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Photo Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

It’s a Good Thing the Blue Jays didn’t Trade Alejandro Kirk, as he’s the Best Catcher in Baseball

If I’m being completely honest, I probably wouldn’t trade Alejandro Kirk for Jose Ramirez straight up.

Before the start of the season, I wrote an article titled “The case against trading Alejandro Kirk”. In that article, I go over what the 23-year-old catcher excels at, why he’s so good at hitting, the fact he’s average defensively, and why Moreno’s potential shouldn’t push Kirk to the wayside.

One comment read: 

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“You can’t be serious about keeping Kirk over Moreno are you? Moreno given half a season could replace anyone of our current Catchers. CLE will want a few roster players and some future talent in any package. They are giving up a lot of proven production  by trading Ramirez so they will want some back in any deal.”

Well, I can say without a doubt, thank god the Jays didn’t trade Kirk.

Kirk’s hitting is better than expected:

Even when Kirk was “struggling” early in the season, he still hit the ball rather well. It just so happened that he wasn’t hitting for extra bases, as he hit 14 singles before his first extra base hit.

Fast forward to June 8th, and the 23-year-old catcher is slashing .322/.401/.477 (I used his SLG this time, don’t yell at me) with five homers in 172 plate appearances. His wRC+ of 153 is the 16th highest in the MLB and the best on the Blue Jays, with Springer’s 140 in second.

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Not just that, but Kirk has a BB% of 12.2% and a K% of 9.3%, which is utterly insane for someone who only played A ball before his MLB debut.

You need to look no further than Kirk’s Baseball Savant page just to see how damn good he’s been this season.

Source: BaseballSavant.com

The most noticeable ranking is his K%, which ranks in the 98th percentile in the MLB. He also doesn’t whiff on balls and hits the ball rather hard as you can see by the three numbers at the top.

Despite hitting five homers, he hasn’t been barreling it as much as one would expect. Early in the season, it looked as if he was just slightly late on pitches, flying out instead of hitting nukes.

Then comes his framing…

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Kirk has put up Gold Glove numbers:

In the article “The case against trading Alejandro Kirk”, I made the argument that Kirk was “not a bad defender”.

Two months later, he’s proving everyone wrong by posting Gold Glove calibre numbers.

Let’s start with the simple stats:

Defensive Runs Saved:

As much as I love using Defensive Runs Saved (DRS), it’s not the best metric to use for quantifying how good a catcher is defensively. Regardless, we’ll use it in this article while also looking at other statistics.

Kirk’s DRS of 4 ties him for the third best amongst catchers with 200 innings caught. Only Jose Trevino (the best defensive catcher in the league) and Reese McGuire rank ahead of him as they both have a DRS of 6.

However, DRS isn’t the only metric that shows how good Kirk is defensively.

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Wild pitches and passed balls:

This season, Kirk has allowed only five wild pitches in his 244.2 innings. This is the third fewest amongst catchers with 200 innings caught. Not just that, but it’s a massive improvement over last season, where he allowed 18 wild pitches in 338 innings caught.

As for passed balls, he hasn’t allowed one this season.

Caught Stealing:

If a catcher throws out runners at a high clip, it doesn’t necessarily mean he’s a good catcher. Look no further than Gary Sanchez or Salvador Perez. I’m still going to bring up Kirk’s CS%, because it too has been a massive improvement over 2021.

Out of 19 would be base stealers, Kirk has thrown out 6, which is a 31.58% success rate. Nothing crazy, but it’s a pretty big improvement over his 18.75% last season.

Interestingly, Kirk ranks 11th in CS% out of 34 catchers with over 200 innings caught.

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Framing:

Now we get to the more advanced stats, framing. In my opinion, framing is the most important attribute a catcher could have. There are two different metrics from Baseball Savant I will use in this section – Catcher Framing Runs (CFR) and Strike Rate.

Per Baseball Savant: “Catching Framing Runs converts strikes to runs saved on a .125/ run/strike basis, and includes park and pitcher adjustments.” Strike rate is the percentage of non-swing balls converted into strikes in the shadow zone, which is a few inches off the plate in each direction.

Kirk has a Catcher Framing Runs of 2, which is tied for seventh in the league. However, due to it being early in the season, the highest CFR is only 3, meaning Kirk is quite high up amongst catchers.

His Strike Rate is fifth in the league, as he’s converted 50.5% of balls in the shadow zone into strikes.

Last season, his CFR was at -1 while his Strike Rate sat at 47.2%.

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Not only has he improved his framing, it has become one of the best in the league, especially at the bottom of the zone where he’s converted 62% of balls into strikes.

Catcher Defensive Adjustment:

Catcher Defensive Adjustment, or CDA, is a defensive metric created by Baseball Prospectus. It combines framing, throwing and blocking to give us a complete number. This season, Kirk has a CDA of 2, which ranks as the 13th best in the MLB. 

When coupled with the fact he’s arguably the best hitting catcher, it’s not too crazy to say he’s one of the best catchers in the league, if not the best.

We’re lucky the Jays didn’t trade Kirk:

Due to the hype surrounding Moreno, Kirk’s ability and ceiling have been largely ignored. It’s important to remember that Kirk is only 23, a year older than Moreno. Not just that, but he’s also developed into one of the 2-way catchers, if not the best two way catcher in the league.

The reason I would trade Kirk for Jose Ramirez is due to the fact that he’s one of the best players at the most important position while being under team control until 2027.

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Again, he’s only 23-years-old, meaning that Kirk will only get better as he continues to gain experience.

As always, you can follow me on Twitter @Brennan_L_D. I’m so glad I bought Kirk’s 2020 jersey, where his number was #85. I am a true Kirk day-oner. #KITBCIB


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