With Jansen on IL, could Moreno join Toronto?

June 7th, 2022

KANSAS CITY -- Blue Jays catcher Danny Jansen has a fractured fifth metacarpal in his left hand, tests late Monday revealed, another harsh setback in what’s shown flickers of being a breakout season.

Jansen took a pitch off his left hand in the eighth inning of Monday’s 8-0 win over the Royals, and while he finished the game behind the plate, the bad news came soon after. The fracture is on the hand itself, just below the pinky finger on the bone that runs from the finger to the wrist.

Jansen had already missed a significant chunk of the season with a left oblique injury, but he has otherwise blossomed as a power hitter, launching seven home runs in just 19 games. Still, with Zack Collins rushing from Triple-A Buffalo to meet the Blue Jays in Kansas City, it’s not time for Gabriel Moreno, ranked as the club's No. 1 prospect and fourth overall by MLB Pipeline, to make his MLB debut.

Well, at least not yet.

“Gabriel has been awesome,” Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins said. “He’s continued to improve. He’s in a really good spot and he’s very much in the mix for us.”

Moreno has done everything in his power to force this conversation, even at just 22. He’s hitting .323 at Triple-A and he has thrown out over half (54%) of the runners who have attempted to steal on him.

If it weren’t for the strong starts from Jansen and Alejandro Kirk, you’d be having flashbacks to the days of “Call up Vladdy," but Moreno has continued to build momentum within the organization.

“In every aspect of catching, he’s made significant progress,” Atkins said recently. “He’s become a better receiver. He’s become a better blocker. He’s become a better game caller. But the most encouraging growth has been on the leadership side.

"He recognizes the importance and power of pitchers feeling his confidence and conviction behind stuff, usage or an overall performance standpoint. Him learning his power to impact pitching has been really exciting.”

For now, consider this situation officially fluid, which it wasn’t on Monday.

Collins will likely catch Yusei Kikuchi in Wednesday’s series finale against the Royals at Kauffman Stadium before the Blue Jays enjoy a scheduled off-day on Thursday and travel to Detroit for a weekend series. Toronto will continue to have conversations about Moreno, and much of this depends on how long Jansen needs to return.

“From the CT scan, it’s stable in nature,” Atkins said. “We feel confident that he’ll be able to get back into game action relatively soon, but he’s going to be down for at least a couple of weeks. After 10 days, we’ll know a lot more. It’s unfortunate where we are today, but we do feel good about him returning relatively soon.”

The spotlight is squarely on Moreno now, but losing Jansen again is a serious blow to a lineup that is suddenly on fire.

Jansen and Kirk have been a brilliant tandem, each of them looking like fine candidates for the All-Star Game. Jansen’s 2021 decision to lean into his pull power as an identity has paid off immediately, creating a more decisive and confident hitter, but this is yet another setback and yet another dose of bad luck.

“It flipping sucks,” said manager Charlie Montoyo, pausing for a careful word choice. “Not just as a player, but as a human being, I love that kid. I really do. He’s having a good year and this happens again. Just like last year with the hamstring, it’s been injury after injury. He always comes back and then he gets going. It’s a credit to him and his work ethic.”

For now, Kirk will see plenty of time behind the plate, being spelled by Collins only when he needs a break to stay fresh. The Moreno watch is officially on, though, as the Blue Jays face a major decision with a potential star, who could be a cornerstone of this organization for years to come.