The Blue Jays have a Great Catching Problem
Photo credit:Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports
1 year ago
The Jays have a catching problem.
Unlike a few issues that have arisen this season, this catching problem isn’t bad in the slightest. On one hand, we have Jansen hitting like a prime Barry Bonds. On the other hand, Kirk has arguably become one of the best two-way catchers in the game.
This isn’t a problem, as the Jays could split time evenly between the two backstops. However, on the third hand, we have Gabriel Moreno, who is tearing up Triple A.
Usually, MLB teams only carry two catchers, meaning one player is left out unless there are positional changes or trades. In this article, we’ll look at the former, while also looking at the strengths and weaknesses of each of the three catchers.
Is Danny Jansen just on an insane heater, or has he finally figured out the bat? I genuinely have no idea. I’d like to think his .303/.361/.879 (that’s slugging, not OPS) slash line can hold up, but he has shown to be streaky in the past.
However, Jansen’s home run total of SIX in 36 plate appearances is absolutely crazy. He has hit a homer 15.6% of the time, which yeah. In fact, his six homers rank second on the team. Again, he’s only had 36 plate appearances.
Other than consistency, Jansen’s only weakness (if you could even call it that) is his defense behind the plate.
The sample size is too tiny to judge, but last season, Jansen only had a Catcher Defensive Adjustment of 1.1, above average, but not to his 2019 standards. After Reese McGuire was traded, I would have easily said Jansen was their best defensive catcher.
Well, that was until Alejandro Kirk emerged as one of the best two way catchers in the game.
Kirk’s power has decreased, as he hit eight homers in 189 plate appearances in 2021. This season, the 5’8 catcher only has one homer in 130 plate appearances.
However, Kirk is a contact hitter, as the 23-year-old is slashing .268/.354/.339 and has walked 12.3% of the time while only striking out 9.2% of the time. Despite the lack of power this season, Kirk provides enough offense to justify a spot on the roster
Then comes his defense. Using the same metric as we did for Danny Jansen, Kirk has a Catcher Defensive Adjustment of 1.7, which ranks as the 14th best in the MLB (a spot below J.T Realmuto).
Not a fan of advanced catcher defensive metrics? Well let’s look at Defensive Runs Saved, in which Alejandro Kirk has a total of 4, which is tied for third with at least 200 innings caught.
What about framing? Well, Kirk has a Catcher Framing Runs (how many pitches out of the strike zone were converted to strikes) of 2, which is tied for third.
Okay, catcher metrics can be wonky, what about traditional stats such as Caught Stealing percentage and wild pitches/passed balls.
Looking at wild pitches, Kirk has allowed four this season. Which ties for second least for catchers with 190 innings caught. In terms of throwing out runners, he’s retired 37.50% of runners, which ranks 6th for catchers with 200 innings caught and at least four runners thrown out.
The last two statistics stand out to me the most, because he was never known as a defense first catcher, but he’s improved drastically behind the plate. In my mind, Kirk is the best defensive catcher the Blue Jays have.
The only knock against Kirk is his durability. While it doesn’t impact his ability to catch, his frame does raise concerns about his durability, meaning he may not be able to play a full catcher’s load.
Then we come to MLB Pipeline’s fourth best prospect, Gabriel Moreno.
This season, the 22-year-old is slashing .346/.402/.449 in 117 plate appearances. Moreno’s batted ball skills remind me a lot of Kirk’s, as Moreno has a tendency to shoot the ball to all parts of the field. He has a pull percentage of 44.2%, while he shoots the ball the other way 38.4% of the time.
Unlike Kirk, Moreno does have a higher K% at 17.9% and a BB% of 7.7%. However, that’s not my biggest concern.
In just 145 plate appearances with the Double A Fisher Cats last season, Moreno had eight homers. He was hit by a pitch and required surgery on his thumb, which essentially ended his season. In 2022, he only has one homer in his 117 plate appearances, a very concerning development.
On a more positive note, he has thrown out 11 base stealers in 24 attempts, good enough for a 45.83%. Hypothetically speaking, if he had that percentage in the MLB, he would be second in the MLB behind J.T Realmuto.
Interestingly, scouts say Moreno is the most athletic catcher since Realmuto. This is likely due to the fact he was a shortstop before the Jays converted him to a catcher. Speaking of which…
Moreno to third base:
Prior to his season ending injury, Moreno played a game at third base. Furthermore, when he was sent to the Arizona Fall League, he played two games at the hot corner.
He has experience playing on the left side of the diamond, but he also had the arm and athleticism to play at the position. Could the Jays explore splitting Moreno’s time between third and catcher to fit him on the roster?
Kirk to first base:
Here’s a quote from his 2021 Fangraphs’ bio:
“The more 1B/DH Kirk has to play during his years of team control, the less valuable he’ll be.”
Firstly, value to who? Other teams? The organization? The fans? I’ve never understood this line of thinking.
Secondly, Kirk is 5’8, far too short to play first base.
Jansen backup catcher/DH:
This is a wild one, but I think it needs to be noted. Jansen is certainly an above average defender, despite the drop off from 2019. However, I believe Kirk is the best defensive catcher.
While I think it’d be unlikely for Jansen to be a full time DH, I think he could see significant innings at the position while Kirk is resting.
So what happens when Moreno is called up?:
Personally, I don’t think Moreno will be called up before September. The roster will expand to 28 players, meaning the Jays can get away with having three catchers on the roster. Ideally, none of these three guys are traded, because all three catchers are pretty special.
As always, you can follow me on Twitter @Brennan_L_D.
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