• Do The Yankees Have The Next Paul Konerko?

    Posted by on July 31st, 2009 · Comments (1)

    So, I’m watching the Yankees play the White Sox this evening – and Paul Konerko comes to the plate in the bottom of the first inning…and I start thinking about him…which leads me to go back to my STATS Inc. Minor League Scouting Notebooks from 1996 and 1997. Here’s what was written about Konerko then…

    First, from the 1996 Edition:

    Konerko was the Dodgers’ first round pick in 1994, from a high school in Arizona. Scouts questioned his defense behind home plate but they loved his bat, and he has shown potential and performance with the stick. His first full season, in the California League, was very impressive for a 19-year old. He was 10 percent above the league in OBP+SLG, showing power and some measure of plate discipline. San Bernardino is a great power park, but it’s impressive that he played as well as he did against much older competition. He caught only 20 percent of the runners trying to steal on him. If I were the Dodgers, I would move him out behind the plate, to avoid injury and help him concentrate on his offense.

    Next, from the 1997 Edition:

    August 16, 1996, San Antonio vesus Wichita. Paul Konkero comes to the plate in the first inning, and a hush falls over the scouts sitting behind home plate. The anticipation is palpable. He swings, and there are audible gasps from the scouts. (I am not embellishing.) His bat speed is incredible, his hitting mechanics nearly flawless. He pulverizes fastballs, hangs in tight against breaking stuff, and pull for power or lash liners to the opposite field. He knows the strike zone. His OPS was an excellent +24 percent, and he was very young to be playing in the Texas League. Oh, yeah, San Antonio is a tough park for a power hitter. The only question about Konerko is his position. He used to be a catcher, but moved to first base to concentrate on hitting. The Dodgers are trying him at third base, but I’m not convinced his hands are good enough for the hot corner. Another positive is his personality: he is intelligent, mature, and hard-working. Normally, when a guy is a proven hitter but has a position question, I won’t give him a pure “A” grade, but Konerko is such an offensive force that I’m going to make an exception.

    And, the 1997 Edition ranked Paul Konerko, then 21-years old, as the 5th best overall prospect in the minor leagues behind Andruw Jones, Vlad Guerrero, Nomar Garciaparra and Scott Rolen.

    I don’t know about you, but, when I read these scouting reports on a then young Paul Konerko, it sure reads like what we hear today about the Yankees prize prospect Jesús Montero – doesn’t it?

    Konerko didn’t make it with the Dodgers – when he was 22-years old they traded him to the Reds for some bullpen help (during the middle of the 1998 season). And, the Reds later traded him, that off-season, to the Chicago White Sox for Mike Cameron.

    Once with the Chisox, Konerko found a home and went on to have a nice 11-year career (to-date) there. On average, Konerko is good for 30 homers and 100 RBI each season – along with a BA/OBA/SLG line around .275/.350/.490. However, as a batter, he’s not in the Albert Pujols, Frank Robinson, or Edgar Martinez class that his early scouting reports may have led some fans to believe he would be…someday.

    It will be interesting to see if the Yankees Jesús Montero ends up as a “Paul Konerko” type hitter…meaning a right-handed first baseman good for a 30/100/.275 season more times than not and playing at that level for ten years or more. And, it will be interesting to see, if Montero stays in New York, if Yankees fans will be happy with that production from him…given the hype around him now as a prospect.

    Comments on Do The Yankees Have The Next Paul Konerko?

    1. Evan3457
      August 1st, 2009 | 1:07 am

      Montero’s top 20 minor league comps before this season (at Baseball Prospectus) are an interesting mix of the great, the good, the average, and the crappy:

      Great: #7 Aramis Ramirez, #8, Carlos Delgado, #13 Gary Sheffield
      Good: #1 Ryan Klesko, #3 Richard Hidalgo, #5 Adrian Beltre, #15 James Loney, #19 Vernon Wells
      Average: #2 Delmon Young, #10 Dmitri Young, #18 Ben Grieve,
      Crappy: Marc Newfield, Omar Garcia, Dernell Stenson, Shawn Abner, Orlando Mercado, Gilberto Reyes, Wilson Betemit.

      The key thing here is that he has taken a huge step forward this season, hitting the heck out of the ball at high-A and AA at the age of 19. His comps next year will be far, far better.

      Baseball Prospectus direct major league equivalencies for Montero for this season

      A-ball: .295/319/.464
      AA-ball: .294/.327/.497

      This is a 19-year-old in the major leagues equivalency, which means the following peak equivalency (how he’ll hit at his peak in the majors, projecting forward):

      A-ball: .339/.413/.639
      AA-ball: .325/.402/.626

      When I casually toss off a seemingly absurd judgement that “Montero is a potential Hall of Fame level bat”, this is what I mean.

      Terribly long way from here to there, of course.

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