I received my copy of Baseball Prospectus 2010 in the mail yesterday and wanted to share some of their insights on uber-prospect Jesus Montero:
Montero can flat-out hit and might be ready to hit in the majors now if it weren’t for his lack of position. Teams are phobic about grooming young players as designated hitters, but every once in a while, the farm system produces a special hitter, an Edgar Martinez or Frank Thomas, whose natural, God-given position is DH. Like those fellows, Montero could be propped up in the field from time to time, particularly at first base, but he’s clearly not a catcher, at least not right now.
Montero is only 20 and could figure out how to catch eventually, perhaps at the same age at which a college-trained catcher might be drafted, but his bat is propelling him forward to fast for his glove to keep up. Obviously, Montero would be more valuable if he could stay behind the plate; the same was true of Carlos Delgado, Paul Konerko and even Jimmie Fox…If he does hit (at the Triple-A level) there is no point in holding him back waiting for some revelation of defensive ability that might never come…
BP projects a .299/.352/.498 line for Montero next season and compares him to Torii Hunter, John Buck, Justin Huber and Derek Bell. Personally, I think Montero will eclipse Hunter as a hitter, but sometimes prospects don’t work out. Regardless, Kevin Goldstein rated the 20 year-old as the fourth-best prospect in the game:
He’s almost assuredly not a catcher in the end, and it’s almost assuredly not going to matter. In terms of pure hitting ability, no prospect matches Montero, whose ability to put up big numbers in horrible hitting environments at levels a player at his age has not right to be in has everyone projecting him as a monster force in the big leagues.
There you have it. The “experts” do not seem very confident that Montero can handle both sides of the ball, but they are sure he can hit. Having seen him play only a few times, I can tell you that he’s not nearly as bad defensively as the writers at BP seem to think. Yes, he is a below average catcher, but he blocks balls well, has a decent arm and is a big target for pitchers. According to reports, he’s putting in the work to improve defensively, and that has to count for something. If the Yankees did not think he could handle catching, they would not continue to allow him to work at that aspect of his game. I think he will break into the big leagues next season and spend some time behind the plate. He’ll probably spend the rest of the time as the designated hitter, but that could help keep Posada extra fresh.
Defensive issues aside, Yankee fans have to be excited about Montero hitting behind the likes of Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira.