Feb
25

Yanks working to improve Montero’s throwing

By

Early on in camp this year, the story to end all stories has been uber-prospect Jesus Montero. A career .700-.750-1.400 hitter in big league Spring Training, he has already made a big impression with his batting practice showings this year despite being in camp for just over a week. He’s going to begin the 2010 season as the everyday catcher for Triple-A Scranton, though it’s still hard to believe that through his age-19 season, Montero is a .325-.379-.509 hitter in 1,071 minor league plate appearances despite reaching Double-A.

PECOTA pegs Montero as a .299-.352-.498 hitter with 23 homers if given 528 plate appearances in the big leagues next year, which is obviously an extremely optimistic projection. For comparison’s sake, Jorge Posada has matched that OBP and SLG in a single season just three times in his career. “He’s going to hit,” said one evaluator that Buster Olney spoke to. “There’s no question about that. Some guys just know how to hit; he’s like that.” Yeah, he’s going to hit, but not like that this early in his career.

Of course, Montero’s bat was never the question, defense in. Olney discussed some of the things the Yankees are trying to help Montero become a passable catcher, including a unique set of throwing mechanics. Instead of popping up on both feet and firing to second, bench coach Tony Pena and the Yanks have him keeping his right foot in place while taking a short stride with his left foot. It sounds awkward, and I tried it a handful of times in my living room while writing this post, and it’s definitely not a natural feeling. (Disclaimer: I’m most likely less athletic than Montero). Basically, the only way someone could pull this off consistently is if they have a strong arm, which Montero does.

I’m not sure how long he’s been throwing like this, however he did thrown out 32% of attempted basestealers during his Double-A Trenton stint last season. Of course, he caught a grand total of 33 games for the Thunder, so this is statistically insignificant. Montero’s thrown out just 23% of all attempted basestealers during his career, but that number isn’t trustworthy at all because the Yanks don’t emphasize their pitchers holding baserunners at the A-ball level and below. Frankly, we just don’t know how well this has/will work.

The consensus is that Montero will not be a catcher moving forward. However, the Yankees are coming up with creative ways to make it work back there, even if it’s just for the time being. It’s not often catchers jump right into the big league lineup full-time as rookies, so all the Yanks will need Montero to do for the next few years is be able to fake it back there two or three times a week. The bat is so special, none of us will mind the defense.

Photo Credit: Bryan Hoch, MLB.com

Categories : Spring Training

136 Comments»

  1. Do scouts consider Montero’s frame to be projectable? He looks thin to me, like he could easily add 40-50 lbs over the course of his career and end up looking like Frank Thomas.

  2. Hey ZZ says:

    How many AB’s do you think Montero gets this year if he is a Sept call-up?

    • Mike Axisa says:

      I dunno, maybe 20-30? Just a guess.

      • steve s says:

        When Nick Johnson goes on the DL (as he inevitably will) is when Jesus will be up to DH; no need to wait until Sept.

        • A) Nick’s not inexorably destined for the DL. That’s false.
          B) If he does go to the DL, his active roster replacement is Juan Miranda, not HeyZeus. Montero only comes up early for a serious Posada injury, not a Johnson one.

          • steve s says:

            A) So you are saying that Nick lasts a whole season not being DL’d; Love to take your $$$ on that bet;

            B) Seriously, you think Miranda gets the call when Jesus is hitting .350 and Yanks are vulnerable to left-handed pitching?; Love to take any $$$ you have left over for this one after losing bet one.

            • “A) So you are saying that Nick lasts a whole season not being DL’d; Love to take your $$$ on that bet;”

              No… Saying he’s not inexorably destined for the DL is far from saying he definitely won’t hit the DL.

              • Exactly.

                And,
                B) Seriously, you think Miranda gets the call when Jesus is hitting .350 and Yanks are vulnerable to left-handed pitching?

                Since Miranda is older, already has big league experience, is a natural 1B/DH (and thus wouldn’t have any defensive development processes retarded by curtailing his work at his natural position) and, most importantly, IS ALREADY ON THE 40 MAN ROSTER AND ALREADY HAS HIS ARB/FREE AGENCY CLOCKS STARTED, yes, I most friggin definitely think Miranda would get the call over Jesus to replace Nick Johnson’s 1B/DH role on the big league club if Nick gets injured.

                Miranda would need to be slumping mightily to not get the call first before Montero, even if Montero is mashing the shitballs out of AAA.

                Seniority and incumbency counts. Better to get value out of Miranda while you can than rush Montero when you don’t have to.

