Kirk riding breakout to massive ballot lead

June 21st, 2022

CHICAGO -- Alejandro Kirk isn’t just leading American League catchers in All-Star voting, he’s lapping the field.

With just over one million votes in the first voting update released Tuesday, Kirk more than doubled Jose Trevino of the Yankees (387,983) and more than tripled Royals catcher Salvador Perez (266,206), a seven-time All-Star.

Kirk has earned this with a spectacular stretch of baseball through May and into June, turning a slow start into what could develop into one of the best offensive seasons we’ve ever seen from a catcher in Toronto. At 23, he’s arrived ahead of schedule and, soon enough, he’ll be a name known across the league.

“It’s very emotional. The first thing I did was send a message to my family,” Kirk said through a club interpreter. “I was feeling very, very happy.”

Kirk spoke with his parents, brothers and girlfriend, who told the young star how proud they were to hear the news. That feeling is shared by Kirk’s teammates and coaches, none more than manager Charlie Montoyo, who has smiled on from the dugout as Kirk has blossomed into a likely All-Star.

“I feel like a dad. Proud,” Montoyo said. “I know that everyone is pushing for him and he deserves all of the votes. He’s doing great. He’s doing such a great job behind the plate. If you look at everybody’s numbers, he’s up there. Good for him.”

Toronto is well represented on the initial voting tally, with Vladimir Guerrero Jr. leading all AL first basemen and Bo Bichette leading shortstops. Santiago Espinal ranks second among second basemen while George Springer ranks third among outfielders, which would give the Blue Jays four All-Stars if voting ended today. With Matt Chapman, Lourdes Gurriel Jr. and Teoscar Hernández close, there’s room for more on the position player side, too.

Kirk is a remarkable story of development for the Blue Jays after debuting in 2020, making a leap from playing in High-A the year prior to the big leagues during the shortened season. Injuries slowed him in ’21, but after a slow April, he’s caught fire, now hitting .307 with an .861 OPS while blowing past all expectations defensively.

Beyond his elite bat control and advanced plate approach, though, Kirk’s greatest gift is a steady hand and steady mind.

“I have to say that, since the first time I was called up, I thought I was a big leaguer,” Kirk said. “Of course, it’s very hard to stay up here, but I feel very proud of all of the hard work that I’ve been putting in. We’re here.”

It’s been a unique process for Montoyo, too. Yes, Kirk was a top prospect, but not of a Guerrero or Bichette level, so Montoyo wasn’t expecting this much to happen this quickly.

“No, I would be lying because I didn’t know anything about him,” Montoyo said. “He was in Single-A and I didn’t know anything about him. To give him a chance to come up and be on the Taxi Squad said a lot about what we thought about him. Now, I’m watching him getting better every year.”

Kirk will continue to be the 1A behind the plate for the Blue Jays with Danny Jansen on the IL and No. 1 prospect Gabriel Moreno on the MLB roster. His steady dose of DH at-bats helps keep him in the lineup, too, as one of the most important bats on one of baseball’s most talented clubs.