Toronto Blue Jays 2023 Depth Chart: Catcher
The Blue Jays catching depth took quite the hit when top prospect Gabriel Moreno was traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks this past offseason. It was a trade that makes the club better now as they had too many major league-ready catchers and a need in the outfield. So, after trading Moreno, how does the organizational depth at the backstop position look going into 2023?
No. 1: Alejandro Kirk
Alejandro Kirk is entering his third full season with the Blue Jays after making a brief debut as a 21-year-old in 2020. Kirk started 74 games behind the plate in 2022, while surrendering just one passed ball and threw out 26% of attempted base stealers. The 5’8”, 245lb catcher’s biggest asset is his bat and is coming off his first Silver Slugger Award as the top hitting catcher in the American League. Kirk posted a slash line of .285/.372/.415 with a .786 OPS as he collected 33 extra base hits (14 home runs) with 63 RBI. He also earned his first appearance in the Midsummer Classic as he was voted as the starting catcher for the 2022 All-Star Game at Dodger Stadium. Heading into 2023, it appears as though he will split time pretty evenly behind the plate with Danny Jansen, but will also see a lot of action as the designated hitter.
No. 2: Danny Jansen
It feels like Danny Jansen has been around the organization forever and that is because he has, as he was drafted in the 16th round of the 2013 MLB Draft. Jansen doesn't turn 28 until mid-April and is already entering his sixth season on the Blue Jays roster and has been known as a reliable catcher that pitchers enjoy throwing to. His biggest issue over the last couple of seasons has been staying healthy. Jansen missed nearly a month on two separate occasions in 2021, and then in 2022 he missed more than a month again two different times. The injuries has caused him to start just 112 games over the last two seasons.
Jansen was able to stay healthy for the second half of 2022 and even teased fans with being an elite level hitter. Over the final 31 games of the season, Jansen posted a slash line of .344/.431/.634 with 15 extra base hits in 93 at bats.
No. 3: Daulton Varsho
The newly-acquired Daulton Varsho is entering his first season with the Toronto Blue Jays after he was traded for back in the aforementioned Gurriel/Moreno trade. Varsho is known as a super athlete that has played each of the three outfield positions, as well as nearly a third of his major league games behind the plate. In 2022, Varsho started 18 games as catcher and 37 games the season before. Over his three year career, he has thrown out 30% of base runners which is higher than both Kirk and Jansen, however at a drastically smaller sample size.
The ideal situation is that the top two catchers stay healthy for the duration of the season which would help keep Varsho in the outfield and not behind the plate. The assumption is that he is the starting left fielder and he will get some time in the two other outfield positions to give Kevin Kiermaier and George Springer days off. If one of the top two catchers have a short term injury, it is likely one of the Triple-A catchers will get an opportunity, but if it is a longer term injury the club can rely on Varsho if there is nothing in the trade market.
Minor league depth not on the 40-man
The Blue Jays signed Rob Brantly to a minor league contract back in January and invited him to big league Spring Training. He will likely be one of the catchers for Triple-A Buffalo and will only be used on the Blue Jays if injuries amount.
The veteran catcher will turn 34 in July and has bounced around the league making major league appearances for five teams since his debut back in 2012. Most recently Brantly was in the New York Yankees and has played in just nine major league games over the last four seasons. The only way Brantly will see any major league action is if one of Kirk or Jansen go down for two or three weeks.
The Blue Jays signed Stevie Berman at the end of January to a minor league deal with an invite to Spring Training after he spent the majority of 2022 with the Buffalo Bisons. Berman is a 28-year old catcher who started 52 games behind the plate for the Bisons last season.
The California native has yet to make his major league debut and just finished his first full season at Triple-A in 2022. Similar to Brantly, Berman will be a short term injury replacement where the Blue Jays could add one of them to the 26-man roster and then DFA’d the next week without fear of losing them.
Only just recently signed to a minor league contract, Ritchie, 29, has an interesting offensive profile that doesn't keep him too far down the catching depth chart.
While he likely will never hit double-digit home run totals, Ritchie draws a ton of walks and doesn't strike out much. Over the course of his eight-year minor league career he has 363 walks and only 419 strikeouts with an impressive .284 career batting average.
What makes Ritchie even more intriguing is his ability to play other positions. He has routinely lined up at first base over the years but recently has added left field to his repertoire, where he has played excellent defense.
Britton is at or near the bottom of the depth chart at the catching position but he should not be completely written off. He has looked strong in Spring Training and, like Ritchie, can play some solid corner outfield. His versatility could provide a quicker path to the big leagues.