The Blue Jays may need some help at the catching position, but in an ideal world they won’t feel the need to rush Gabriel Moreno’s MLB debut.
Moreno is the top prospect in the Blue Jays minor league system, and he just made his 2022 debut last night in Triple-A Buffalo. In typical Moreno fashion, he picked up a hit in his first at-bat, which only caught the eyes of Blue Jays fans even more. The budding star would have our attention anyway, but fans will have an even greater interest now that we’ve learned that Danny Jansen will likely miss at least a month with an oblique injury.
Tuesday night’s game was anything but encouraging when it comes to the future behind the plate without Jansen. Alejandro Kirk, who is expected to take on the majority of the catching workload, started as the designated hitter, with Tyler Heineman getting the start and working with Yusei Kikuchi. Heineman went 0-1 and committed an error, and he was eventually lifted for Zack Collins, who went 0-2 with a pair of strikeouts. I’ll say this as respectfully as I can, but Collins’ strikeouts were anything but pretty.
For the Blue Jays, it’s a concern to think about life without Jansen for at least a month, and with oblique injuries it could certainly be longer. As I mentioned, Kirk will likely get the majority of the playing time, but his strength is in his bat, and his defensive skill set is a work in progress. This may be a great opportunity for him to develop, but they’re going to need more support than what Collins and Heineman previewed on Tuesday.
With that in mind, the temptation is going to be there to promote Moreno, but in my view that’s jumping to a premature solution. If we’re worried about Kirk’s glove being a bit underdeveloped, then the same concern should come for Moreno, who only played in three games at the Triple-A level in 2021. Ideally he would be able to play at least half a season with the Bisons, giving him time to prepare all aspects of his game.
I’m sure some of you are thinking that I’m making excuses for not calling up Moreno, but I really do think that asking him to join the Blue Jays right now would be a bit unfair to his development. This is a team that is expected to compete for a World Series championship, and Moreno’s 2022 campaign literally just started yesterday. Asking him to step into this kind of role at the highest level would be asking a lot, and there would be plenty of risks involved.
Considering the Blue Jays do have a solid most-days solution in Kirk, I would expect that they’ll look for a veteran that could be available on the trade market. It’s still early enough in the season that teams are doing some roster shuffling, and an experienced back-up catcher shouldn’t be that hard to find. Ideally Collins should be able to handle the job, as he appeared in 78 games for the White Sox last year, but the early returns haven’t been great thus far, and he does have a minor league option that the Blue Jays could use to acquire more depth.
My guess is that looking for a veteran back-up will be a more preferred route than entertaining the idea of promoting Moreno at this early stage, and honestly, I’d be in agreement with that philosophy. Moreno’s time in the big leagues won’t be far away, but I don’t like the idea of rushing a potential star just because there’s a half-time need for a month. Here’s hoping the rest of the roster will hit enough that it’ll turn out to be a moot point anyway.