Pittsburgh Pirates Rumors: Team Showed Interest in Toronto Catching Prospect
By Noah Wright
According to TSN’s Scott Mitchell, the Pittsburgh Pirates previsously showed interest in Toronto Blue Jays’ catching prospect Alejandro Kirk
During last summer’s trade deadline the Pittsburgh Pirates were heavily connected to the Tornto Blue Jays in trade rumors. It eventually came out that the two sides nearly met on a deal that would send right-handed starting pitcher Joe Musgrove to the Jays.
While the deal fell through we may now know at least one player that Ben Cherington and the Pittbsurgh Pirates were targeting in trade talks. According to Scott Mitchell of TSN, this player was Toronto catching prospect Alejandro Kirk.
Kirk put up impressive batting numbers during the 2019 season. Through 372 plate appearances between Low-Ball and High-A, Kirk hit .290/.403/.465 with a .383 wOBA. At both levels, the backstop had a wRC+ above 150. The right-handed batter also excelled at rookie-ball putting up a .354/.443/.558 line and 160 wRC+ through 244 plate appearances.
Kirk may not be a big time home run hitter with 17 home runs and a .185 isolated slugging throughout the minor leagues, but he can drive the gap, hustling out 41 doubles in 151 games. He also has great plate discipline. He has a sub-10% strikeout rate (9.6%) to go with an outstanding 14.4% walk rate.
Even though Kirk has not yet recorded a plate appearance at Double-A he has already saw time at the Major League leve. Last season, he recieved 25 plate appearances and mashed the ball while in his short time in the majors. Kirk racked up nine hits, including two doubles and a home run while posting an exit velocity of 95 MPH and 50% hard hit rate.
Kirk can definitley hit. He has a 60 future grade hit tool. While he only has a 40 future game power grade and 50 future raw power grade, Kirk had an average 91 MPH exit velocity in 2019. His plate discipline skills are fantastic for a player with no experience in the upper minors. Plus, his batting average on balls in play throughout the minors isn’t an absurdly lucky number, sitting at .327.
However, it’s his defense that many question. He only has a future fielding grade of 45 and he was awful at framing during 2020. He only caught 52 innings but was worth -0.9 framing runs. Across 800 innings, he would have costed the team -13.8 runs with his framing alone. Given his 5’8″, 265 pound frame, many wonder if he has the mobility to stay behind the dish.
Kirk currently ranks as the 86th best prospect in baseball according to FanGraphs, but unranked according to MLB Pipeline. If the Pittsburgh Pirates were to get Kirk in a trade, he would give them the catching prospect many are looking for. Currently, the team has very few long term options behind the plate. Neither FanGraphs nor Pipeline rank any of their minor league catchers in their lists for the Pirates.
In terms of the Blue Jays’ catching situation, they currently look to line-up Danny Jansen and former Pirate first-round pick Reese McGuire as their tandem behind the dish. This would give them a very good defensive combination, but neither have showed any offensive ability over a long period of time throughout their big league careers. Kirk isn’t their only catching prospect through. Gabriel Monero is their second best cathcing prospect but at just 20 years old and having barley played above A-Ball, he still has a few years to go.
Since the Jays are still in the market for starters and the Pirates are still shopping around Musgrove, they’ll likely reconvene on trade talks sometime this winter if they haven’t already. It was previously reported that Musgrove is being heavily pursued by the teams that lost out to the San Diego Padres on aces Blake Snell and Yu Darvish and the Jays may have been one of those teams. Even if Kirk is off the table, the Jays have many other very good prospects in their system that would surely get the Pittsburgh Pirates interested.