Piggybacking on Moshe’s post from yesterday, I’d like to throw my two cents into the Montero pot. The Yankees are incredibly lucky to have him and they haven’t had a “sure thing” (let’s use the term loosely) like this in their system since…well, I guess Derek Jeter. We could say it was Robinson Cano, but we didn’t think he was going to be this good, especially when we review his minor league numbers.
Cano hit an okay, but not inspiring .278/.331/.425 in the minor leagues. How could we possibly have seen what we now have in Cano coming? We couldn’t have. With Montero, though, we can see good things coming. Now, we can’t fool ourselves into thinking that Montero will hit exactly like he has thus far in the minor leagues. To expect that would be unfair to Montero and dishonest to ourselves. Still, the likelihood of Montero’s bat coming through is pretty high.
A little more than a year ago, Erik Manning of FanGraphs revealed that, via Victor Wang’s research, only ten percent of top ten hitting prospects bust. Jesus Montero, as per Moshe’s article, was just called one of the best hitters in the minor leagues and that’s a point that everyone seems to agree on. The guy’s bat is serious and it’s what will carry him to (hopefully) success in the Major Leagues. It’s his ability to stay behind the plate as a catcher that people doubt.
Some will argue that if Montero cannot stay behind the plate, the Yankees are better off trading him since his value will take a hit. I disagree with this wholeheartedly. Montero’s bat is something that will likely play at any position, including DH. For this reason, the Yankees should do everything they possibly can to hold onto Jesus.
Montero should not be moved off of catcher until it is painfully obvious that he cannot handle the duties that come with the “tools of ignorance.” His bat, while likely valuable anywhere, will carry the most value at catcher because of the scarcity of good offensive players at that position. Even if (when?) he has to move off of catcher, he could still represent an incredible value to the Yankees.
If he becomes a designated hitter, his early years may not see him hit as well as the league’s top DHs. But it’s certainly possible (probable?) that he hits, at the very least, at a league average level. If he can do that, he will provide the Yankees with great value because he will cost much less than the league average DH will. The same goes for Montero if he ends up playing first base.
Mark Teixeira obviously has first base on lock down for the short and long term, but when his contract expires, Jesus Montero will still be young enough that he can take to the position while still in his age-based prime. No matter what his ultimate position is before possibly manning first base, I’m sure he’ll get some reps there in Spring Training and throughout the season.
So do I think Jesus Montero is untouchable? No, I don’t. No prospect should ever be untouchable. Like Brian Cashman says, some guys are less touchable than others. Montero is certainly the least touchable in the Yankee system, but if the right player becomes available, the Yankees need to listen. For example, there was a comment on Moshe’s post from yesterday about the availability of Zack Greinke. That is the type of player the Yankees could (should?) move Montero for: a young pitcher with a lot of talent and a manageable contract. Those players don’t become available very often, and the Yankees should always keep their ears and eyes open for the opportunity to grab a guy like that. At the same time, though, we must remember that prospects of Jesus Montero’s caliber (especially at the catching position) don’t come around very often, either; they come around even less often for teams like the Yankees who don’t get to draft in a powerful spot.
In a perfect world, Jesus Montero will break camp with the Yankees after Spring Training in 2011 and split the catching and DH duties with Jorge Posada. The baseball world we live in is far from perfect, so that may not happen right away. I think that’s the Yankees’ plan going forward, even if it doesn’t happen until May or June. This plan should carry the Yankees, Montero, and Posada up through the end of the 2011 season. At that point, we won’t know if Montero can stay full time at catcher because that’s just not enough of a sample to make that judgment–unless, of course, he’s horrific or magnificent back there. Even if he does have to move off of catcher at some point in 2012 or beyond, the Yankees need to keep Montero around for as long as possible.
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