In his latest ‘You Do Know Jack’ blog piece, former NY Times and current lead YES reporter Jack Curry indicates the Yanks are leaning toward making uber-prospect Jesus Montero their backup catcher to start the season. He writes:
As Manager Joe Girardi discussed Montero’s future on Wednesday, he offered indications that Montero will be Russell Martin’s backup. Girardi wants to study Montero’s catching abilities across full Spring Training games to see if Montero maintains defensive consistency, but he sounded enthused, not reluctant, about having Montero in the big leagues.
“Look at what they did with Buster Posey,” said Girardi, referring to how the Giants promoted Posey from the Minor Leagues last May, made him the starter and smiled as he helped guide them to a championship.
Girardi wasn’t predicting that Montero will supplant Martin and usher the Yankees to a World Series title, as Posey did in San Francisco. That would be a bold prediction, especially since Montero is not nearly as adept defensively as Posey. But Girardi was stressing that Montero is talented enough to be a valuable player this season, even at the age of 21.
Jack is someone I pay close attention to, he’s a terrific reporter who seems to have more access than the rest of the beat guys. It sounds like Jesus has a realistic shot to make the team out of camp, and if they choose to go that route I’d have no problem with it. Breaking a catcher in slowly at the big league level isn’t unique to the 2011 Yanks, many teams work in young catchers this way. That’s also the same thing they did with Posada, who was called up in 1997 and started just 52 games at catcher that year. Jorge got the majority of the work the following year, but didn’t become the everyday catcher until after Girardi left in 1999. The Yanks had to be down on Cervelli’s defense after his poor showing last year. With an outstanding defender as your #1 catcher in Russell Martin, why not get some offense out of your backup? I’m sure they’ll find some DH ABs for Jesus as well.
I know some fans will think Jesus is best served playing everyday in AAA and getting a chance to hone his craft defensively. But that’s not necessarily the case, which Curry addresses later in the same piece:
The Yankees must decide if Montero can help them win and also must determine if it behooves him to play part-time in the Majors instead of full-time at Triple-A. Girardi said Montero could benefit playing twice a week with the Yankees because he and Tony Pena, a former Gold Glove catcher, could tutor Montero every day.
The more Girardi discussed Montero, the more he gave subtle signs that he liked the notion of having Montero on the team. The 21-year old is a hitting savant and a catching apprentice, but Girardi sounded amenable to on-the-job training. Girardi said “there could be enough at-bats,” for Montero in New York, which means that soon, very soon, Montero might be changing from Minor Leaguer to Major Leaguer.
I can’t imagine a better coaching staff than the one he’d have on the MLB club. The Yanks can have Tony Pena drill him on a daily basis to work on his defensive flaws, and both he and Girardi can school him on the finer points of being a big league Catcher. The job is as much mental as physical, so Jesus will be able to sit in on advanced scouting meetings, learn the tendencies of each pitcher, and learn the opposing hitter’s tendencies in real game situations. No doubt they’ll pick their spots with him, I wouldn’t expect to see Jesus behind the dish against teams that like to run the bases. But picking your spots is part of the definition of the backup Catcher’s role. Girardi has a lot of say on the formation of the roster, and as a former Catcher I’m sure his opinion on this will be given a lot of weight. Early indications are Jesus may be with the team on opening day, which for prospect watchers like myself is very, very exciting.
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