The Blue Jays have some enviable depth at the catching position, but Alejandro Kirk may be earning some job security these days.
The stocky receiver has been well known for his dangerous bat throughout his short MLB career, and that continues to be an asset for him even if he hasn’t quite started rolling in the batter’s box just yet. For the 2022 campaign he’s slashing .262/.350/.330, which is pretty solid, but those numbers will look even better once he dials in his power stroke as well.
While the offence is likely always going to be Kirk’s calling card, he’s showing some big improvements on the defensive side of the game so far this season. He’s quietly becoming an asset when it comes to pitch framing, and he’s throwing out would-be base stealers at a solid clip so far as well, catching four out of the first 10 attempts.
As much as the improvement of those key defensive numbers are important, his relationship with a budding ace in Alek Manoah may be the most significant factor of all.
Kirk has been the catcher that’s worked with the talented sophomore starter throughout the season, whether Danny Jansen has been healthy or not. The pair have really found a great groove and a working relationship that is thriving at an early point in their young careers. After Saturday’s one-run, eight inning gem against the Reds, Manoah is now 5-1 with a 1.62 ERA and a 0.88 WHIP so far in 2022.
I’m confident that Manoah could learn to work well with pretty much any decent catcher, and a guy like Danny Jansen is an above-average option to have kicking around as well, but I’m certain the Blue Jays won’t try to fix what isn’t broken at the moment. That could turn out to be significant when it comes to Kirk’s place in Toronto, as the Blue Jays will likely have some decisions to make around the position in the not so distant future.
Right now they’re very fortunate to have a strong MLB duo in Jansen and Kirk, but they also have the luxury of a top-10 prospect knocking on the door of the big leagues. Gabriel Moreno is currently ranked as the #5 prospect in the game according to MLB.com, and #5 according to Baseball America (subscription required). So far Moreno has been as advertised in Triple-A, hitting .323/.382/.398 over his first 102 at-bats, and if he keeps this up he’ll add a lot of pressure to the Blue Jays’ front office as the season goes on.
I’ll admit that over the winter I expected Alejandro Kirk to be a prime trade candidate for the Blue Jays, in part because of Moreno’s presence in the upper minor leagues. Jansen is a more than capable starter as well, and at the time they also had Reese McGuire on the roster, who has since been traded to the White Sox in exchange for Zack Collins. I still felt the same way up until just a few weeks ago, but I’ve slowly but surely been changing my mind when it comes to Kirk’s ability to stick as a catcher at the highest level. I’m not sure what that means for the position in the future in Toronto, but I’m guessing that Kirk’s performance this year could be changing minds, and even plans.
The Mexican-born catcher has been making steady improvements to his defensive game, and he’s earned the trust of one of baseball’s most exciting young pitchers. While nothing is guaranteed for any big leaguer, Kirk may be earning some pretty significant job security with the Blue Jays these days.