Spring Training is in full swing right now and with that we’re getting little bits of information as to who might be on the Blue Jays opening day roster and what roles players may be in. One piece of information that I’ve heard over the past week was when GM Ross Atkins stated that young catcher, Alejandro Kirk, has a “realistic” shot at winning the backup catcher job out of camp.
Despite how good Kirk looked at the end of last season, I think that having him make the team out of camp could potentially be problematic for both his long term development and for the Jays’ 2021 season.
There’s no debating how good of a player Kirk was offensively last season. He put up an impressive slash line of .375, 400, and .583 during his brief stint in the majors. Kirk also looked very comfortable hitting high velo pitching, which is something that the rest of the 2020 Jays really struggled with and was a huge reason why he made the playoff roster.
The thing to keep in mind is that Kirk only played in nine games last season. This is a super tiny sample size and I think it’s too little to determine if Kirk is actually ready to face big league pitching day in and day out. Pitchers are going to adjust and figure out how to get Kirk out, they just didn’t have time to do this last season. After a full offseason, teams will have had a chance to watch film and figure out the best way to attack Kirk and this could pose problems for someone who has only played in nine games above high A.
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Kirk also needs to work on his game behind the plate. He was better than what I expected defensively last season, but overall still needs some polishing before I would feel comfortable with him catching two or three times a week. For Kirk to develop at the plate and behind the dish, he’s going to need consistent reps. This is going to be hard to come by in the big leagues, especially if he continues to struggle defensively. The Jays have a loaded lineup and can afford to have a little less production from Danny Janson if he is playing Gold Glove caliber defence like he was in 2019.
Being a big league catcher is a lot of work and you need to be a good defender to get playing time, especially as a backup. Kirk just isn’t quite there yet defensively and I think that with a shaky pitching staff, having some defensive stability behind the plate could be helpful.
Having Kirk start off in AAA would allow the Jays to have a better defensive catching tandem. Whether it’s Reese McGuire, Riley Adams or a Free Agent signing, all of those options would be upgrades over Kirk defensively. If Janson continues to struggle at the dish to start the season and Kirk shows improvement behind the plate, I’m all for calling him up. But to start off, I think it would be better for Kirk, and the Blue Jays, if he opens the season in AAA