                • woainidepigu says:

                  Also Miranda has the distinct honor of hitting a walk-off single off the leg of one Krazy Kyle Farnsworth in 2009. That boosts his stock by at least 0.00025 points.

                • Plus:

                  The Yanks’ ten longest homers since 2005
                  By Mike Axisa

                  [snip]

                  3b. Juan Miranda, Oct. 2nd, 2009, 469 feet (video)
                  This one was crushed. The Yanks were just running out the clock on the season, down 11 runs to the Rays on the road with all the regulars on the bench catching some rest before the postseason. Miranda worked the count full against Dale Thayer, who I’m certain he’s faced in Triple-A several times during the last few years. Miranda put that familiarity to work, sending the ball to the last row of the right field bleachers for his first (and only) big league homer.

                  http://riveraveblues.com/2010/.....005-22406/

          • James says:

            That’s their expectation, but we all know the Yankees like to improvise. Joba, case in point.

            • andrew says:

              But also, I know we like to joke a lot about Jesus’s God-like ability, but what if he’s not hitting .350? What if he’s hitting well, but not well enough to warrant a call up. I doubt we see him for any extended amount of time. So many things would have to go wrong.

          • Bo says:

            Because NJ hasnt been hurt most of his career? Theres a better shot of him hitting the DL than staying healthy if the past has anything to say about it. And its not exactly like hes 20 here anymore.

  3. Photo comment #1: Damnit, Jesus, move. I want to know what the Rice of Champions is.

    Photo comment #2: I love the smorgasbord of free advertising company logos Jesus is engaging in. TPX, Wilson, Mizuno, and Majestic. Well done, young man. Build the brand.

  4. steve (different one) says:

    PECOTA pegs Montero as a .299-.352-.498 hitter with 23 homers if given 528 plate appearances in the big leagues next year

    insane.

  5. Kiersten says:

    I am so excited to watch this kid play (scary that I’m older than him and can actually call him a kid).

  6. Steve H says:

    I (like everyone else) truly don’t know if Montero can make it as a catcher, but to have Tony Pena at his disposal to teach him can only increase the chances. Maybe they can bring in Benito Santiago and have him throw from his knees?

  7. Jamal G. says:

    The bat is so special, none of us will mind the defense.</cite?

    This really needs to be beaten into the head of some. With the difference in value that a guy produces as catcher compared to a designated hitter, I wonder if people realize how bad Montero would have to be behind the plate to where the team would even ponder a permanent move to DH.

    For example, Jermaine Dye has been such a butcher in the field over the past four years that he would have actually produced more runs as a DH than as a right fielder. *In all honesty, Montero would have to be worst defender in the history of Major League Baseball to warrant a full-time move to DH, and probably the all-time worst catcher to warrant a full-time move from behind the plate.

    Now, this is just looking at Montero in a vacuum and not how the could maximize the value of Jorge Posada in the present and probably Austin Romine in the future.

  8. Rose says:

    Are they still comparing his bat to Miguel Cabrera’s? Or is that a stretch?

    Who has/had more upside? Jesus Montero or Pablo Sandoval

    Note: Just because Montero doesn’t have a cool nickname like ‘Kung Fu Panda’ doesn’t mean you can hold it against him.

  9. Reggie C. says:

    Since Montero has been compared favorably to Miggy Cabrera… Miggy’s first 315 ABs (2003): .268/.325/.468/.793. Miggy then launched into all-star level production the next season (.294/.366/.512/.879); his first full season, at age 21.

    Montero could have that type of trajectory.

  10. DaveinMD says:

    I don’t think its the consensus at all that Montero won’t be a catcher going forward. That was the consensus a year ago, but more and more people are talking about him staying at catcher at least in a part time role.

    • Hey ZZ says:

      Mark (NJ)

      Cashman said last week that he feels Montero has one of the best arms in the minors, does that mean he would project as a better defender than Piazza was? Regardless, its not like Jorge has ever been a great receiver.
      Jim Callis (2:41 PM)

      You can project him as a better defender than Piazza, though he’s no lcok to be a catcher. He has a strong arm, but he also has a long arm action that undercuts it. He needs to get more accurate and quicker with his throws, and improve his receiving. That said, the easiest way to get him in the lineup may be at catcher so I wouldn’t rule that out.

    • Bo says:

      You force feed him at catcher until he proves he definitively cannot catch.

      If V Martinez and Piazza can catch 120 games he would have to be really poor not to.

  11. Hey ZZ says:

    Any predictions on Montero’s line this year in AAA?

  12. Hey ZZ says:

    Is Montero’s arm strong enough to pitch to be the heir apparent to Mo or is he destined to be the 8th inning closer?

