Could the Yankees call on Montero in 2010?

Aceves's ailing back opens the door for Logan
2010 Season Preview: The Front Office

After Mark Teixeira took a Jeremy Guthrie fastball off his elbow in last night’s game, every Yankee fan was concerned about their MVP caliber first baseman. Luckily it’s just a bruise, so everyone on the ledge can take a step back. “We did all the different tests and it’s just going to be sore for a couple of days,” said Tex. “Just going to do treatment all day tomorrow, reassess it on Wednesday and at the very least I’ll play Thursday.” Given how exposed and vulnerable the bone is at the elbow, that’s pretty much the best case scenario.

In the short time between the HBP and the injury update, many of us couldn’t help but wonder what would happen if it was serious enough to put Tex on the DL for a few weeks. The answer’s pretty simple, actually. Nick Johnson would have played first, Juan Miranda would take Tex’s roster spot, then he and Marcus Thames would have platooned in the designated hitter’s spot. It’s not an ideal scenario, but it’s certainly doable. It’s much better than having Cody Ransom replace Alex Rodriguez one-for-one. Heck, given Tex’s historical struggles in April (.338 wOBA in March/April, over .390 the rest of the way), you could argue that the team wouldn’t lose any production.

Even though that’s the most likely scenario, there’s always that thought in the back of everyone’s head … what about Jesus Montero? Instead of the bitter taste of Thames/Miranda, the Yankees could slot Montero into the DH spot full-time, and let him go to town. However, Eno Sarris reminds us that only four position players (Miggy Cabrera, Delmon Young, the Uptons) have made their debut before the age of 21 this century, and things didn’t exactly go as planned. They combined to post a .756 in over 700 plate appearances before reaching drinking age (most of that thanks to Cabrera), which is certainly good for a 20-year-old, but is it worth the lost development time?

Joel Sherman notes that the Yanks’ top prospect showed up to camp overweight this spring, but took his conditioning program seriously after reporting and shed all the excess weight by the time he was reassigned to minor league camp. Some tough love from Joe Girardi and Tony Pena certainly didn’t hurt. More importantly, Montero continues to work hard at improving his defense and maintains that he wants to be a big league catcher, which at this point remains very much in play.

Both the team and the player have a lot more to gain by letting him catch every day in the minor leagues at this point. Montero only has 181 plate appearances above A-ball, which is important to remember. Jumping from the Florida State League to the AL East within ten months isn’t exactly a recipe for immediate success, regardless of how good his bat looks. I want to see him in the Yankees’ lineup as much as the next guy, but rushing him is a typical Mets kind of move. Shortsighted, and showing complete lack of a development plan.

So to answer the question in the title of this post … yes, they always could call on Montero this season, but don’t count on it. He will reach the big leagues sooner rather than later, don’t worry. A September callup in 2010 is very much a possibility, but the 2011 debut is much more likely. For now, enjoy watching him pound on Triple-A pitching while the big league team scores 900 runs again. Everyone will be better off for it.

Photo Credit: Kathy Willens, AP

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Aceves's ailing back opens the door for Logan
2010 Season Preview: The Front Office
  • Cecala

    I can just see it now, Montero to the DH. This will be like Joba all over again, he gets called up to early, rakes as a DH, doesn’t get a shot at catching, and is destined to the DH role.

    • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a The Large Sample Size

      (unwraps burrito, wipes down microwave)

      • http://twitter.com/riddering Riddering

        (pulls burrito out of microwave, sticks it back in freezer)

        (takes it back out the next day, leaves it in sink)

        (warms it up for dinner, wonders why it tastes funny)

      • Cecala

        My post wasn’t serious, I want Montero to develop in the minors this season.

    • Dan(Boston, MA)

      I think it’s a bit different.. with pitching there is an inning limit plus the more risk of an injury or screwing up the development process.. if the kid can rake and hit just about anything(fastball,curve etc…)he wont be stuck behind a limit as a pitcher would.. it can take 3-4-5 years for a pitcher to finally toss 200 innings in the big leagues.

      I havent been this excited about a hitting prospect in our system since.. drew henson??? ohh man.. has it been that long? who else?? I wasnt really too much excited about Austin Jackson. i know i am missing someone.

