We all know how this ends.
Gabriel Moreno will be the Arizona Diamondbacks’ everyday catcher (as much as a catcher can be an “everyday” option in today’s MLB). When will that be, though, and how the D-backs handle the journey there is what we’ll find out over the next couple of months as the season gets underway.
But there has already been a snag in potential plans. Fellow catcher Carson Kelly fractured his forearm in spring training and could miss at least two months, per Arizona Sports’ John Gambadoro. Kelly was expected to platoon with Moreno to not push the exciting 23-year-old talent too quickly into a big-time role with only 23 major league games under his belt.
D-backs manager Torey Lovullo confirmed Kelly’s absence will increase Moreno’s workload more than Arizona expected.
“It’s kind of accelerating things here but I think he’s ready for it,” he told Arizona Sports’ Burns & Gambo on Friday. “I think the perfect combination, had it landed on Carson and Moreno, would be for the best portion of [Moreno’s] development.
“And at some point, he’s going to be a front-line catcher. Some point, whether it is two months from now, three months from now, a year from now — we don’t know. But this will definitely amplify his development and as we push forward every single day that’s really what we want. We want to put guys in the right situation to grow and learn and he’s definitely going to get a crash course in that.”
The acquisition of Moreno from the Toronto Blue Jays in a deal for Arizona outfielder Daulton Varsho that also included Toronto’s Lourdes Gurriel Jr. was a perfect match. The D-backs had a surplus of exciting young talent in the outfield and the Blue Jays had the same behind the plate. Both teams made the deal knowing what their young player could become, and in the case of Varsho, he’s a bit more of a known commodity thanks to 1,022 plate appearances in MLB already.
Moreno, however, could very well grow into one of the best catchers in the National League pretty quickly, and has the potential for that claim to cover all of baseball as well. Across 62 games at the Triple-A level last season, Moreno hit .315 with three home runs and 39 RBIs, plus an OPS of .806.
The Athletic’s Keith Law offered his insight at the time of the trade on the skill set from Moreno that D-backs fans can expect to see over the next handful of years, writing he believes Moreno is ready to be the No. 1 catcher for Arizona right now, regardless of Kelly’s status.
Moreno is a super-athletic catcher who offers plus defense and a high-contact approach that probably won’t produce much power but should lead to strong on-base percentages because he makes so much line-drive contact. He’s got an above-average arm, blocks and receives well, and has made huge strides in working with pitchers given his age. He’s very aggressive at the plate, rarely walking or striking out because his plate coverage is so good, although it’s possible he’ll have to make adjustments in that area against big-league pitching.
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