BUFFALO, NY—Gabriel Moreno’s big-league dream is nearly a reality.
Eight games into his 2022 Triple A season, Moreno’s hitting .310 with an .803 OPS, building off a strong but injury-shortened 2021. The Blue Jays’ top prospect, and one of the top young catchers in baseball, he understands how close he is to the big leagues—just a call-up away.
“I’m really excited,” Moreno said through an interpreter. “I just have to keep doing my thing down here. But it’s a very exciting thing to be this close.”
Moreno shot up prospect rankings in 2021, reaching the top-10 on MLB Pipeline and Baseball America’s lists this offseason. The young catcher doesn’t feel the pressure, he said, believing and trusting in his work. When he’s in the box, it’s just him and the pitcher—with a .308 career batting average across five minor-league seasons, that matchup seems to be going pretty well for Moreno.
In the offseason, the 22-year-old trained in Venezuela alongside other minor and major leaguers, including former Rookie of the Year Ronald Acuña Jr., who gave him some advice for when his call-up comes.
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“When you get that call, enjoy it,” Acuña told Moreno. “Enjoy the moment, it’s something you’ve worked your whole life for.”
For Moreno to earn his big league debut, there’s still room for growth. Triple A Buffalo manager Casey Candaele lauded Moreno’s athleticism and skills at the plate, and says his biggest area for improvement is comfortability as a catcher, learning to lead a pitching staff. When Moreno signed with the Blue Jays as a 16-year-old infielder in 2016, catcher was a foreign position for him. The arm and instincts came naturally, but now the defensive improvements will come with time and refinement.
“He’s got a great attitude and there are still things he needs to learn and things to do,” Candaele said. “But we talk about it and he learns and he puts it into how he goes about his work.”
The biggest challenge for Moreno, he said, is constantly getting acclimated to new pitchers and building relationships with the hurlers before taking the mound. Moreno played for four different teams last season, across the minors, the Arizona Fall League, and the Venezuelan Winter League. Thrown into Major League spring training late this spring, due to visa issues, the young catcher had a full set of arms to quickly catch up on, once again. The 22-year-old has a few relationships with pitchers currently with the Jays, he said, but when Moreno gets promoted, his rapid elevation through Toronto’s system has prepared him to catch on quick.
Moreno has a desire to get better, Candaele said at Buffalos Sahlen Field, and it’s a drive that will push him over the final barrier to the bigs. The young catcher knows he’ll have to “take care of business” in the Majors when his call eventually comes, but when the promotion arrives his one goal is to do whatever he can to help the Blue Jays win baseball games.
“I’ve heard Toronto is a beautiful city,” Moreno said. “I’m just looking forward to getting there and seeing the Rogers Centre. That would be a dream come true for me.”