He's 5-foot-8, 265 lbs. And yes, he mashes

September 22nd, 2020

Welcome to the legend of . He’s here, he’s real and he just had his coming out party against the New York Yankees.

Kirk is one of the most unique players in Major League Baseball, regardless of whether you’re looking at your TV screen or the box score. In the box, the 5-foot-8, 265-pound Kirk barely has a height advantage over the catcher crouching behind him. On the bases, he makes Vladimir Guerrero Jr. look like Usain Bolt. Alejandro Kirk is not what you’d expect, and that’s what makes him special.

In Monday night’s 11-5 win over the Yankees in Buffalo, N.Y., Kirk was already 3-for-3 with a double and a near miss for his first career home run when he stepped to the plate in the seventh. This time he didn’t miss. Kirk launched it to the opposite field again, but this one had the legs, carrying over the wall for Toronto’s 11th run and sending the dugout into a frenzy.

“To be honest with you, I didn’t think it was going to be out,” Kirk, a native of Mexico, said through a club translator. “But then I saw Judge going back, back. In that moment, when he hit the fence, I knew it. It was great. The feeling of running around the bases was great. It’s still good, even right now.”

Kirk doesn’t just have fans in Canada, either. His teammates, nearly all of whom are playing alongside him for the very first time, have embraced Kirk, and nights like this one only make it easier.

“It can’t get any better for me,” Kirk said. “They welcomed me. All of the guys are great with me since I got here and they all talk with me. Little by little, we’re getting to know each other better and I’m trying to communicate with them a little bit more. I can’t ask for more from the guys.”

Monday’s performance made Kirk the first catcher age 21 or younger to record a four-hit game since the Twins' Joe Mauer in 2004. Along with Guerrero Jr., who went 3-for-3 with three RBIs, the two became just the second pair of teammates aged 21 or younger in the modern era to have three-plus hits and two-plus extra-base hits in the same game, joining Hall of Famers Ted Williams and Bobby Doerr of the Red Sox in 1939.

Kirk is a natural, which is a word we throw around loosely at times, but he embodies the idea completely. He doesn’t have the raw physical tools of so many other players on this roster, but watching Kirk in the Minor Leagues and now with the Blue Jays, the game seems to unfold just a bit slower for him. That’s why he’s handled the jump from Class A Advanced Dunedin to the big leagues without blinking an eye.

Kirk’s offensive value is a simple combination of two factors, and it begins with his approach, which is one of the best in the organization. Over 151 career games in the Minors, Kirk walked 89 times but struck out just 60. That’s good for a .418 on-base percentage, making him an incredibly reliable plate appearance for such a young hitter. What that all sets up, though, is the other piece to the puzzle, which is Kirk’s habit of lighting up Statcast with hard contact.

Kirk ripped his two singles in the series opener at 106.6 mph and 104.6 mph, the latter of which hit off the top of the right-field wall. Entering Monday, a whopping five of the nine balls Kirk had put in play were hit harder than 100 mph. No, Kirk won’t beat out any infield singles, but he doesn’t need to.

It’s also important to note just how strongly the Blue Jays' front office feels about Kirk’s work behind the plate. Upper management believes he belongs there, and so does manager Charlie Montoyo.

“He’s done a great job receiving. I’m impressed with that,” Montoyo said. “Blocking balls, too, he’s been really good. I’m impressed with his overall game, to tell you the truth.”

Danny Jansen remains the starter behind the plate, but the Blue Jays need Kirk’s bat in the lineup. Tasking a 21-year-old old with handling a new pitching staff in the club’s first postseason appearance since 2016 would be a big ask, but the DH spot seems like a perfect home for Kirk in these coming weeks. He’s also a great option to bring off the bench, if that situation arises, given how reliably he puts the ball in play without creating empty outs.

Entering play on Monday, the Blue Jays were getting a .271 average and an .807 OPS from their DH spot, so it hasn’t been a black hole by any means, but much of that is the product of Guerrero Jr. and other players who have cycled through. Barring a surprise return from the injured Rowdy Tellez, the door is suddenly wide open for Kirk to come out of nowhere and play an everyday role in the postseason.