It’s an anecdote I’ve told before, but please indulge me one more time.
It’s spring training, 2019. The Blue Jays minor league facility was closed to the public that year as much needed renovations to the Mattick Complex began.
So, for Blue Jays prospect watchers, the Phillies complex at Clearwater was the next best thing. It was there that I first had a live look at a young converted catcher named Gabriel Moreno, whose 1.108 OPS in 23 23 GCL games the season before jumped out. As Moreno took to the field with the players who would mostly make up Low A Lansing’s roster in a few weeks, he put on a most impressive performance behind the plate. He was quick and agile, leaping on blocked pitches like a cat. Despite his young (Moreno turned 18 just before spring training) age, Moreno showed a take-charge attitude. At the plate, he showed more of a see-the-ball/hit-the-ball approach, but there was no doubt about his ability to put balls in play. I didn’t know it at the time, but Blue Jays VP Andrew Tinnish, and farm director Gil Kim (who I have met on my travels before, but didn’t run into that day) were present, and had much the same impression. Moreno showed a great deal that day.
Fast forward to 2022, and Moreno is now the system’s top prospect, a legit future first division player. Players and Blue Jays staffers alike have raved about his makeup and his ability to me.
Let’s hit the scouting reports, starting (and ending, because it’s hard to top this one) with BA:
Last season was a coming out party of sorts for Moreno, until he broke his thumb in late June. At the plate, he showed an improved approach, still putting balls in play, but getting to his barrel with many of them. Behind the plate, he showed that elite blocking ability, and while his arm may only grade as average, his footwork, transfer, and quick release help make up for it:
The injury this summer may have slowed down Moreno’s timetable a bit. He was likely destined for a mid-season promotion to AAA, where he spent the last week of the season before heading off to some Arizona Fall League play. At least one veteran scout who saw him there thinks Moreno could use a little bit more time in the minors:
Twitter was abuzz this summer when New Hampshire manager Cesar Martin started him at 3rd one game, and then another two at the hot corner when Martin had Moreno in Arizona. While Moreno was once an infielder, and Martin was looking for a way to keep his bat in the lineup, the Blue Jays seem to feel that this is not a long-term thing.
The Blue Jays now have excellent depth at the catching position, and if not for the labour disruption, we no doubt might have seen them deal from that strength by now. If play resumes in time, we may not see Moreno break camp with the team, but he seems destined to make his MLB debut soon.