Written By: Nathan Hutchinson
Follow Him on Twitter: @hutch1760
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The Blue Jays No. 7 Prospect has had a hot start to his career (Link to Top 20 Blue Jays ranks)
Through 5 starts and 17 at-bats, Kirk has done exactly what you’d expect someone with his track record of hitting throughout his minor league career to do, hit. He has hit, and his stats are impressive. Although it’s a small sample size, you can’t take away how impressive his start to his career has been. Kirk’s track record and reports were that he makes a ton of contact, doesn’t strikeout, and isn’t the best defensively. He has done exactly what most scouts believe he’d do, hit and play below-average defense.
A .412/.444/.647 is not sustainable but some of his more advanced stats, have given me hope that this isn’t a fluke, but that Kirk will be able to hit at an above-average clip.
Kirk has 16 batted balls, 7 have had an exit velocity above 105mph, and 12 above 90mph. His hitting mechanics have always been intriguing due to his extreme horizontal bat path, it helps him make contact at an above-average rate but results in a ton of groundballs.
On pitches down in the zone, he’s struggling to elevate the ball resulting in a 4.1 Launch Angle. When he gets a pitch middle or up, he’s having more success elevating the ball but isn’t getting the hits that he’s getting on pitches down.
Kirk has also shown that he struggles vs off-speed pitches, 37.5 whiff rate, and .174 WOBA. Going forward, teams will begin to adjust and develop a plan vs Kirk and he’ll need to adjust.
Kirk was never viewed as a defensives catcher but an offensive first catcher. Many scouts have said that Kirk has come a long way defensively and that some have optimism that he’ll be able to stick as a catcher. Kirk has caught 43 innings in the MLB and so far, he’s been very inconsistent, his receiving has been the main concern.
Kirk uses the new age on knee catching style, but due to his shorter stature, he has struggled to receive pitches that aren’t down, in, or out. Pitches on the corners and up in the zone are rarely being called strikes, although he’s getting strikes called at a good rate down, in, and out until he can be close to average everywhere else, he’s somewhat one-dimensional and has struggled to catch pitchers who need to live on corners. His blocking has been good, his throwing hasn’t been tested too much, but his limited throws have been inconsistent.
Many Blue Jays fans have deemed Kirk the catcher of the future and want Kirk playing every day. I however still have some concerns about his body and durability long term, as well as if he’ll stick at catcher. His bat will play, he’s shown he can hit the ball hard and have success. Going forward, with Jansen, McGuire, and Joseph struggling to hit, Kirk will be given a shot to be the postseason catcher in 2020 or at least get at-bats as a DH. Kirk has had a fantastic start to his career but the questions of if he’ll stick at catcher, can he play 125+ games, will the bat adjust when pitchers adjust and can he get his body into batter shape.
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