Why Alejandro Kirk looks like the biggest breakout candidate in the Blue Jays

When Alejandro Kirk made his debut with the Toronto Blue Jays in 2020, his rapid ascent seemed critical to the team’s progress.

Since then, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., has split, Bo Beachet and Teoskar Hernandez have maintained all-star level production, the team has also added Jose Berrios and Kevin Gaussman to a nine-figure deal and has seen Robbie Ray put together a Sai Young. Weather. The team has even seen another catcher, Gabriel Moreno, become one of baseball’s best prospects.

Kirk suddenly fades into the background, but in a team full of familiar amounts, he enters the year as perhaps the best breakout candidate for the Blue Jays.

Last season, collecting .242 / .328 / .436 line cork is strong for a catcher and slightly lower than average for a DH. This sounds like a good idea for a guy who is a part-catcher, part-DH, but he sells less than what he showed in his age-22 season.

If you go to Kirk’s Baseball Savant page, the five hitters you thought he matched the most in 2021 – based on his walking, strikeout, and communication quality – were: Jesse Winker, Manny Machado, Matt Olson, Corey Cigar And Brandon Crawford.

Four of these five players were All-Stars (cigars would probably do five with better health), and they hit .289 / .373 / .589 for 140 wRC +. Based on raw statistics alone, Kirk doesn’t seem to belong anywhere near this group, but his expected numbers tell a different story.

The difference between expected and actual production can be difficult to explain. Some players, such as Miguel Cabrera and Kendris Morales, have consistently noticed that their production is falling short of the expectations of Statcast because of the extreme lack of leg movement and the tendency to tear hard groundball.

On the other hand, it can often be explained by random changes – especially in small samples. 2021 Both MVPs were at least .045 less than their xwOBA during their short 2020 campaigns before posting numbers that matched the expectations of Statcast last year.

It’s tempting to assume that Kirk is a Cabrera or Morales based on his 14th percentile sprint speed, but that’s not really what we saw in 2021. Kirk’s infield hit rate was five percent below the league-average (6.9 percent) and his 24 singles were clearly double for just two of them fast runners:



For the sake of argument, if we say Kirk’s lack of speed costs him two infield singles and converts four singles into doubles — a fairly obvious overstatement — Catcher still hits .254 and hits .473, much less than his expected number. .

A big problem for Kirk seems to be finding his way in hard-hit ball gloves. In his 145-ball game last season, Catcher had a departure speed of at least 100 mph and an expected batting average of at least .500 which resulted in 13 dismissals.

Here’s how it stands out from the rest of the projected Blue Jess lineup:

It has nothing to do with Kirk’s wheels, or lack thereof, and it seems safe to assume that his fortunes will be somewhat better in 2022. This means not hitting the ball deeper into the ballpark.

… Or avoid laser shooting directly on the infielders.

With Star Power, Moreno Hype and a season of 2021 that was more difficult than spectacular in the Blue Jays lineup, it has been easy to ignore Kirk’s entry this year.

Even with a little zoom out, it’s rather surprising that a 23-year-old whose starting position is a project to take a big chunk of DH at-bats for a lineup that should be among the best among the majors. There’s a reason the Blue Jays pencil him sixth in their opening day lineup – far ahead of the much-established Matt Chapman – and 2022 could be the year he establishes himself as a key cog in Toronto’s offensive line.

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