Offering a look at what's been wrong with Alejandro Kirk this year

New York Yankees v Toronto Blue Jays
New York Yankees v Toronto Blue Jays / Mark Blinch/GettyImages

Toronto Blue Jays catcher Alejandro Kirk has struggled to approach the lofty expectations placed upon him after his breakout 2022 season. He’s hit for a .248 average with a .693 OPS after winning the American League Silver Slugger Award for catchers with a .285/.372/.415 slash line.

FanGraphs recently did a deep dive into Kirk’s slow start in an informative and highly-readable article by Dan Szymborski. Here are some of the key takeaways.

The post starts by illustrating what a pleasant surprise Kirk was behind the plate last year and how he was projected, along with Danny Jansen, to be part of the best-catching duo in the majors in 2023.  Szymborski reminds us how quickly Kirk rose through the minor-league system, going from High-A ball in 2019 to being a late-season call-up during the COVID-shortened 2020 season. 

Before quickly praising the 24-year-old’s improvement behind the plate, the writer attempts to explain the reasons for the declining hitting numbers. The drop in BAbip is expected, but Kirk’s “earned” BAbip (according to ZiPS) is lower than his actual BAbip. The more troubling development has been the lack of power.

Kirk’s stark drop in exit velocity and launch angle tells the story of a player who isn’t hitting the ball as hard or as high as last season. His EV (-4.2) and LA (-6.5) drops are among the highest for players who put at least 75 pitches into play in consecutive years in the Statcast era.  

More specifically, the low fastballs the Tijuana native used to feast on have been chopped into the ground. This is exacerbated by Kirk's status as one of the slowest runners in MLB and not usually a candidate to leg out infield hits. 

It’s a difficult read for Blue Jays fans with some legitimate concerns, but if you read to the end, there is some positivity. ZiPS year-to-year projections still place Kirk in a favorable light, but more in the solid starter range than the star power displayed a year ago. 

With Jansen possibly missing time with groin tightness, Kirk must figure things out at the plate. He went three for four in Thursday's series finale versus the Rays but also had difficulty containing the run game. Tyler Heineman is with the big league club as a member of the taxi squad and could be in line to serve as the backup catcher for now.