The Toronto Blue Jays currently have five catchers on the 40 man roster. How long will this be the case?
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The Blue Jays likely raised more than a few eyebrows on Friday when they added five farm hands to the 40 man roster. Catchers Riley Adams and Gabriel Moreno, infielder Otto Lopez, outfielder Josh Palacios and RHP Ty Tice are protected from next month’s rule 5 draft.
If any fans are concerned that their now full 40 man roster means they won’t be making significant additions, fear not. Moves are still possible and I would argue very likely. It just means that other players will need to be removed, either by trade or DFA. I’m certain that the 40 man roster as it is today will not be the 40 man roster on opening day 2021.
In particular, carrying five catchers on the 40 man isn’t a situation I expect to continue for too long. Let’s take a look at each one:
MLB games played: 181 regular season, 2 postseason
After Jansen got glasses in the off season between 2016 and 2017, he became known as a bat first catcher. Management was excited about his OPS of .884 in 2017 and .863 in 2018 prior to making his MLB debut. Some drop off was expected for a rookie facing major league pitching for the first time. A .779 OPS in 31 games was quite respectable.
Unfortunately his offence in the following two seasons hasn’t come close to that, with OPS numbers of .640 in 2019 and .671 in 2020. One thing worth noting – Alejandro Kirk made his MLB debut with the Blue Jays on September 12th and hit like a house on fire. From September 12 through the end of the regular season, Jansen’s slash line was .290/.371/.516. Did Kirk’s presence help to reawaken Jansen’s bat? He also hit two home runs in the wild card series vs a Tampa Bay Rays pitching staff that most Jays hitters couldn’t do much against.
On the defensive side, Jansen’s 12 DRS in 2019 earned him a top three finish in American League gold glove voting. It also represented a big improvement over the -3 he had in 2018. So it was both surprising and disappointing to see him regress to -4 in 2020.
Will the real Danny Jansen please stand up? While I still believe in Jansen’s potential as a good MLB catcher on both sides of the ball, he needs to find consistency. Hopefully 2021 will be the year he puts it all together.
MLB games played: 9 regular season, 1 postseason
Enter 21 (at the time) year old Kirk who had never played professionally above advanced A ball. Welcome to the majors, now go out there and help your team earn its first playoff spot in five years.
No pressure, right?
To say that Kirk rose to the challenge is an understatement. His slash line read .375/.400/.583. Blue Jays fans need to keep in mind that he has 9 games of MLB experience and that some regression is inevitable. Still it’s hard not to be excited about adding the name Kirk to an already impressive core of young Jays talent.
Ultimately, as someone who projects as a bat first player, his future could be as a back up catcher/part time DH/dangerous bat off the bench.
MLB games played: 63 regular season, 1 postseason
Coming through the minors, McGuire was known as a terrific defensive catcher. His offensive numbers in brief stints with the big club prior to 2020 were a pleasant surprise (.914 OPS in 14 games in 2018; .872 OPS in 30 games in 2019). A year ago, it looked like the Jays had a very promising catching duo – left hand hitting McGuire, a strong defender whose offence in the majors was better than expected and right hand hitting Jansen who made big strides defensively to go with a promising bat.
While I didn’t necessarily expect McGuire’s hitting to be as strong as it had been prior to 2020, I didn’t expect his OPS to regress all the way down to .220 in 19 games.
Following an error on September 4th on a botched pickoff play that contributed to a Blue Jays loss, McGuire was demoted from the active roster.
You can’t help but wonder if the legal trouble he got in to back in March and resulting fall out might have affected him mentally and emotionally, possibly contributing to his decline on the field. It’s possible that the best thing for him could be a change of scenery – maybe a fresh start with a different organization.
The Next One Up
MLB games played: 0.
Estimated MLB debut 2021
Every organization needs minor league depth. In the event that their MLB players either miss time due to injury or perform so poorly that a demotion or DFA becomes necessary, they need a “next option” to call up when necessary. As it stands now, Riley Adams looks like that guy.
Adams worked his way through the Blue Jays minor league system from 2015-2019 with a very solid .773 OPS over that time. The highest level he played at was AA and he likely would have spent the majority of the 2020 season at AAA had there been a MiLB season in 2020.
The scouting report on him in MLB pipeline praises his overall defensive ability including managing pitchers and throwing out runners in spite of arm strength that is only average. The consensus seems to be that his ceiling at MLB is as a back up catcher, but depending on his progress at the plate once he reaches the majors, that could change.
The Future Star
MLB games played: 0
Estimated MLB debut – 2021 or 2022, depending on whether you read Fangraphs or MLB Pipeline
Of all the catchers in the Jays system, it’s possible that Moreno has the highest overall upside, which is saying a lot considering the talent they have. He joined the Jays in 2017, playing in rookie ball in 2017 and 2018. In 2019 he earned a promotion to mid level A ball with the Lansing Lugnuts. He fared well there with an .823 OPS. Overall his OPS as a pro is .807.
The Blue Jays like many things about Moreno including his athleticism. The scouting report in MLB pipeline suggests that there is room for improvement in his overall defensive game (like any young catcher) but they believe the improvement will come. His ceiling could be a catcher who is well above average on both sides of the ball.
Here is my concern regarding Moreno. More than his age, his level of development suggests he is still at least a couple of years away from being MLB ready, never mind making a positive contribution to a winning team at the highest level. Many of the Jays core players made their MLB debuts in 2018 or 2019 and as a group, they have improved enough to have earned their first postseason berth. There might not be a fit with this organization in terms where they are in their competitive window. It’s possible that the best way for Moreno to help the organization is to be included in a package trade bringing back an established MLB star player at another position.
Prediction: Jansen and Kirk will be the catchers for Toronto with Riley Adams at AAA to be called up in case of injury or serious underperforming. Moreno will be included in a package to be traded for an establish MLB star player to help the team win now. McGuire will be DFA’d and claimed by another organization.
*Featured Image Courtesy Of DaveMe Images. Prints Available For Purchase.
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