Toronto Blue Jays catcher Alejandro Kirk was a guy I included in my top five catchers for fantasy baseball article within our Fantasy Baseball Draft Guide. At just 23 years young, Kirk was a fantasy baseball breakout of sorts in 2022, and the team’s trade of Gabriel Moreno to Arizona removes some of the questions about how Toronto will handle the at-bats from the backstop position. Danny Jansen is solid in its own right, but Kirk is a guy that this team needs in the lineup as often as possible. Many fantasy baseball preseason projections point to another big year from Kirk, but just how good can he be? Can the power develop a bit more? Just how high should Kirk be in your fantasy baseball player rankings if you have one last fantasy baseball draft before Opening Day? All of that and more in today’s positional spotlight on Toronto’s Alejando Kirk.
What he did in 2022 was excellent, slashing .285/.372/.415 with 14 home runs, 59 runs scored, and 63 RBI in 139 games. He posted a 78th percentile average exit velocity, a 92nd percentile xBA, and 98th percentile strikeout rate. His whiff rate was in the 94th percentile, and he made more walks than strikeouts. He now has back-to-back seasons with a double-digit walk rate, endearing him to fantasy managers who play in leagues that value OBP in lieu of or even alongside batting average. In Kirk’s case, he doesn’t have to sacrifice quality of contact for quantity, or vice versa.
Kirk is an elite bat-to-ball guy and he makes quite a good bit hard of contact. When you look at some of his metrics last year, you’ll see an excellent 90.9 percent zone contact rate, 85 percent contact rate overall, and a miniscule 5.8 percent swinging strike rate. In terms of his zone contact and overall contact rates, he was one of just 16 qualified hitters to reach both of those marks. He was one of just 10 qualified hitters to have at least a 90 percent zone contact rate, 85 percent contact rate, and below a six percent swinging strike rate. Pretty, pretty impressive.
Then, when you look at his average exit velocity, launch angle, and hard hit rate, he was no slouch in those departments either. In terms of quantity of contact, he compares favorably to Alex Bregman. In terms of quality of contact, he compares favorably to Nathaniel Lowe, a guy who was just a few homers shy of 30 last year.
For Kirk to push the 20 home run barrier this season, he’ll need to loft the ball a bit more. His 8.1 degree launch angle and 50 percent ground ball rate from last year simply won’t cut it. Kirk has the power, it’s in there, but a ground ball every other at-bat saps that power potential. We want Kirk’s 78th percentile average exit velocity on display with balls flying through the air, not putting divots in the ground! The only real question I have about Kirk’s offensive game is the direction he hits the ball, not how often, and not how hard, but in what direction.
Is it any coincidence last year that his best month from a power perspective was the month where he hit the fewest ground balls? I don’t think so!
Courtey of FanGraphs
Also, interestingly enough, when you look at Kirk’s numbers throughout the year, we see that as the year went on, his ground ball rate against fastballs trended up, whereas the same can’t be said for breaking and offspeed stuff. This could be something, or this could be nothing, but it’s interesting that his most prolific power month (June) featured more non-fastballs than any other month all season, and he also had his lowest ground ball rate against fastballs. I’m just saying…
Kirk is routinely drafted inside the top seven to eight catchers in fantasy baseball drafts, and I’m comfortable enough pushing him up as high as the fifth catcher off the board, especially if your league values OBP. Even if he loses a few points on his batting average, the updated confines of his home park should help his power a bit, and I do believe that he can start lofting the ball a bit more, and not sacrifice his elite bat-to-ball ability. He’s going to play just about every day for this team, and it’s hard to fade a floor of .270 with 15+ home runs, 70+ RBI, and a double-digit walk rate from a position that lacks top-end offensive talent. While he has a high floor, we are drafting Kirk in the hopes that he’s closer to his ceiling, which looks something like .285+ with 20+ home runs and 80+ RBI.
A somewhat late start to camp could lead to a slower start in the beginning of the season, so if you weren’t fortunate enough to draft Kirk, he could be a great buy-low candidate if he comes out of the gates a bit slow. Keep in mind that last year, he hit just .245 through the first 19 games of the year, before going on to hit .340+ in May and June.