  • http://www.yfsf.org AndrewYF

    Interesting about Montero’s weight. 260 is pretty big, and that seems like it’s more around his ‘natural’ weight. I’m not sure if that’s even remotely true (my weight, without doing any workouts, creeps higher than it is now), but if this kid is touching 260 when he’s 20, what happens when he starts to ‘fill out’ even more? All our bodies are different and develop differently, but I was barely 135 pounds when I entered college. Now at almost 23, I’m 165.

    Has there ever been a situation where a player spends 75% of his time at DH, and serves as the backup catcher the rest of the time? That would be great for roster efficiency, although you’d still want to carry a third catcher for pinch-running and in-game injury purposes, so nevermind.

    • Rick in Boston

      Top of my head, I can’t think of anyone who DH’s and acts as the primary backup catcher, mostly because those skill sets are usually mutually exclusive. Most backup catchers can’t hit enough to DH and most guys who DH don’t have the defensive chops to be behind the plate.

      The closest I can think of it Victor Martinez, but he played 1B when not sharing the catching duties in Cleveland with Shoppach last year.

      • A.D.

        Yeah the recent great hitting catchers who’s bat could play almost anywhere that come to mind are Piazza and V-Mart. V-Mart probably would have DHed if the Indians had a top notch 1B during this time, and Piazza surely would have gotten DH time (and did during inter league) if he didn’t spend almost his entire career in NL.

        Otherwise Russell Martin & Joe Mauer have gotten some time at other positions to keep their bat in the line-up, but nothing significant.

        I think the lack of sample is more that we don’t see great hitting catcher who’s bat would be viable at DH, but aren’t that good of a catcher defensively & stick at the catcher position.

        • OldYanksFan

          It seems in 2011, Posada’s last year, Posada should see (if he’s still healthy) 90-100 games at C, and Montero and Cervelli (or other BUC) should somehow split the rest, with Montero getting some PH/DH duties.

          The Yanks have no impact corner OFers in the system. Maybe he would be a butcher, but if he could be at least ‘slightly below average’, wouldn’t Montero’s bat play well as a COFer?

          LF and RF has had plenty of big, lumbering, poor fielding players who earned their way with their bat. Manny was not exactly GG material. If Montero maintains WPTH, with a decent arm, might he be an asset in YS RF?

          Of course Catching is choice #1, but very few seem to think he will have a career behind the plate. Maybe until his late 20’s or as long as he can man the position. But ultimately, it seems he will have to play another position the 2nd half of his career.

          • Mike HC

            If Posada is healthy he will most likely catch more than 90-100 games. He would probably reach that number even if he was out for a month.

            • OldYanksFan

              I think not. BOTH Giradi and Posada said on TV that he will Catch 110-115 games this year, in 2010. So in 2011, it’s hard to see him Catching 110 games, especially IF Montero is up.

              Posada Caught 100 games in 2009, and we know some of them were half games, when he was put in late as a PH/C for the starting C. Yes, he lost tme to injury, but Giradi still sat him a number of games. Also, in just a year or 2, Po’s defense seems to have degraded greatly.

              By 2011, Posada’s D might not be a hell of a lot better then Montero’s.

              • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a The Large Sample Size

                Genuine (non-snarky) question: is there a reason you always capitalize the words “Catch”, “Catching”, and “Caught”?

      • Ghost of Scott Brosius

        Mike Redmond may have done it in Minnesota for a strectch

    • Reggie C.

      Montero’s emulating Miggy Cabrera’s eating/drinking habits. As long as Montero emulates Miggy’s hitting, I won’t kill the kid for taking the off-season too easy. However, the coaches have to ingrain the fact into Montero’s head that weight gets harder to shed.

      • http://twitter.com/tafkasic the artist formerly known as (sic)

        No reason to think he’s emulating the drinking habits, correct?

        • Andy in Sunny Daytona

          It’s a well known fact that all Venezuelans are drunks.

          Sincerely,

          A Lazy Domi……

        • Reggie C.

          I mainly meant high sugar drinks like soda and most vitamin “water”. Montero’s no repentant drunk… at least not yet. j/k.

      • A.D.

        My guess is he came in overweight because of injury to end the season + while he was on a winter ball team, he didn’t get a whole lot of playing time.

    • Am I the only Kevin?

      WTH? My comment got lost in the intertubes.

      You got Leyritz and Nokes as recent past Yanks. Yogi back in the day.

      Tettleton in Balt in the late 80s.

