• Baseball Prospectus 2010 On Jesus Montero

    Posted by on February 24th, 2010 · Comments (12)

    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.

    Comments on Baseball Prospectus 2010 On Jesus Montero

    1. clintfsu813
      February 25th, 2010 | 8:04 am

      Giggitty….

    2. MJ Recanati
      February 25th, 2010 | 9:25 am

      Dan LaTorraca wrote:

      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 don’t think that’s an accurate statement. There is no incentive for the Yanks to move him off catcher while he’s in the minor leagues because (1) he’s not blocking anyone else’s development at that position and (2) provides his highest value to the Yankees if he can deliver plus-plus offense from the catcher position.

      The odds of him remaining as a full-time catcher are very slim when he makes it to the next level but, for the time being, the Yanks are perfectly content to continue training him at the position with the most value relative to his advanced hitting. I wouldn’t read as much into it as you seem to be doing here.

    3. jay
      February 25th, 2010 | 9:52 am

      MJ Recanati wrote:

      (1) he’s not blocking anyone else’s development at that position

      That’s not entirely accurate either, actually. Austin Romine is right behind Montero. I believe Romine will be starting at AA, while Montero will be at AAA. If Montero doesn’t move up (from AAA to MLB) at the same pace that Romine can move up (AA to AAA), then he’s blocking him by definition. *Today* it’s not an issue, but it could be in a matter of months.

      There are several folks out there who are starting to think that if you have a guy who can hit like Montero is projected to hit, and is even passable at catcher, then you make him a catcher no matter what. The defensive metrics are way too flawed, and the average offensive output for a catcher is so low that you’d basically have to a complete butcher out there (think the little league catcher who couldn’t even really catch the ball) to give it all of the value back. When I hear some quotes from Cashman about his opinions on metrics and projections, I get the feeling that he’s in this camp, too, and that’s why we havent’ seen Montero moved, to say, RF, where he one could argue he should be in the mix for a starting job in 2010 (say, Swisher LF, Granderson CF, Montero RF.)

      This, to me, is going to be one of the most exciting story lines this year. I really can’t wait to see how it unfolds.

    4. February 25th, 2010 | 9:56 am

      Of course, if someone makes like Pete Rose and turns Montero into Ray Fosse, during a minor league game, and ruins Jesus’ career – then the Yankees will be sorry that they kept him catching. But, yes, that’s a million to one shot thing too.

    5. MJ Recanati
      February 25th, 2010 | 10:02 am

      jay wrote:

      That’s not entirely accurate either, actually. Austin Romine is right behind Montero. I believe Romine will be starting at AA, while Montero will be at AAA. If Montero doesn’t move up (from AAA to MLB) at the same pace that Romine can move up (AA to AAA), then he’s blocking him by definition. *Today* it’s not an issue, but it could be in a matter of months.

      The Yanks shouldn’t move Montero off catcher — even if they don’t intend on using him behind the plate in the big leagues — just because Romine is behind him. The Yanks split them up this year in part because Montero had clearly graduated from AA but also because they see Romine as their everyday catcher and wanted to make sure he got all the defensive development time possible in order to potentially time his promotion to the majors around Posada’s contract expiration date.

      In other words, let’s worry about Montero blocking Romine if and when the time comes. For now, it’s 100% not an issue.

    6. MJ Recanati
      February 25th, 2010 | 10:04 am

      @ Steve Lombardi:
      Indeed, but Montero could blow out his knee running in the outfield or take a sharp grounder off his face if he’s at 1st base. In other words, a devastating injury could happen at any time. Moving him off catcher to “protect” him wouldn’t really guarantee that something else wouldn’t happen to him. After all, he got HBP’ed last year and missed the rest of his Double-A coming out party.

    7. Corey Italiano
      February 25th, 2010 | 10:57 am

      @ Steve Lombardi:
      It’s not that rare, remember Cervelli?

      Then again, that was probably the best thing that happened to his career.

    8. MJ Recanati
      February 25th, 2010 | 10:59 am

      @ Corey Italiano:
      Which TB Ray was it that took Cervelli out? I can’t remember his name for the life of me.

    9. Corey Italiano
      February 25th, 2010 | 11:01 am

      @ MJ Recanati:
      Elliot Johnson

    10. MJ Recanati
      February 25th, 2010 | 12:59 pm

      @ Corey Italiano:
      Frankie Cervelli should send this Elliot guy a picture of his 2009 World Series ring and a PDF copy of his savings account where the playoff share he made last year was deposited.

      Eff Elliot so-and-so.

    11. Corey Italiano
      February 25th, 2010 | 1:08 pm

      @ MJ Recanati:
      It made hima career. If he doesn’t get his wrist broken, I don’t think he ends up being the back up catcher this year.

    12. MJ Recanati
      February 25th, 2010 | 1:11 pm

      @ Corey Italiano:
      How so?

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