Blue Jays: Will Alejandro Kirk start next season in the big leagues?
Alejandro Kirk had a successful cameo with the Blue Jays in 2020, impressing beyond his years and experience. Will it be enough to break camp with the team next season?
The Blue Jays had a number of pleasant surprises in 2020 on route to a 32-28 record and a spot in the post-season. While the production from the catching position was mostly a disappointment with both Danny Jansen and Reese McGuire struggling, they received a late-season shot in the arm when they called up Alejandro Kirk.
It was a bit of a surprise move because the 21-year-old had never played above High-A ball, and typically catchers will at least make a short stop in Double and Triple-A. However, with no minor league season in 2020 and Kirk’s bat looking ready for the challenge, the Blue Jays made a fairly gutsy call that ended up working out just fine. The sample size was small, but the Mexican receiver went 9-24, slashing .375/.400/.583, and looked adequate on defence as well.
After that solid cameo in the big leagues, has Kirk done enough to earn a roster spot with the Blue Jays at the start of next season?
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That’s not an easy question to answer, and there are good arguments to both sides of it. On one hand, he offers the most offensive upside of any of the organization’s catchers, even if I still have plenty of faith in Danny Jansen. Kirk’s bat is clearly ready for the challenge, and he’ll offer a real offensive threat from the position once he settles in the big leagues for good, and that can be a real advantage.
However, I can’t help but wonder if the Blue Jays might be wise to begin his season in Triple-A in 2021, mostly with the goal of improving his defence. In Buffalo (or wherever the Triple-A season is played), Kirk would be able to start behind the plate on a regular basis, as opposed to more of a job-share with Jansen if he were in the big leagues. Even spending half of the season in the minors could give him a lot of reps and do him a lot of good, especially in terms of his long-term development.
As we’ve seen with the recent example of Vladimir Guerrero Jr., it’s important that the entire game is ready for the highest level, even if the bat is more than ready to play. Vlad Jr. struggled at third base in his rookie season and ultimately moved across the diamond this year for a variety of reasons. It would have been nearly impossible to hold him in Triple-A much longer than they did with the way he was performing as a hitter back then, but it’s tough to argue that his glove was ready for the jump too.
As for Kirk, I’d honestly be okay with the decision either way when the Blue Jays break camp next spring. Personally, I think I’d rather see him start the year in Triple-A, giving the youngster some extra seasoning with the glove, and the Blue Jays another opportunity to evaluate what they may or may not have in Jansen as well. Either way though, I expect that Kirk will be a big part of the plans for 2021 and beyond.