      Delgado in TOR when he first came up.

      Most recent is possibly G. Laird when he first came up as well.

      Currently? Not aware of any. But that doesn’t mean that it is impossible. Backup C and otherwise DH/other would be much more valuable than strict DH/other, though, in my opinion.

      • Am I the only Kevin?

        Let me add, I have in the past been a proponent of letting Montero develop more in the minors at C even if his likely projection is that his defensive ability will still be so bad that his total value is only good enough to be a backup C and otherwise DH. You make him the personal catcher for the pitcher that most hides his deficiencies and thus avoid the once-every-five-days black hole of your typical backup C in the lineup. It also frees up a DH spot once a week to give other positional guys a 1/2 day off.

    • Dan(Boston, MA)

      Miguel Cabrera is a plump.. if he turns out like that we are in for some happy years.

  • Paul

    I buy the fact that we won’t see Montero in April or May. But what is he’s mashing AAA and Nick Johnson hits the DL in July?

    • http://www.yfsf.org AndrewYF

      Depends on where the Yankees are in the standings, I guess, and how the rest of the offense is performing.

      If the Yankees are en route to scoring 900+ runs again, they’d just slot in Thames or Miranda. If not, well, we’ll see how desperate they are. You don’t want Montero in the majors before September. It means something has gone wrong.

    • Brian

      If/when Johnson hits the DL, you’ll see Miranda as the DH/backup 1B. Makes sense. The Yanks have to be committed to letting Jesus catch and develop.

    • Andrew what?

      Another possiblity for if/when Nick Johnson is on the dl is Jorge Vazquez. I’ve seen him a few times and the man can hit. He might not be a superstar, and he probably won’t a ton, but when he swings and makes contact he usually hits a liner. Defensively he’s not much better than Miranda, but I defintely would take him over Miranda if a hitter is needed and if the yankees want to keep Montero in AAA. I hope Jorge Vazquez gets an opportunity based on what I’ve seen from him.

  • A.D.

    Nick Johnson would have played first, Juan Miranda would take Tex’s roster spot, then he and Marcus Thames would have platooned in the designated hitter’s spot. It’s not an ideal scenario, but it’s certainly doable.

    Agreed, and I believe this would be the best option, certainly in the early going, and probably for all of 2010. While the sky is the limit for Montero, he hasn’t taken an at-bat in AA, and it isn’t in the Yankees best interest, now or in the future, to rush him. Additionally it would allow for a bit of a showcase for Miranda to see if he can be an ML regular & thus have some value as either the 2011 DH, or a piece in a trade.

    • V

      Um… Montero got 181 PAs in AA (in 44 games) last year, and OPSed over .900.

      • A.D.

        That should have been AAA, missed an A.

        • Templeton “Brendog” Peck

          you’ve been sent to minor league camp.

          • Andy in Sunny Daytona

            Make him drink a DFA/IPA. Bitter with a bite!

  • http://yanksdraftsandprospects.blogspot.com/ Jake H

    Having Jesus catch 100 games should be the priority. I think they can get league average play from some guy. Rushing players hurts their development and while he is a stud I wouldn’t do that to him. Look at what the Mets did to Martinez.

    • Bo

      Did it hurt Cabrera?

      Did it hurt Pujols? mauer? Some guys are ready. Maybe he will be.

      Saying in March dont do it is naive

  • http://theblogthatruthbuilt.com Craig

    I’m itching for some Montero action as much as anyone and would love to see him mashing with the Yanks sometime soon (relatively speaking). At this point though, with Montero slated for Triple-A, they are sooo close to having him earn a spot in the lineup…the right way. If the Yankees can exhibit some patience and avoid some misfortune they should be able to kick off the Montero Era for good in 2011 without jeopardizing his development at all.

  • Ed

    I want to see him in the Yankees’ lineup as much as the next guy, but rushing him is a typical Mets kind of move. Shortsighted, and showing complete lack of a development plan.

    I hate to say it, but after watching the development of Hughes, Joba, and IPK, that sounds like a Yankees kind of move. A combined total of 11 AAA appearances before they made their MLB debut’s (2 of those being 1 inning relief appearances by Joba). Bounced around between the majors and minors (Hughes, IPK) or rotation and bullpen (Hughes, Joba). Make up innings management plans as they go (Joba).

