threw me over the edge,” he says, “and I just really didn’t want to have to deal with all that anymore.”

Advertisement

Unlike other position players in a similar spot, Danner had shown enough on the mound during high school to make pitching a potential fallback option. And it’s during that period of tumult the 23-year-old right-handed reliever took the first steps toward the position switch that’s revitalized his career, recently landing him a coveted spot on the Blue Jays’ 40-man roster.

“Being a relief pitcher is just the best feeling ever,” says Danner, who went from striking out in 31.3 per cent of his plate appearances with Lansing to striking out 29.4 per cent of the batters he faced with high-A Vancouver this past season. “I’m not hoping to not fail anymore. That’s what my mind was getting me to as a hitter. Now, I’m sitting in the bullpen waiting for an opportunity, dying to get in the game. That, to me, is so much different.”

Danner’s recent showing at the Blue Jays’ fall instructional camp – when he sat 98-99 m.p.h. with his fastball and touched 100 for the first time – helped cement his spot on the 40-man roster, an indicator of near-term big-league potential. Perhaps more important than the velocity jump is that he spent time inside the Blue Jays’ pitching lab at the Dunedin complex and worked with staff there to develop a slider “that’s probably going to be my favourite pitch.”

This past season with the Canadians, his first in the pros as a pitcher, he posted a 2.02 ERA in 35.2 innings over 25 games, with 12 walks, 42 strikeouts and two homers allowed while mainly throwing his fastball and a “slider thing that wasn’t very good, honestly.”

Advertisement

“When I got to instructs, things really took off,” says Danner.

The relatively rapid turnaround in his trajectory wouldn’t have been possible without the heartache he endured during that difficult season in Lansing.

Danner had been a two-way prospect in high school, showing enough with a fastball that sat 92-94 and touched 96 to be ranked as the 26th best righty available in the 2017 draft by Baseball America. His bat, though, carried him up the draft board further, where the Blue Jays picked him 61st overall and gave him a $1.5 million bonus.

TD & Blue Jays MVP Spotlight
This season, TD and the Blue Jays celebrated off-the-field MVPs who embody the spirit of the game.

That didn’t make his entrance to pro ball smooth, as he posted a .455 OPS in 34 games of Gulf Coast League rookie-ball in 2017. He rebounded with a .841 OPS at rookie-ball Bluefield in 2018, but even amid the success there, the anxiety at the plate that would really impact him at Lansing began to set in.

Advertisement

That stress snowballed with the Lugnuts, when even the success of his one decent month was largely concentrated in a seven-game hit streak. He finished the year batting .170/.254/.369 with 12 homers in 80 games.

“All the failure, the thing you’re working so dang hard for and it’s just not coming to you, it didn’t work for me all season,” says Danner. “I was hitting a home run every few games, but that was my one hit. It wasn’t fun at all.”

Complicating things is that even when he was drafted as a catcher, he felt that he had more promise as a pitcher. As he struggled at the plate, he started thinking more and more about getting back up on the mound, but feared how the Blue Jays would react, so he kept quiet.

Back home that fall, he threw a few bullpens with his agent, Lenny Strelitz, and they were intrigued enough by how the ball was coming out that they decided to test things out in some live batting practice. Some of the most helpful feedback came from Nick Pratto, the highly touted Kansas City Royals prospect who happens to be Danner’s best friend.

“He was a real hitter up there seeing my stuff and telling me, ‘Hey, dude, this is where you need to be. This is going to play. This is what’s going to get you to the big-leagues,’” Danner recalls. “I was like, this is my best friend telling me this. He’s not just going to blow it up my butt, he’s going to tell me what he really thinks.”

Advertisement

Sign up for Blue Jays newsletters

Get the best of our Blue Jays coverage and exclusives delivered directly to your inbox!

Blue Jays Newsletter

<!– –>

Please enter a valid email

<!– –>

Thanks for subscribing!

