Easy big fella!


Murray/The Star-Ledger

I’m as big a fan of Jesus Montero as there is.  I’m glad the Cliff Lee trade didn’t go through.  I’m glad they didn’t trade him for Roy Halladay.  I have not seen him catch in person though I think the Yankees should try him at catcher until they’re 100% sure he either can or can’t handle the position.  As bullish as I am on Montero, Bill James’ 2011 projections for him just seem insane.  If you haven’t seen yet, James predicts a .285/.348/.519 line with 21 HR’s.  Yes, that’s in the major leagues.

How realistic is this?  First, considering this in a perspective solely to Montero, that line is eerily similar to his 2010 AAA line of .289/.353/.517 line with 21 HR’s.  So James prediction essentially says Montero will repeat his numbers as a 20 year old getting his first taste AAA as a 21 year old getting his first taste of the major leagues.  For all of us who followed Montero this year, we know that he got off to a horrible start and a ridiculously hot finish.  While the slow start is  certainly a possibility (and maybe even a probability) in the major leagues, is there any way Montero would go on a tear like he did last year, hitting .351/.396/.684 after the All Star break?  It took a run like that just to land at his final AAA line, and I can’t see that type of production in the major leagues over such a long period of time.  That’s Pujolsian.  So I’d say for Montero to approach his AAA line in the majors in 2011, he’d have to be pretty consistently awesome for 6 months (with the expected normal peaks and valleys) as a 21 year old rookie catcher, in New York, playing on a team that expects to win the World Series.   Good luck with that.

How realistic is Montero’s projection in a historical context?  Since 1901 how many 21 year old (or younger) catchers have ever slugged over .500 while catching at least 100 games?  Answer: none.  Stretch that out to 22 years old and you get two catchers:  Johnny Bench in 1970 which was his 3rd year in the league and Brian McCann in 2006 in his first full season, though he was not a rookie.  Even going out to the age of 23 there are only 4 more catchers who slugged .500 or greater (Nokes, Carter, Hartnett, Mauer) at such a young age.  And yet, James projects Montero is to slug .517 as a 21 year old rookie.  Opening this comparison up to all positions there have been 30 seasons (by 23 players) since 1901 to slug .500 or greater at age 21 or younger, again none of them catchers.  The list literally is chock full of Hall of Famers as you might expect.  Even if James’ projection for Montero were based on him solely DH’ing, you can still see just how historic his line would be.

I am pretty sure that Montero will not reach James’ lofty projections and it’s unfair to expect him to. That will not make him a bust, overrated or a disappointment.  Let’s all acknowledge that now.  If somehow Montero makes history and hits those projections we will all be beyond thrilled.  I can’t wait to see Montero’s first at-bat in the majors and expect to enjoy the ride, I just want to keep things in perspective, which I simply feel James projections do not do.

Categories : Analysis, Minors, Players


  1. kosmo says:

    Maybe 16 HR .275 Ave. 60 RBI in 450 PA.

  2. Andy In Sunny Daytona says:

    Bill James has also predicted a 32-0, 0.00 era 1200 k’s in 250 innings for Casey Kelly.

  3. I feel that 15-18, maybe pushing 20, is more reasonable in terms of home runs. I’d be very happy with that slash line, too.

    • Sayid J. says:

      I think the whole point of the post is that yes, we’d all be very happy with a hall of fame caliber slash line from our 21 year old rookie catcher – just don’t expect it to happen.

  4. pete says:

    Spot on. I feel like we’re going to see a lot of links to this article next year. I think he’ll start slow, start go get hot coming into the all-star break, go on a tear after, and cool off towards the end of the season. Something like this:

    April: .230/.290/.350 with 1 HR
    May: .245/.315/.390 with 2 HR
    June: .290/.335/.485 with 4 HR
    July: .315/.375/.565 with 9 HR
    August: .305/.380/.520 with 5 HR
    September: .265/.325/.445 with 2 HR

    Averaged together that comes out to a .275/.337/.459 line with 23 HRs, which still may be a tad optimistic, but I think it’s safe to say that I am optimistic about Jesus, so all’s good.

