What nerves?: Moreno's poise impressing Blue Jays

June 14th, 2022

This story was excerpted from Keegan Matheson’s Blue Jays Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.  

The grand arrival of Gabriel Moreno comes at a rare time for the Blue Jays. 

It’s supposed to be teams like the Orioles, sitting at the bottom of the division, who bring up elite-level prospects. They just did so with Adley Rutschman, one of the only young players in the sport who’s garnered more hype than Moreno. 

For the Blue Jays to promote the game’s No. 4 prospect in the middle of a winning season, though, isn’t nearly as common, especially given the talent they already have at catcher. 

Moreno’s debut weekend went smoothly, as the 22-year-old flashed some of his physical gifts while picking up his first career hit.

“It’s been very emotional,” Moreno said through a club interpreter in Detroit. “I will remember this moment the rest of my life.”

Now, it’s about winning. Climbing up the dugout steps at Rogers Centre on Monday, Moreno was just another member of the 26-man roster trying to push the Blue Jays to the postseason.

“He’s kind of like [Alejandro] Kirk. They’re the same way,” manager Charlie Montoyo said, holding out a steady hand. “He’s not nervous by the moment. Even in the first inning, I couldn’t tell he was nervous or anything. He even went to the mound, so that means he’s not nervous and waiting. It’s great to see. He’s nice and relaxed.”

That’s what has long stood out about Moreno’s game to the players and coaches who have spent time around him. He’s still a kid, of course, full of energy around the field, but he’s capable of slowing the game down when he needs to.

“He had some good at-bats against good pitching,” Montoyo added. “I was really impressed by that 100-mph fastball for a base hit up the middle. You don’t teach that. It’s the same as Kirk.”

Where it goes from here is up to Moreno. He’ll be given every opportunity to succeed while Danny Jansen is out with a fracture in his left hand. Expect to see Moreno and Kirk share some of the catching duties, while Kirk gets a good run of DH games when he’s not behind the plate. There’s always a small amount of risk involved with using your second catcher at DH, but given how Kirk is playing, the Blue Jays are just fine with that.

Jansen’s return will open up the Moreno conversation once more, but it’s possible the club keeps all three on the roster.

Prospects are not a finished product the day they reach the Major Leagues. Watching Kirk, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette in recent years has been a great lesson in that.

Major League coaches are in the big leagues for a reason, so Moreno’s development can absolutely continue as a member of this roster, even while playing irregularly. This is about the club’s belief in the young man as much as the player.