When the Blue Jays lost Danny Jansen to an oblique injury, it felt like there was urgency at the catching position. Alejandro Kirk has eased those concerns, and in fact, I might go as far as saying this was the opportunity that the 23 year old needed.
I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve been reluctant to trust Kirk’s defence so far during his big league career, and I hardly mean that as a criticism. To be fair, he really doesn’t have a lot of professional experience behind the plate, as in 2020 he jumped from High-A straight to the big leagues, and still has only started 60 games behind the plate from 2020-2022. It’s not that I didn’t believe he could be a good defender, I just felt that he needed more experience in order to get there.
That experience has been forced on him a little more than the Blue Jays planned, and so far I would argue that it’s been one of a few silver linings to Jansen’s time spent on the IL. The first would be the hitting of Zack Collins, who has found a way into Blue Jays fan’s hearts already with a solid power stroke and a strong social media game, but the second is the development in Kirk’s defence.
He’s long been a partner for Alek Manoah, and that combination continues to work very well for the Blue Jays in 2022. They were often paired together last season as well, and it’s clear the duo enjoy working together, and are finding a lot of success at a young stage in each of their respective careers. That’s huge for Kirk as he continues to develop as a defender, and having the trust of a budding elite arm like Manoah will go a long way.
On Sunday’s broadcast Dan Shulman and Pat Tabler spent some time talking about Kirk’s defence, and in particular to his framing skills. They mentioned that the coaching staff talks about how “everything looks like a strike from the bench” and that’s a sign that Kirk is working hard to improve that framing skill in particular. I’m certainly not a scout for that sort of thing, but I feel like even I can see a difference in his work between now and when he was catching last year.
This could be a huge development for both Kirk and the Blue Jays, especially as they look to contend in 2022 and beyond. Kirk has already shown himself to have the potential to be an above-average big league hitter, and that’s especially the case if he’s starting as the catcher rather than as the designated hitter. It’s looking more like they have a player with a similar description in Jansen as well, at least when he’s healthy, and their top prospect in Gabriel Moreno could be pushing for a promotion by this summer. With all due respect to Kirk, he was going to need to improve defensively in order to keep getting regular playing time.
So far the Mexican-born receiver has stepped up to the challenge, and it’s one of the many reasons that the Blue Jays have been able to start with a 15-8 record despite dealing with significant injuries. If he can keep rounding out his game like this, there’s no doubt that the Jays will find a way to have him in the lineup on a regular basis.