  5. bexarama says:

    James’ predictions have Montero’s 2011 OPS > Cano’s 2011 OPS. Not that I don’t have all the confidence in the world in Montero’s bat but that is fucking ridiculous.

  6. Nigel Bangs says:

    I’m ok with him being a future HOFer.

  7. YankeesJunkie says:

    If Montero is anywhere around a .320-.335 wOBA (around MLB average) that would be nothing short of outstanding. There should not be tons of pressure on Montero considering he will be batting 7th or 8th and since he is a Yanks prospect most fans will probably give him time to adjust.

  8. JobaWockeeZ says:

    .270/.340/.460 is my prediction. Bat;s been major league ready for a couple years now. While that line in the article would be diffucult I would not be surprised if he attained it.

    • YankeesJunkie says:

      I think he could do that in the second half of the season, but I think he will be adjusting to the quality of the pitching in the first half. There is a ton of talent with Montero, it just will take time to develop.

  9. nsalem says:

    2011 will be All Jesus All The Time for the Yankees.
    Josh Hamilton and the Rangers got nothing on us.

  10. Reggie C. says:

    Mike Stanton’s “light-tower” power translated to a .833 OPS/ 116 OPS+. That’s against easier pitching over 400 PAs. I for one wouldnt be upset if Montero came close to Stanton’s triple slash (.259/.326/507), particularly in the power department. Montero’s a better hitter than Stanton and could probably hit for higher BA.

  11. Ross says:

    “So I’d say for Montero to approach his AAA line in the majors in 2011, he’d have to be pretty consistently awesome for 6 months.”

    Translation: to finish awesome, he has to be awesome on average. Penetrating…

    Womp wommpppp.

    • Sayid J. says:

      Translation: to finish awesome, he has to be awesome on average. he won’t be able to rely on going off on such a dominant tear like he did in AAA, and will then consequently have to be more consistent throughout the season to produce similar results.

  12. CP says:

    Jason Heyward is the same age as Montero and had similar stats in the minors.

    2007 (RK) – Heyward: .302 .354 .488 .843
    _________ Montero: .280 .366 .421 .786
    2008 (SAL) – Heyward: .323 .388 .483 .871
    _________ Montero: .326 .376 .491 .868
    2009 (A+/AA)- Heyward: .323 .408 .555 .963
    _________ Montero: .337 .389 .562 .951

    This past year, Heyward’s line was .277/.393/.456/.849. When Montero debuts next year, he’ll be a year older than Heyward was and have had a full year in AAA. It’s certainly optimistic to expect Montero to hit that well, but not ridiculous. Also, from an offensive projection standpoint, his position should have little or no impact.

    • Slugger27 says:

      i think the toll on your knees and body while catching a significant amount of games definitely can affect your offense

      that being said i agree with u…. those projections arent insane

    • pete says:

      A) Heyward had an insane year last year, especially in the IsoD department (.116 as a 20 year old rookie…holy fucking fuck), and to have projected him to be as good as he was would have been nuts. I could see Montero matching or topping that SLG (thought not by that much), but he’s not going to be within 30 points of that OBP.

      B). Heyward has ALWAYS shown better plate discipline and it has ALWAYS been reflected in higher OBPs. And that gap has been growing. Montero’s OBP during his reign of terror at AAA last year was comparable to Heyward’s on the year in the majors. Needless to say, there is a major gap between those two when it comes to BB%.

      C). Montero’s pure hitting ability and power are said to be at least on par with Heyward’s, but as a 21 year old in the majors, isn’t there a pretty good chance that his lack of (or lack of emphasis on) plate discipline in the minors could manifest itself in significantly lower contact rates and power #s in the beginning of his ML career?

      All told, I think James’s .348 projected OBP for Montero and his .289 projected AVG are both quite optimistic, but not insane. Expecting him to slug .519 his rookie year despite not yet having developed the patience that essentially a prerequisite for that kind of figure, however, is.

  13. Nuke LaDoosh says:

    How will the Yanks handle the roster spot? Will they leave Jesus off the 40 man roster as long as possible, enable them to protect one more guy through the R5 draft, and then maneuver in Spring training and add him at the last possible minute?

