Blue Jays giving top prospect Gabriel Moreno an opportunity to showcase himself

Shi Davidi joins Blair and Barker to discuss if there will be any preference to who Moreno catches to, and why it's necessary for the Toronto Blue Jays to carry three catchers.

TORONTO – Gabriel Moreno is joining the Toronto Blue Jays in Detroit this weekend and will be activated at some point during a three-game series against the Tigers, according to two industry sources.

The news, first reported by MLB’s Keegan Matheson on Wednesday night, comes a day after fellow catcher Danny Jansen was diagnosed with a fracture in his left pinky finger.

Zack Collins was initially recalled from triple-A Buffalo and went 2-for-4 with a homer in an 8-4 loss to the Kansas City Royals on Wednesday, but with an opportunity at hand now, the club decided it was time to bring up the 22-year-old ranked as the game’s No. 5 prospect by Baseball America. The corresponding roster move wasn’t immediately known.

Moreno has been pushing for a promotion for a while now, batting .324/.380/.404 in 36 games with the Bisons.

A torrid May, in which those numbers spiked to .380/.443/.479 across 18 outings, underlined just how ready he is at the plate, but there was no place for him with Alejandro Kirk and Jansen performing at an elite level with the Blue Jays.

That allowed the organization to take a deliberate approach with Moreno’s finishing touches at Buffalo, where his focuses included improving his swing decisions at the plate and honing the finer points of catching behind the dish.

A gifted hitter capable of getting barrel to ball in and out of the zone, Moreno has worked to better balance his aggressiveness by trying to hunt balls in his hot zones – the areas where he does the most damage – more often. Defensively, his elite athleticism and strong throwing arm give him a chance to be a two-way star, but both his game-calling and handling of pitchers were areas of growth.

During an April interview, Bisons manager Casey Candaele, who also serves as the Blue Jays’ minor-league field co-ordinator, said those pieces are especially complicated.

“How you handle a pitching staff and how you guide them through nine innings and call games are usually the last things to develop for a catcher, especially a young catcher that's learning all the data, all the information they have at the major-league level,” said Candaele. “It can be intimidating for a young catcher to go up to guys who have pitched in the major leagues and feel comfortable saying, ‘Hey is everything good? Why did you want to throw that slider in that sequence right there? What were you thinking? This is why I was thinking fastball.’

"Those are some advanced thoughts. The only way you learn that is to do it and feel comfortable with it. That's what we talked to Gabby about. Like, hey, man, build it and talk to the pitchers. He picks it up pretty fast and he wants to learn.”

Now with the Blue Jays, Moreno is about to get a crash course.

Jansen’s injury, while possibly short-term, left a void alongside Kirk, who has performed at an all-star level but may not be at his best if behind the plate five or six times a week. Collins, a bat-first depth player, isn’t particularly strong defensively and the Blue Jays emphasize defence from their catchers.

While less experienced, Moreno should be a more capable defender and if he’s playing three times a week, he can continue to grow while allowing the Blue Jays to optimize Kirk.

What happens once Jansen returns is another matter for another time.

Moreno has been steadily building toward this moment for a while now and while he won’t be greeted with the same level of hype that met Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette when they debuted in 2019, that’s in part because he doesn’t have to come up and save the franchise.

The Blue Jays simply need him to be himself as he transitions, insulated by the deep and talented roster around him. That’s a good way for Moreno to make the jump and if he takes the opportunity and runs with it, well that’s precisely the type of problem the club would love to have.

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