*I understand that I may withdraw my consent at any time.
Advertisement

At that point, Danner decided to make the switch, he and Strelitz talked it over with the Blue Jays and the club was fully supportive of the change.

Though he still did some hitting at spring training in 2020, his focus was on the mound and there were no regrets. Then came the pandemic shutdown, which ended up working in Danner’s favour. He returned home, focused on weight training and postural exercises former San Diego Padres reliever Jacob Nix put him onto as a way to better ready his body for pitching, and continued to build his arm strength for the grind to come.

Danner arrived at camp a full-go this year, was pleasantly surprised by the challenge assignment of advanced-A, and save for a lat strain that briefly sidelined him, showed impressive consistency for a pitching rookie.

Advertisement

“I loved it. I loved being in the competitive atmosphere, you’re the man on the hill, everybody’s watching you and the team’s on your back. I loved to get hitters out because I was getting out my entire career, you know?” he says with a laugh. “That helped me a lot, just having the fun aspect of competitiveness again. That was the most excited I’ve ever been in in my professional career so far.”

As the 40-man roster deadline approached Nov. 19, Danner wasn’t sure if the Blue Jays planned to add him and his mind played out all sorts of possibilities until Cory Popham, the club’s pitching development co-ordinator, called him with the news.

Now, his mind is locked in on more specific goals as he works through the off-season program the club provided.

“I want to help the big-league team next year,” says Danner. “I mean, we have the best lineup in baseball. The hitters are unbelievable to watch and they have a serious chance to win it next year and I just want to be up there so bad. Wherever they start me, it doesn’t matter to me. I’m just going to keep doing me, stay with my confidence and keep throwing the rock.”





Source link

Advertisement

Uncategorized

Aaron Rodgers has 4th best odds to win 3rd straight MVP | FIRST THINGS FIRST

Published

on




Aaron Rodgers is optimistic about this upcoming NFL season. In a recent Sports Illustrated profile, the Green Bay Packers quarterback expressed how happy he was to be in the locker room, that he’s a ‘kinder, gentler QB’ and that fun things are coming. Fox Bet odds show Rodgers tied at 4th for the MVP award, behind Patrick Mahomes, Tom Brady, Josh Allen, and alongside Justin Herbert. Greg Jennings and Nick Wright decide how likely it is that Rodgers will three-peat his MVP win.



Source link

Continue Reading

Uncategorized

2023 NFL Draft: Ranking the ACC’s top 10 prospects as Clemson defense loaded with talent

Published

on



The ACC fell short of placing a team in the College Football Playoff despite a strong season from Pittsburgh. The upcoming regular season represents a clean slate, and Clemson should feature one of the most talented defenses in college football. Although early days, CBS Sports took a gander at the best NFL Draft prospects in the tradition rich conference entering the 2022 campaign:

Davis does a great job of shooting gaps and creating chaos in the opponent’s backfield. He does a good job of stacking and shedding blockers to make an impact in the run game. 

The depth of Clemson’s defensive line allows the team to rotate players and keep everyone fresh. It has a lot of talent along the front seven. In addition to Myles Murphy, Trenton Simpson, Bryan Bresee and Davis, defensive tackle Ruke Orhorhoro, edge rusher Xavier Thomas and edge rusher K.J. Henry have NFL potential. Thomas, in particular, is poised to showcase his talent this season.

Advertisement

The buzz surrounding Nelson began early in the process. He has great size for the position and long arms to dictate competition in the trenches. If the technique matches in 2022, there is an opportunity to rise significantly in an offensive tackle class that appears wide open. A wealth of talent at the position has flooded the NFL in recent years with Rashawn Slater, Tristan Wirfs, Penei Sewell and others chief among them.

8. Zay Flowers, WR, Boston College

Flowers has been on the NFL’s radar for a few years now. An injury to quarterback Phil Jurkovec impacted the receiver, as there were a lot of missed opportunities during which Flowers had slithered behind coverage. He ranked No. 23 in yards per reception (16.95) among wide receivers with at least 40 receptions in 2021. With a healthy Jurkovec, the Pittsburgh native will have a good chance to remind talent evaluators of his potential. 

