This wasn’t the plan for 2021. As injuries continue to pile up, though, the Blue Jays are benefitting from their deep group of catchers. Adams earned the shot to be next in line with a hot start in Triple-A, and his emergence represents the depth the Blue Jays have at a complicated position.
“Catching is like pitching -- you can never have enough,” said manager Charlie Montoyo. “That’s such a tough spot, where people get hurt all the time. It’s such a demanding position. To have that many options is great for us. You don’t know who will step up and take the job, but right now, I’m excited for what Riley’s done in his first two games. Hopefully he keeps that going.”
Ryu allowed three runs in the first, but found his groove. He was still searching for his best changeup, but looks to be stepping back into his usual form after a pair of uncharacteristic outings and liked what he saw from Adams.
“Before the game, we talked a lot,” Ryu said through an interpreter, “and Jansen talked with Riley throughout the whole process. I noticed he was trying to focus on his setup a lot. Throughout the six innings I pitched, I felt pretty good with him.”
This is something of an audition for Adams. When Jansen and Alejandro Kirk are back, they’ll get their shot, but the Blue Jays aren’t the only team watching. A third-round Draft pick back in 2017, the big, athletic catcher has been a steady development project for the organization, with his power bat being the most attractive piece to the puzzle. Now, he’s rounding out the final stages of his development in the big leagues.
“I’m working on both sides. There’s always something to improve on,” Adams said. “On the catching side, I’m trying to keep going with my trajectory on receiving and game management, working with pitchers who have been around a lot longer than me and understanding opposing hitters and how to attack them. On the hitting side, I’m trying to stay in the zone and keep that bat on plane as long as I can. I know I’m a bigger hitter and power is a skill of mine, so I’m just finding ways to get that barrel to the ball. Good things will happen.”
Here’s a look at how the overall catching picture shapes up:
The top prospect: Gabriel Moreno
Forget the Blue Jays’ organization, Moreno is one of the hottest prospects in Minor League Baseball right now. The Blue Jays have seen this coming for a while now, but he’s no longer a secret. If the Blue Jays aim high at the upcoming Trade Deadline, the 21-year-old will be atop many teams’ wish lists.
Hitting .375 with a 1.032 OPS through 22 games, Moreno hasn’t been challenged much in Double-A. It’s easy to slap the “catcher of the future” tag on Moreno, and like we’ve seen with many recent prospect rises in Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette and Alek Manoah, you have to nitpick to find something for the young catcher to work on at this point.
“He’s so talented with bat-to-ball, bat speed, contact rates, I think his ability to control the zone better is what we’ll be focused on with him,” said general manager Ross Atkins. “It doesn’t mean he has to stay in Double-A to do that. We will absolutely consider if it’s best for him to take another step forward.”
The injuries: Danny Jansen and Alejandro Kirk
Jansen hit the IL recently with a right hamstring strain, but was hitting just .157 through 42 games to open the season. Now a career .200 hitter with a .289 on-base percentage and .645 OPS through four MLB seasons, Jansen is no longer the presumed starter going forward. The Blue Jays love his ability to manage a staff, but with so much offensive talent in these younger catchers, Jansen’s stat line will carry more importance when he returns.
Kirk will be eligible to return from the 60-day IL (left flexor strain) by early July, and he should have plenty of opportunities when he does. Gifted offensively, Kirk may not profile as a starter who plays 140-plus games, but his bat is so valuable, especially given the current state of this position.
The depth: Reese McGuire
McGuire is getting another run with the Blue Jays amid this recent stretch of injuries and he has the trust of the coaching staff. Hitting .209 through his first 18 games, McGuire will need to hit more to stay in this picture long term, but the same can be said for others. For now, McGuire is managing pitchers well and providing some defensive stability, which Montoyo values.