Blue Jays: Alejandro Kirk is starting to hit his way into more playing time
With the shortened season last year, not many predicted that Blue Jays catching prospect Alejandro Kirk would be making his major league debut. While he started the 2020 season as the organization’s #5 ranked prospect, the 22-year-old from Tijuana, Mexico had never played past A-ball prior to last season, a jump that goes against the norm of having players develop through all levels of the minor league system (especially within the Blue Jays organization).
For Kirk, what carried him to the active roster was his hitting ability, as the stocky catcher has been dynamite in the batter’s box in every level he has played. His short swing and eye at the plate give him the ability to shoot the ball across the entire diamond, while his raw power adds another level to his game, making opposing pitchers pay for any mistakes left over the plate.
In Spring Training this season, Kirk impressed the Blue Jays management enough that they decided to carry him on the active roster in a backup/tandem capacity alongside Danny Jansen. While the move was met with both applause and criticism, the righty slugger was going to be given an opportunity to carry over his impressive start from last season into the beginning of 2021.
Kirk would have a slow start to the year, playing opposite Jansen and catching exclusively for Robbie Ray and T.J. Zeuch before Zeuch went down with injuries. The catching prospect has found himself in 16 games so far this season as both the catcher and designated hitter, slashing .231/.318/.487 with three home runs, eight RBI, and four walks with six strikeouts in 39 at-bats. The hard-hitting catcher wouldn’t get his first hit until his seventh game, breaking an 0-13 streak he was riding at the plate that was starting to concern fans if bringing him to the active roster was the right call.
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Since his first hit of the season, Kirk is starting to string along some quality at-bats and has brought his average up past the Mendoza line, walking almost as much as he is striking out. Yesterday against the Atlanta Braves, Kirk had his best game of the year, going 2-4 with two home runs and four RBI while also walking once. His ability to wait for his pitch and not chase was on point yesterday, as he made Braves pitchers pay for leaving balls over the plate, sending them to the deep parts of the ballpark.
With that being said, the argument is starting to creep forward if Kirk should start handling more of the catching duties with Danny Jansen struggling out of the gate in 2021. Jansen has been given a few years to try and run away with the everyday role but his inconsistency in the batter’s box and his ugly .045/.143/.068 slash line this season is making it tough to throw him out there unless Hyun Jin Ryu is on the mound, almost in a personal catcher sort of scenario.
As much as Jansen is a step above Kirk defensively, the pros and cons are going to have to be weighed shortly as the tandem only works if both players are performing well enough to keep the tandem going, something Jansen is currently not pulling his weight for. The 5’8 catcher is starting to pull away with his hitting ability, and with Teoscar Hernandez and George Springer now healthy and with Randal Grichuk playing well to begin the season, Charlie Montoyo won’t be able to put Kirk in as the designated hitter, meaning he will only play if he is the catcher that day.
At a certain point this season, one would imagine that Montoyo has to role with the hot bat and keep throwing Kirk out there, as Jansen is just in some sort of funk that has only seen him muster two hits in 44 at-bats this season, which is out of character even for him compared to previous seasons of struggling to hit well. If the Blue Jays want to win games and keep rallies going like fans saw last night, it might be time to pull the plug on the tandem and let Alejandro Kirk catch more games.