Advertisement

The nation’s No. 1 overall high school recruit in 2020 missed most of last season with a torn ACL. The talent is evident, but it is unknown what to reasonably expect from Bresee coming off the injury this season. The Maryland native carries his weight really well and is just a natural athlete. He does a good job of stacking blockers while peering into the backfield and has good top end speed.

Connecticut quarterbacks are having a bit of a moment as both Kentucky’s Will Levis and Van Dyke are considered potential early draft choices. The latter throws with touch and does not panic when pressured. However, there is at least one moment each game where he unnecessarily throws into coverage. Experience can resolve some of those frustrations. 

While his ability to make plays with his legs may fall short relative to other quarterback prospects, he is capable of making accurate throws off-platform. He ranked No. 11 in passer efficiency last season, according to TruMedia. Players above him include Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud, Alabama’s Bryce Young and Pittsburgh’s Kenny Pickett.

It could be easy to take Bergeron for granted because nothing he does is overwhelming, but he is consistent. Similar to Virginia Tech’s Christian Darrisaw, it just looks easy for the Quebec native at times. He plays with good leverage and balance and has an even-keeled style of play. Active eyes allow him to pick up stunts into his gap. 

Cornerback Garrett Garrett Williams is another prospect who has the talent to join this list by season’s end.

Advertisement

4. Josh Downs, WR, North Carolina

The NFL has shown a willingness of late to add wide receivers who are traditionally undersized: Wan’Dale Robinson, Tutu Atwell, Jahan Dotson, etc. Downs was one of the most productive wide receivers in college football a year ago, and that had a lot to do with his ability to create chances for himself. He does a good job of creating leverage with body mannerisms and precision into his breaks. Downs finished third in yards after the catch (757) last season, according to TruMedia, behind Western Kentucky’s Jerreth Sterns (1,135) and Ohio State’s Jaxon Smith-Njigba (791).

3. Tony Grimes, CB, North Carolina

Grimes has good size and great speed for the position. He profiles as an NFL man coverage cornerback, but the ball production has just not been there yet. With so much talent in that Tar Heels secondary, it should create more opportunities for the Virginia Beach native to compile statistics. If he puts it all together, there is a good chance that he is one of the first cornerbacks off the board next April. 

Grimes was one of the rare football reclassifications who moved from the 2021 recruiting class to 2020. As a result, he should be one of the younger cornerback prospects available.

Simpson is one of the most versatile defenders in this potential NFL Draft class. He is not Micah Parsons but could excel in a similar role allowing him to play in the box, rush the passer and cloud passing lanes. The Charlotte native finds himself around the ball often because of his quick key and trigger. First-year defensive coordinator Wes Goodwin has a lot to work with this season.

When comparing size, Murphy stacks up to last year’s No. 1 overall selection — Travon Walker. Murphy is a good athlete but is realistically not going to match Walker’s historic NFL Combine performance. Murphy does have more exposure to what would be considered a traditional edge rusher role than Walker at the same point in his career. The former shows active hands and an ability to turn speed to power. When attempting to identify the likely first-round selections in the preseason, Murphy jumps out.

Advertisement



Source link

Continue Reading

Uncategorized

KD to Nets: 'Trade me or fire Steve Nash, Sean Marks' | FIRST THINGS FIRST

Published

on




Kevin Durant is not budging on his desire to leave Brooklyn. In fact, Shams Charania reports that during his meeting with Joe Tsai, KD submitted that the only way he would stay with the Nets is if the owner fires head coach Steve Nash and general manager Sean Marks. Nick Wright lays out why Durant basically all but ensured he would be traded with this move, and why he’s calling KD’s ultimatum a checkmate.



Source link

Continue Reading

Trending