[image title="Montero" size="full" id="13510" align="center" ]I hope everyone is having an excellent holiday season. Mine has been a bit busy, and I wasn’t planning on writing today. However, some of the comments here and from other bloggers regarding Jesus Montero’s top-5 BA rating (which is a bigger deal than most people realize) have planted some thoughts in my mind for a few days that I’d like to write about.
I think that Jesus Montero is going to be a major league catcher. I think that the Yankees think so too, and that their 2009 offseason helped reveal their long term plans for the young player. Consider the facts:
- The Yankees were reluctant to trade Jesus Montero. While some rumors have him offered up, none seemed particularly serious. Pieces that could be immediately useful to the Yankees in 2010 – Austin Jackson, Michael Dunn, Phil Coke, Ian Kennedy, Melky Cabrera – all went away, but Jesus stayed. Now, this could be because the Yankees want to get more value from Montero, but I think that they want him to play a long term position on the New York Yankees.
- Every public comment ever uttered by the Yankees indicates that they consider him a catcher. Mark Newman is generally an incredibly frank guy. When Chad Jennings interviewed him at his old Triple-A blog, he would commonly say things like, “If this guy doesn’t work harder, he may end up a reliever” or “We’re not sure where on the field he’ll end up.” Yet, he never said, “Jesus may or may not catch long term.” This may just be a ploy to up his trade value, but I doubt it.
- The Yankees filled his spots. If Jesus Montero were to move from catcher, he would probably move to 1st base. However, you could also see the man playing 3rd base, since he has a strong arm and has reported to be reasonable agile. He doesn’t have any real foot speed, so even left field would be a problem. He may be able to play there, but he would be Adam Dunn in the outfield. The Yankees have filled 1st and 3rd for the better part of the decade. Short of making Montero the game’s youngest DH-only player ever, catcher is the only spot.
So, I think its clear that the Yankees consider Montero a catcher. However, its less clear whether or not their logic is strong. Jesus is a big guy – I’m 6’4″ 220 lbs, and I can’t moving around squatting like big league catchers do. Montero is actually a bit lighter than me, which means he doesn’t have a ton of muscle on his bones yet (I’m by no means jacked), and he likely will add some. But even with this said, I think that there are a few things worth saying about him:
- He’s improved. BA scouts were basically laughing at him while writing about his defense in rookie ball. He was called an embarrassment, and a no-doubt first baseman in the near future. A year later, the line was “He’s improved, but still really bad.” This year, the line is, “He’s improved, but still well below average.” See a theme? Like his hitting Montero has gotten better every year. There is no reason to believe that this will stop.
- He’s young. I think we need a little perspective. Jesus Montero is 20 years old. That’s really young for a prospect who has come as far as he has. Tons of minor league shortstops, for example, are hitting 50 errors at this point in their defensive development (Derek Jeter did it that way). Young players at certain positions have to learn defense on a curve just like they do hitting. Especially catchers.
- He’s a hard worker. Everything we’ve ever heard about Montero says that he is an exceptionally dedicated young player. He not only works on his hitting and physical strength, but also his defense. He’s not going to be Manny Ramirez out there.
- He was a part time catcher for 2 years. Austin Romine probably hurt Montero’s defensive development a bit. Not that the Yankees should have done things differently, but you can’t expect someone to learn a tough position playing 3 days a week. Only recently did Montero separate from Romine and begin catching every single day. Since doing so, we’ve heard the best news yet about his defensive progress.
- Hitting cures all woes. Honestly, Jorge Posada is and has been for awhile a bad defensive catcher. We don’t really care when he slugs .500. No one really cares about Victor Martinez or cared about Mike Piazza for the same reason. Jesus Montero can hit as well as Piazza did if everything goes right. Think about that.
I think he’s a catcher. The Yankees appear to think so too. Jorge Posada is on the way out. Montero is on the way in, for now at least. Even if he’s a catcher now, he may be a 1st baseman by the time he’s 27. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
Photo Credit: Cliff Welch/MLB.com
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