  13. Rose says:

    This year will be a true test for him mentally. Last year he was touched upon…but not really boasted about like he has been this off season. We’ll see how he reacts to this, the pressure, and anything else that may play a role in contrasting this year from last.

  14. We should have an RAB office pool on:

    1) What date Montero makes his MLB game debut
    2) How many plate appearances he gets in 2010

    Put me down for Sunday, September 5th (in the early game of a day-night doubleheader at YS3) against the Toronto Blue Jays for his first game action and 24 September plate appearances.

  15. CountryClub says:

    Here’s a piece of a Chad Jennings interview with Mark Newman:

    The Yankees have been encouraged by Montero’s improved footwork behind the plate. He threw out 31.8 percent of base runners in Trenton, which is pretty solid and much better than the 12.5 percent he threw out in the first half of the season in Tampa. Actually, Montero’s caught stealing percentage in Trenton was better than Romine’s season percentage in Tampa (though I don’t think anyone would suggest Montero is at Romine’s level in that regard). Newman said some of the improvement came because Montero adjusted his footwork so that he pivots on his right foot rather than taking a step or a slide.

    “That seems to work for him,” Newman said. “It’s an older school approach.”

    Newman stressed – as he’s done pretty much every time I’ve mentioned Montero’s name the past few years – that the Yankees still see their top prospect as a catcher. With Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, though, there’s a chance Montero will get some time at first base, at least during drills. It’s something all catchers in the Yankees system do. I’ve seen Francisco Cervelli, Chris Stewart and Kevin Cash take ground balls at third base. P.J. Pilittere has gotten a bit of playing time at first.

    “He’ll get that as a matter of course,” Newman said. “But all of our guys do. It won’t be anything special for him.”

    http://yankees.lhblogs.com/200.....ep-closer/

  16. Jramey says:

    he hits:
    .343/.415/.557/.972

  17. Ellipses S. Grant (Formerly Rose) says:

    Formerly asked above but incorrectly (in a reply).

    Do you think the manager or pitching coach signal rookie guys on what to throw certain batters? Or do the pitchers themselves just take over at this point.

  18. emac2 says:

    I love this site. Between the absolute knowledge of the Yankees plans and prospect upside I should be able to make a lot of money!

    The Pecota for Montero is dismissed because Posada has only done that twice? Isn’t that about as relevant as what Girardi did in his first year?

    I would buy into an argument that looked at comparable hitting prospects but to say that means posada because both are catchers is trying a little too hard to make the point.

    If we needed a DH this year and the catching idea was already dismissed I would start him as a DH with no concern at all that his development would stall or that he would suddenly lose his ability to hit. I don’t think people realize how good of a prospect they are if they don’t think he would already hit well in the majors if given over 500 at bats.

    And if he is hitting 340 in AAA and we need a DH due to injury Miranda will not automatically be called up first.

    • Mike Axisa says:

      When did I dismiss the PECOTA projection? I provided it, said it was very optimistic, and provided a basis for comparison.

      You: 1
      Strawman: 0

      • emac2 says:

        “PECOTA pegs Montero as a .299-.352-.498 hitter with 23 homers if given 528 plate appearances in the big leagues next year, which is obviously an extremely optimistic projection.”

        How do you define dismiss?

        I define it as listing the prediction and not only saying it is optimistic but then adding an adjective to make it clear that it isn’t just optimistic but really more along the lines of uninformed.

        You then provided a basis for comparison of a hitters hitting ability by using positional comparisons for catcher when you know he isn’t going to be a full time catcher and when you know catcher is about the worst offensive position on the diamond.

        The bottom line here is that Montero is a top 5 hitting prospect and if you want to assess his hitting you should be doing so with top 5 hitting prospects not with a catcher who happens to be on the same team. (could you find a lamer comp?)

        Your method is great for supporting a point you came up with before review but it is pretty useless for the comparison you tried to make and is more disinformation then proof.

  19. Bo says:

    You do everything you can to make this kid a catcher. because his value is highest behind the plate.

  20. [...] Yanks working to improve Montero’s throwing A career .700-.750-1.400 hitter in big league BSpring/B BTraining/B, he has already made a big … Photo Credit: Bryan Hoch, BMLB/B.com. Post from: River [...]

  21. Rod says:

    Don’t forget that he also played in pitcher’s parks located in pitcher’s leagues last season. Unless his AA performance was small sample size fueled, he’s already made the biggest jump short of AAA to MLB.

  22. Bart says:

    I think that Jesus’ nickname should be “J-Mo”.

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