  14. Xstar7 says:

    Does anyone here know what the Yankees plans for Juan Miranda are?

  15. bonestock94 says:

    Unrealistic or not, it is really exciting to see a Yankee prospect getting this kind of hype.

  16. MikeD says:

    Some of James’ stats (not just Montero) seem a bit optimistic for 2011, which I find interesting. He has Jeter rebounding to a .295/.365/.410, with A-Rod at .284/.381/.530 with 35 HRs. I hope he’s right. (I’m actually more comfortable with A-Rod’s line, and think his SLG might even be higher.)

    Yet, James doesn’t do projections on emotions. He bases them on stats. It would be great if he was right on all the above, including Montero.

    Montero doesn’t need to have the blistering finish to achive James’ numbers. He simply needs to avoid hittin near .200 for the first two months of the season. People say his bat is special. I wouldn’t be writing James’ numbers off as too optimistic. The fact that only a few catchers hit 20+ HRs in 2010 should have no bearing on what Montero is capable of doing. If he doesn’t achieve it it’s not a disappointment, but I’m not going to assume he’s not going to do it either.

    • FIPster Doofus says:

      James also has Burnett bouncing back in a big way and having a 2009-like season, which would obviously be great. However, I take these projections with a grain of salt; they’re fun to look at and think about, but they come off as insanely optimistic.

    • bexarama says:

      James is generally pretty optimistic. The only players I’ve noticed having lower-than-I-would-expect numbers were Cano and Swisher, especially the latter. But they’re projections, it’s not like they’re his (biased or not) opinions.

      • MikeD says:

        Swish has a .335 BABIP in 2010. He’s probably figuring on a regression. I guess we have to see if the changes Swisher made in his approach at the plate leads to a higher line-drive percentage and a higher BABIP than in the past, similar to how Jeter always maintained a high BABIP.

        • bexarama says:

          He did have a high BABIP and is due for regression but even with that regression, Swisher gets on base. Though I agree, we need to wait and see next year – maybe the changes to his swing really have led to an increased LD% and BABIP% like you said

    • pete says:

      I think you hit on the main point of the article in your last paragraph, though, which is that if Montero doesn’t match those projections, and, say, winds up hitting .265/.325/.415 with 14 HRs, people should not call it a bust or even be disappointed.

  17. Ellis says:

    What were James’ projections like for Matt Wieters?

  18. Doug says:

    I see some of these projections and would like to remind everyone that he won’t even be 21-1/2 when the season starts.

    Think we should be more than happy with .250/.325/.425 (and 12 HRs) over 500 PAs.

  19. MattG says:

    Bill James’s predictions are always the most optimistic of all the methods shown on fangraphs. If his line didn’t have him slugging over .500, I’d have been worried.

    There is really nothing to see here.

  20. AJ says:

    So if his ceiling is Mike Piazza/ Victor Martinez, what is his floor? Mike Napoli?

    • MikeD says:

      Jesus has no floor! He’s almost Casey Kelly-like in his abilities.

      I don’t think it’s fair to give any player a Mike Piazza-type ceiling. Piazza’s not the greatet catcher of all time, but he is probably the greatest hitting catcher of all time. I certainly don’t want to put that type of expectation on Montero. Montero projects out as having more power than Martinez, but he’s yet to swing a single bat against MLB pitching yet, so let’s give him time.

    • mike c says:

      his “floor” might mean he’s not a MLB C. nick johnson with more power

    • bexarama says:

      his “floor” is presumably not being able to cut it in the majors

  21. tomaconda says:

    Ken Griffey Jrs rookie year 264 .329 .420 .748 for comparison

  22. kenthadley says:

    Doesn’t Montero actually have to make the team first? Before we give him Johnny Bench status, he has to beat out Cervelli and whoever else we bring in to catch. I can’t see him going north (and going on the roster) unless he has a strong offensive AND defensive spring. IMO Yanks are not going to let him learn on the job in the majors at the catcher position with a championship caliber team. How many rookies out of spring training won starting jobs (and stuck) since Jeter (and didn’t Jeter play at the end of 95)? He might not come up until May or June, if before September. If he has the same first few months of Weiters, he’ll be back in Scranton….Baltimore was playing for nothing, so they could have all the patience in the world….Yanks won’t. Even Berra wasn’t handed the job; it took him a few years to take it.