    I could very easily see the Yankees screwing this up if someone goes down mid-season and they’re 5 back of Boston.

    • Mike Pop

      I have to agree here, but the pitching was always more of a weakness than the hitting ever was or probably ever will be so that was probably all the more likely.

      They didn’t give Austin Jackson any mlb at bats, so maybe they take a more patient approach with hitters? This offense is going to mash either way.

      But yeah, it’s a shame that they’ve handled their pitchers the way they have.

      • Chris

        The bigger difference is that the Yankees have other capable players to use instead of Montero. I’m not sure that you could say the same thing about the pitchers when Hughes/Joba/IPK were coming up.

      • Am I the only Kevin?

        Hope you’re right about them treating positional guys differently than pitchers, but I remember Melky getting rushed a bit and possibly suffering for it. I never was under the impression that Melky was on the level of a 5 star prospect, but he was still valued. He may not have been projected to develop into a worldbeater, but I think ideally you would have wanted to give him a full season at AAA. Isn’t the common belief that players can develop plate discipline and pitch recognition (Melky’s weakness at the time, along with power) in the higher levels of the minors where pitchers are a little more refined?

        In the case of AJax in 2009, the Yanks were getting league average production at the ML level so they left him alone at AAA. With Melky, the sky was falling, so they brought him up. Given that recent track record, had a huge hole opened up in CF in June/July, I have no doubt in my mind that AJax would have been called up.

        Thus, I think there unfortunately is a strong chance that Montero will be brought up “too early” if the Yanks find themselves scuffling and in need of a DH or C. We just should hope that he is developed enough to at least backup catch by that point (to continue his defensive development at the ML level) and is special enough to swim instead of sink when that happens.

    • Bo

      What did those 3 have left to accomplish in the minors?

      They dominated every level they were at. How couldnt they promote them?

      • Ed

        Afraid of what I’m getting into here, but seriously Bo?

        Hughes made two AAA starts, I believe about 5 innings each in AAA before reaching the majors. The first one wasn’t even a good start – that’s why Chase Wright got called up when he did. Also, the original plan was that was the year he was supposed to work a changeup into his pitches, so he very clearly had something to learn.

        Joba made one AAA start and two relief appearances. 8 innings total.

        Kennedy got more AAA work than the other two combined, with a whopping 6 starts. 34.2 innings.

        Hughes didn’t dominate in AAA, Joba’s sample was small enough to be meaningless, and Kennedy’s sample still isn’t great.

        And you should know by now that performance isn’t everything in the minors.

    • Thomas

      I agree and I disagree.

      The Yankees clearly rushed all three players. However, the problem, as I see it, wasn’t the number of AAA appearances before their debut, but the number of AAA appearances before they were put in the majors to stay.

      I have no problem with the Yankees calling up Kennedy and giving him a few starts in September. I don’t really have a problem with the Yankees putting Chamberlain in the bullpen at the end of the season as he approached his innings cap. The problem comes from the fact the Yankees did not send Chamberlain and Kennedy to AAA to start the next season and further their development, instead they just left them in the majors.

      Hughes is a different, since when he was called up it seemed like a permanent move. This hampers a player’s development. This is what I disagree with.

      None of these moves should have been permanent, they should have just been spot starts/a few innings of relief to give the pitchers experience, before they are sent back for more development.

    • http://twitter.com/JamalG_BB Jamal G.

      It is generally believed that the jump from A ball to AA ball is the biggest in professional baseball. So, if a guy is dominating AA (like the Big Three all did), what may be generally believed as rushing a guy through Triple-A is necessarily not.

      • Ed

        I see where you’re going with that, and you could make a case for Hughes with that.

        On Hughes though, I don’t think the issue was ever his ability to get minor leaguers out. The story was always that he dominated the minors with just a fastball/curve combo, but that he would need a 3rd pitch to get by in the majors. He was supposed to spend 2007 in AAA working on a changeup. Here we are several years later, and he’s still trying to learn a changeup.

        As for Joba and Kennedy, they worked their way thru the entire minor league system into the majors in one season. Joba started his season late too, so he had a low inning count. They didn’t stay at any one level for long.

  • Tank Foster

    I don’t know how anyone can make a blanket statement about the best way to handle a young talent like Montero.

