Alejandro Kirk has hit the ground running at the Major League level.
On Monday night, Kirk had a breakout showing at the plate, putting together a four-for-four day with his first big-league homer.
He became the youngest catcher to record a four-hit game since Joe Mauer did so in 2004 and he became the first catchers 21 years of age or younger to have four hits including a homer in a game since Pudge Rodriguez in 1991. That’s certainly better company than the J.P. Arencibia comparison that we’re all automatically drawing from our memories.
It’s pretty incredible to see Kirk doing this well given how tall of a task it is for a catcher to jump from Single-A to the Major Leagues. It was a bold decision for the Blue Jays to bring up Kirk ahead of schedule, but it looks like it was the right call.
His defence, game-calling, and framing have all looked fine, and his offence has been excellent. Here are the results of Kirk’s first 15 plate appearances at the big-league level…
Across 15 plate appearances, Kirk has made contact 13 times, walked once, and struck out once. Of those 13 batted balls, eight of them have been what you’d consider hard contact, which is ~95 miles-per-hour off the bat or higher.
It’s obviously a pretty small sample size, but it’s hard not to be impressed by Kirk’s results at the plate. He has an incredibly advanced approach for his age and he makes a lot of contact. When you do that, good things generally happen.
And, given how bad Toronto’s catchers have been this season offensively, pretty much anything from Kirk would be an upgrade.
Reese McGuire, who’s now at the Alternate Training site, had three hits all season before getting sent down. Kirk managed to clear that in just Monday night’s game against the Yankees. Danny Jansen, the team’s primary catcher, has 17 hits over 131 plate appearances, though his 20 walks to 28 strikeouts ratio is a bit of a saving grace from him being a complete black hole.
Given the way things have gone so far, the more we see from Kirk this season, the better. The Blue Jays boast a deeper lineup when he’s playing and they’re also losing nothing with him in the game defensively. The only situation in which Kirk shouldn’t be the catcher is when Hyun Jin Ryu is pitching because he has a complicated arsenal and Jansen has figured out how to work with it. Giving Kirk that challenge with a week left in the season is unnecessary.
But, even in a situation like that where it makes sense to have Jansen behind the plate, it’s worthwhile to use Kirk as the designated hitter simply to get his bat into the lineup.
In Game 1 of the playoffs, Jansen will surely be catching Ryu, so Kirk should slot in as the DH. Even in the event that Jansen gets hurt mid-game, you can just slide Kirk back behind the plate and use the bench to navigate the DH spot for the rest of the game. But, if there is a worry about using the backup catcher as the DH, the Jays can simply roll with three catchers on their playoff roster.
Do whatever you can do to make sure Kirk is in the lineup every game. He makes the team better.