    • Total Dominication says:

      Having to beat out Fransisco Cervelli is is basically just showing up.

      • kenthadley says:

        I don’t think he’ll be the only competition…I see signing a vet who can part time with either a rook or Posada for a few months…Cervelli can either make the team or play at Scranton, so he’s the easy one to beat out…maybe a Yorvit type catcher who’s available….or a Molina, there’s always a Molina somewhere available…

    • Dirty Pena says:

      If he replicates Wieters’ 2009, he’d be hitting league average at one of the weakest hitting spots on the diamond. I think the Yankees would certainly take that.

  23. Basil Fomeen says:

    He would have to be what Nick Swisher was in 2010 .288 /.359 /.511 ! Can he do that as a rookie?

  24. Brian says:

    Having actually seen Jesus catch last year I think he will be an improvement behind the plate from last year’s combo of Cerv and Posada. The Bill James prediction would certainly make Jesus a Rookie of the Year for sure and I think he will compete for that award if given the playing time necessary to qualify.

    In the 2 games I saw him play last year they were before the All-Star break but he did put the ball in play and he did have 2 balls caught on the warning track. If he can bat at or around .250 w/15 Hr’s and 60+ RBI’s w/ an OBP at or near .350 I think all Yankee fans would take that and run with it since he will only be 21 and provided Posada level production.

    • YankeesJunkie says:

      Considering that Jesus Montero had a 9.1% BB rate last year I don’t expect his IsoP to .100 in the majors. I think he could easily be .260/.330/.440, but at this point I’d rather try to be more realistic (pessimistic) than try to hype him up as some automatic clean up hitter his rookie year.

  25. Sal says:

    What number do you think they will give him?

    • Andy In Sunny Daytona says:

      Hopefully 6 or 21.

      • Sal says:

        A lot ot of people are saying 6 or 21. 6 is going to be retired. 21 is intriguing following Posadas 20 and its a honorable number because of O’Neil. I would like to see him wear 35. It just seems to be a number for a power hitting beast. Like how Frank Thomas wore it.

        • Andy In Sunny Daytona says:

          I hate retiring numbers for managers. It’s ridiculous. Managers and coaches shouldn’t even wear numbers. They should retire Torre’s tea cup or his patented finger-to-forehead-to-nose-to-chin-and-back pickoff sign.

  26. YankeesJunkie says:

    If Jesus Montero shows that he can catch and even be slightly better than Posada and Cervelli there is no doubt that he will catch 100 games for the Yankees. Bill James’s projections are usually some of the most optimistic so I will wait till the others like Chone and Zips come out. However, Jesus Montero has a special bat and if he wOBA around .330 with 15 homers or so I would be delighted.

  27. Can you imagine the BA & OPS splits per month if Montero reaches this projectiong ceiling ?!?! Anyways, James’ projections sound like PCL numbers.

  28. toad says:

    I don’t have a strong opinion on how Montero should be used next year, but I really hope the Yankees don’t make a mess of him by outthinking themselves. Let him play at the major league level, or AAA if they think that’s best, but don’t screw around with some genius master plan.

  29. Monteroisdinero says:

    I saw Montero play 3 times last year. The guy will be our starting catcher (except for AJ). He hit the longest HR last year at Steinbrenner field in Tampa and I saw him CRUSH one to left center (450ft atleast) at Scranton. He was not easily fooled on off speed stuff and I saw no fastballs get by his bat (he fouled a few off). I saw a flyball to the wall in right center, a couple of rope doubles to left and a hustle bloop double down the right field line. I think the thing he needs most is a track coach to work on his slow baserunning-he runs very “straight up” and could probably improve in that department. He was “the man” in Scranton but will be hidden more in our big boy lineup.

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