Blue Jays: Could Gabriel Moreno crack the Opening Day roster?

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Heading into the 2022 campaign, the Blue Jays will have three catchers on the roster who are considered Major League caliber players, whether they are in a full-time role or a backup capacity.

Alejandro Kirk, Danny Jansen, and Reese McGuire are all on the Blue Jays 40-man roster and all three players were used last season. McGuire spent the most time behind the plate last season (73) as Jansen (69) and Kirk (43) both spent a good chunk of the campaign on the injured list throughout the campaign. This year was going to be Kirk’s opportunity to take an increased role on the big league roster after his cup of coffee the season prior but ran into a hip injury that kept him off the field and on the 60-day IL just one month in.

Not many teams across Major League Baseball are heading into Spring Training with three Major League catchers and the Blue Jays are likely going to explore moving one of them this offseason to improve other areas on the squad. Kirk is the name that brings the most value in any trade talks while McGuire could be a name moved for cash considerations early in the campaign, with his value on the lower end considering he is out of minor league options. Jansen does have some trade value but not as much as Kirk when it comes to contract control and the ups and downs that come with his batting ability.

Another wrinkle in the mix is top prospect Gabriel Moreno is also a catcher and after an impressive 2021 campaign, will most likely be making his big league debut sometime next year. He had his campaign impacted by a thumb injury but after spending a majority of the season with the New Hampshire Fisher Cats, Moreno slashed .373/.441/.651 with a 1.092 OPS and eight home runs through 126 at-bats in AA ball. He also went to the Arizona Fall League following the minor league campaign (.329/.410/.494 through 22 games) and is currently down in Venezuala playing winter league ball where he currently owns a .279/.397/.361 line with one home runs through 18 games with a .758 OPS.

Blue Jays Gabriel Moreno is one of the top catching prospects in all of Major League baseball, but could he force the club to start him in the MLB in 2022?

It’s no secret that Moreno is going to be pushing his way to the big league roster in the near future, especially if he starts strong to begin the year down in the minor leagues. However, is there a chance that Moreno could have a strong Spring Training and find a way to crack the active roster for Opening Day?

Right now, the odds are most likely against him. With three catchers already on the roster and having missed a couple of months with the thumb injury last season, it could be easily argued that Moreno could use some more time to develop and fine-tune his skills down in AAA before the club promotes him to the highest level. It is not a given that he will immediately begin the year in the minors, considering Kirk made the jump from A-ball to the MLB in 2020, but the players in front of him may create a logjam for playing time and it may be better suited for both parties for Moreno to continue getting full-time reps with the Buffalo Bison’s until they can guarantee him more playing time in the Majors.

The odds could change come Spring Training, most likely if the club decides to trade one or two of their catchers for either pitching help or a third baseman. If Kirk was to be dealt this winter and Moreno does post a strong spring, the front office and Charlie Montoyo could keep him on the big league roster, especially since this year is one where the Blue Jays could be playing meaningful October baseball. McGuire could get dealt or DFA’d if Moreno is flirting with making the Opening Day roster and Kirk is still with the Jays, so keep your eyes open towards the end of March (as long as one of the three isn’t dealt by then already).

Overall, a few things would need to happen for Moreno to crack the Opening Day roster:

  • He has an outstanding Spring Training with the Jays and forces management to keep him in the big leagues and on the active roster
  • One or two of the catchers on the 40-man roster are traded this offseason
  • One of either Kirk or Jansen starts the season on the injured list

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There is a chance he could force the Blue Jays front office to make a move and bring him to Toronto to begin the year but don’t be surprised if he continues to develop in the minor leagues to begin the 2022 campaign, with the potential to crack the roster later in the summer.