We already know that Alejandro Kirk is one of the best hitting catchers, if not the best, in Major League Baseball. However, did you know that the 23-year-old also deserves some Gold Glove nominations?
Does he deserve to win it? In my opinion, no. Jose Trevino of the New York Yankees is the clear-cut winner, and it’s not particularly close. However, to be nominated, you need to finish in the top 3 in voting, which is much more feasible.
With the bat, he’s slashing .292/.378/.435 with a 136 wRC+ and a higher BB% than K%. It’s arguable that he’s the best hitting catcher in the league, but once you factor in his defense, there isn’t a doubt in my mind that he’s been the best all-around catcher this season.
The big question is, what makes him so good defensively?
Well for starters, he has a solid arm. It’s not particularly great, but there’s over a 25% chance he’ll throw out a base runner. His caught stealing percentage currently sits at 28.21%, so he doesn’t have a noodle arm, but he’s not Gabriel Moreno.
Pop Time is a measurement of how quickly it takes from the ball hitting the glove to throw to second base. Two seconds is average, and Alejandro Kirk has a pop time of 1.99, so slightly above average.
If you’re curious, Danny Jansen has a Pop Time of 1.98, while Gabriel Moreno has a pop time of 1.91, which ranks sixth in the major leagues.
This is to say that his 28.21 CS% and 1.99 Pop Time are average statistics.
According to SIS Baseball, Kirk has successfully blocked 237 pitches in 248 opportunities this season. For it to be an opportunity, the ball has to be in the dirt with a runner on base (or strikeout). Sticking with the SIS statistic, Kirk had the second highest blocking percentage as of September 2nd.
Last season, Kirk allowed 18 wild pitches in 338 innings behind the plate, and only blocked 168 pitches in 187 attempts. Not only is he one of the best blocking catchers in the MLB, but he’s also showing that he’s improving behind the plate.
While blocking and throwing runners out is important, those events don’t happen often in a game. However, framing is the only way a catcher can impact the game with every single pitch.
Guess what, Kirk excels at framing as well. Catcher Framing Runs is a stat that measures converted called strikes in the “shadow zone”, or a few inches off the plate in each way.
Kirk ranks tied for 5th in CFR with five on the season (Trevino sits at an incredible 13).
Another stat from Baseball Savant is Strike Rate, which is the cumulative percentage of all eight zones around the actual strike zone. Kirk’s strike rate sits at 49.7%, which ranks eighth for qualified catchers, slightly below Adley Rutschman and Sean Murphy, who sit at 49.8% and 49.9% respectively.
First, we’ll use Defensive Runs Saved, which isn’t a great metric for measuring a catcher defense all things told. Kirk ranks seventh in DRS for catchers with 6. As you can imagine, Jose Trevino (and Adley Rutschman) sit first with a DRS of 14.
A better metric for catcher defense comes from Baseball Prospectus. Catcher Defensive Adjustment measures throwing, blocking, and framing. Kirk has a CDA of 8.3, which ranks fifth in the MLB and fourth for American League catchers.
Only Jose Trevino (18), Jonah Heim (11.6) and Austin Hedges (8.5) have a higher CDA than Alejandro Kirk.
There’s a good chance that Kirk will see some Gold Glove nominations, and while Jose Trevino will deservedly win it, Kirk becoming one of the best defensive catchers in the league at 23 is amazing.
The next step for Kirk’s progression is for him to catch more often, as he’s only spent 68 games behind the plate, while DH’ing 40 times.
As always, you can follow me on Twitter @Brennan_L_D. Big shoutout to SIS Baseball, who provided the blocking stats, which would’ve been incredibly difficult to find/quantify.