    I don’t know what’s the best thing to do with Montero, but is it possible he could be brought up this season with minimal AAA experience and do well? Why not? Obviously, he’s going to have more trouble hitting MLB pitching than AAA pitching. But maybe being in that environment could accelerate his development. No doubt, having a player come up to soon and fail could lead to a loss of confidence, but I think you have to trust the people closest to Montero to make that decision.

    Personally, I don’t think you can have a talent like Montero on the major league, active 25-man roster too soon. No, not for a whole season, expecting him to DH or catch or whatever with minimal AAA experience. But if he hits as well at AAA as he did in AA last year, I think you have to start giving him some MLB at bats and experience as soon as possible.

    • Chris

      Moving him to the majors could help his development as a hitter, but he still has a lot of development to do as a catcher. Giving him the opportunity to catch every day is (likely) critical to his development. Unless you’re willing to bench Posada so Montero can catch regularly, then it would set back his development to have him in the majors.

    • Am I the only Kevin?

      Conventional wisdom is that catchers develop defensively a little slower than normal. They typically don’t even get the chance to work with pitchers who have a good idea where their pitches are going until AA, so good luck on learning the more subtle skills of framing and pitch selection until then.

      Montero is reportedly weak defensively, even for your typical 19/20 year old prospect. Montero’s total worth would likely be much much higher as a catcher than at DH or 1B. Thus, many conclude that he should be given the opportunity to learn the position defensively before being promoted to the majors so he doesn’t get Joba’d.

      Could this conclusion be wrong? Of course – he could be promoted tomorrow and never turn back. Is the conclusion completely irrational? I don’t think so.

      • Tank Foster

        I’m gonna persist, against the grain, against the tug of popular sentiment, that Jose should be a DH/1b, not a catcher. I don’t want this guy’s hall-of-fame potential mashing ability curtailed by destroying his legs and back as a catcher. I’d rather see him lumber around in the OF if that’s where they need to put him.

        As for the (correct, I admit) sabermetric arguments for having him catch, I’m running around you with my fingers in my ears singing la la la la la la I can’t hear you la la la la.

        • Jack

          Jose?

          • Tank Foster

            Duh. Jesus, I meant to write Jesus.

  • king of fruitless hypotheticals

    somebody talk me off the ledge…

    I think we all agree that development and a plan for Montero are more important than a couple of extra dingers or hiding Thames’ bat. Unfortunately, I think if we’re on the edge of not making the playoffs and they can finagle him up there, they’d rush him in order to try to win now over career development. Their recent Joba rules and rushing him and now his bullpen position have me worried.

  • http://mystiqueandaura.com Steve H

    If they truly think he’s a catcher down the road, keep him in the minors. If it gets to the point where there is a huge need for him, then there are likely much bigger problems anyway. I want to see Montero as much as the next guy, and I think he could have a Cabrera type impact (on a team that won the WS), I’d just assume not see him until September.

    • Big Juan

      Agreed.

      His development is hugely important to how they proceed. If they rush him, I’m sure he’ll hit, but it could drastically change their long-term plan.

      (BTW, you and JMK have an email).

  • JayL

    I may be in the minority here, but I like the raw power of miranda and would not be woefully opposed to seeing him get a good number of at-bats to see what he can do. I just remember that monster shot at the trop last year, and with regular playing time i could see his average coming up and he could be a valuable piece in my humble opinion.

  • Bo

    Hopefully they wont need him. But if hes ready you cant hold him back. Esp if he gives you the best chance to win.

    • OldYanksFan

      I believe you are correct. The trump rule for the Yankees is WIN NOW. If it is very close or we are behind, and IF the FO believes he makes the team better, he will be up.

  • Rose

    However, Eno Sarris reminds us that only four position players (Miggy Cabrera, Delmon Young, the Uptons) have made their debut before the age of 21 this century, and things didn’t exactly go as planned.

    Jason Hayward is starting this year and he’s under 21.

    And if you bring in last century…oh boy! Much larger sample size of success stories than just 4 in roughly only a decade.

  • JobaWockeeZ

    So he’ll be up mdiseason only DH’ing catching occasionally then a couple years down the road with not much of a sample size Montero will be a permanent DH.

    /Joba’d

  • http://twitter.com/riddering Riddering

    I agree that it’s best for Montero to catch and rake in AAA. I’m more than willing to wait until September to see him bruise MLB pitchers if it means he builds up his catching abilities in order to share the plate in the future.