Alejandro Kirk (TOR): 4-4, HR, 2 R, 2 RBI.
Another terrific performance from Alejandro Kirk, who finished 4-for-4 before leaving last night’s game early after getting dinged on a backswing. X-rays were negative, so he looks to have avoided anything serious. He singled in his first three at-bats before launching his ninth of the year on a line drive to left that just cleared the fence off reliever Trevor Kelley.
The 23-year-old got his opportunity this year to be a regular, and he has been phenomenal; among qualifiers at catcher, he’s first in wOBA (.398) and OPS (.919). Willson Contreras trails at .383 and .888, respectively. Although Contreras does have three more home runs, Kirk’s .321 batting average along with a 9.8% K rate, fifth-lowest among all qualifying hitters, really sets him apart. His xBA of .326 and xwOBA of .416 are in the top 3% too. Sure, it’s only been about a third of the season, but hitting in the middle of the Blue Jays lineup with plenty of RBI opportunities, he’s very quickly established his case as a top catcher.
There’s a lot left to play, of course, but it’ll be interesting to see how catcher rankings shake out in early mocks. Right now, Contreras seems like a decent guess to finish at the top, although a strong second half from Will Smith would be not surprising in the least bit. Based on his track record, Salvador Perez should be a prime bounce-back candidate after UCL surgery. Daulton Varsho should also be up there, too, given his potential for ten or so steals. M.J. Melendez has the power to shake the standings too. Does J.T. Realmuto bounce back in the second half? Who knows. But there’s a potential path for Kirk as a top-three catcher.
Let’s see how the other hitters did Friday:
Andrés Giménez (CLE): 3-4, HR, 2 R, RBI, SB.
The former Met came into tonight’s game, hitting .322 in June. After recording a single in his first at-bat, he drilled a hanging changeup from Nick Pivetta in the fourth for his eighth home run of the year, a 398-foot drive to right. He’s doing his best to erase the memories of last year’s struggles with a career-best .869 OPS through 204 PA this season. The stolen base was his sixth on seven attempts. Next up is a promotion in the batting order.
Francisco Lindor (NYM): 2-4, 2B, HR, R, 4 RBI.
Lindor needed this badly as he finds himself in the midst of a certified June swoon slashing .213/ .256/ .388 during the month. The solo home run, his 12th, came on a 3-2 fastball from Sandy Alcantara at the top of the zone that just cleared the fence in center. And he hit a bases-clearing double in the sixth, also off Alcantara, that gave the Mets a three-run lead.
Josh Bell (WSH): 3-4, 2B, 3B, R, RBI.
The triple came in his first at-bat against Dane Dunning on a towering flyball to right that just missed clearing the fence. Kole Calhoun had trouble collecting the carom allowing him to rumble to third. The three-hit performance pushes his batting average to .302, 18th among qualifiers. He also owns a .376 wOBA, good for 20th among qualifiers.
Edward Olivares (KC): 2-3, 2 HR, 2 R, 2 RBI.
Making his return from a quad injury and hitting eighth for Kansas City, Olivares socked a pair of solo dingers off southpaw Cole Irvin. Both were over 400 feet and proved to be the difference in the game. Last year, he put up a .412 wOBA with 12 steals across 66 games with Triple-A Omaha.
Jesse Winker (SEA): 3-4, 2B, R, BB.
He’s now hitting .370 over his past ten games. The former Red came into 2022 with a career .379 wOBA and .888 OPS, so it felt like just a matter of time before the positive results came. But, it certainly took a while. Based on his wOBA of .313 and xwOBA of .367 this year, he’s been one of the season’s more notable underperformers.
Javier Báez (DET): 1-4, HR, R, 4 RBI.
That’s three in a row for the former Cub. The grand slam came off Merrill Kelly and soared 459 feet to left-center. Báez has cut his K rate this year to 23.7% after being over 30% in each of the past two seasons. But unfortunately, it has netted much with just a .636 OPS in year one with the Tigers.
Jorge Mateo (BAL): 0-2, R, BB, 2 SB.
Two more steals for Mateo ties him with Julio Rodríguez (who hit his 1oth home run last night) with a league-leading 19. But, yeah, that’s where the similarities end. He’s slashing .196/ .241/ .311. You want the steals. But, at what cost?
Nico Hoerner (CHC): 2-3, HR, R, 2 RBI, BB.
Hoerner hit his fourth off Andre Pallante. He’s settled in as the 6th hitter for the Cubs and was bumped up to the fifth spot last night. The former 24th overall pick in the 2018 draft is slashing .286/ .320/ .411 with six steals and a minuscule K rate of 9.4% (203 PA). He is looking like a decent MI option and is rostered just 13% on Yahoo.
Garrett Cooper (MIA): 1-3, 2 RBI, BB.
Just a two-run single for Cooper. But, last night seemed like a really quiet slate so let’s take a second to note that the 31-year-old is on pace to eclipse 500 PA for the first time in his career and is hitting .312, 14th among qualifiers. And, hey! He’s tied with Vladimir Guerrero Jr. with a .368 wOBA. That’ll play.
Featured image by Justin Paradis (@JustParaDesigns on Twitter)