The catcher position has long been a source of fascination for many Blue Jays fans. The calling of the pitches, the equipment, the fact that they must do all that and still hit makes it one of the most challenging roles in sports.
The Jays feature many young stars across the diamond, but not behind the plate, at least not yet.
That doesn’t mean they don’t have talent at that spot, it just hasn’t developed the way the team hoped it would. Between the players on the current roster and prospects in the pipeline, the present and future are reasonably bright.
Blue Jays Catchers: Danny Jansen
Danny Jansen is entering a pivotal stage of his career. He’s eligible for arbitration for the first time in 2022 after making his debut back in 2018.
Simply put, Jansen hasn’t lived up to the expectations attached to him as a top prospect. Over parts of four seasons, Jansen has batted .212 with 33 homers and 99 RBI in 732 at-bats. He has a cumulative OPS+ of 87, has thrown out 24% of baserunners, and has a career WAR of 3.6.
While those numbers aren’t outstanding, it is encouraging that Danny is coming off the best stretch of games in his pro career. During the month of September Jansen hit .310 (18-58) with five home runs and 17 RBI but did miss a portion of the season on the injured list.
Maintaining that pace isn’t sustainable but if Jansen can show more consistency and avoid slumps like how he started 2021 with (2/45), he’ll continue to receive the bulk of the playing time.
Perhaps no Blue Jays player improved his stock within the organization more than Reese McGuire in 2021. After initially being left off the 40-man roster, McGuire was reactivated when Alejandro Kirk got hurt in May.
McGuire responded by hitting .253 with 15 doubles over 198 at-bats. He also threw out 35% (11/31) of would-be base-stealers, 12% better than league average. For his career, Reese has thrown out 22 of 73 runners (30%), 4% above the average.
Like Jansen, McGuire is prone to getting hot. From June 1st to 24th he hit .370 (17-46) with his lone home run of the season, six doubles, and four RBI. He enjoyed his most sustained run of success in 2019, hitting .299 with five homers, seven doubles, and 11 RBI in 97 at-bats.
He’s arbitration-eligible in 2023 and will be a free agent in 2026. Despite his decent hitting and throwing abilities, McGuire seems like the most likely candidate to be traded or released of the catchers on the current roster and is also out of minor league options.
The Blue Jays are still discovering what they have in Alejandro Kirk. After bursting onto the scene in an exciting, 24-at-bat cameo in 2020, Kirk got more of a chance to show what he can do last season.
He hit .242 with eight dingers and 24 RBI over 165 at-bats in 2021. He showed tremendous plate discipline, with almost as many walks (19) as strikeouts (22). However, Kirk threw out just six of 32 potential base-stealers (19%, 4% below league average).
Kirk has shown a great ability to make contact and to avoid strikeouts. He may be the best hitter of the three currently on the big-league roster. In order to unlock his true potential, a transformation like the one we saw last winter with Vladimir Guerrero Jr. may be in order.
That’s nothing against Moreno who looks like he could be ready to make an impact, and soon. Last year, Moreno raked to the tune of a .367 batting average in 37 games across three levels. He also hit eight homers and drove in 45 in just 159 at-bats while throwing out 40% of base runners with the Buffalo Bisons.
Moreno will turn 22 on Valentine’s Day and the possibility of his MLB debut at some point this season is enough to make Jays’ fans’ hearts melt.
Earlier in the offseason, the Blue Jays signed international catching prospect Luis Meza to contract. While he is only 17 years old, Meza has a bright future with raw but developing power.
The only other catcher among the Jays top 30 prospects is 19-year-old Victor Mesia, who could be knocking on the door as soon as 2024.