Jan
15

Expecting Jesus

By

"That death valley's going to play havoc with my EqA." (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

The superlatives are familiar by now. Keith Law compares his hitting style to Frank Thomas; Kevin Long has invoked the name of Robinson Cano. Baseball America’s 2010 Scouting Report projects him as having 80 power on a scale of 20 to 80. Even our own Mike Axisa has speculated that we shouldn’t be surprised to see him eventually hit .300 with 30 homers on a regular basis, benchmarks that would vault him into the EqA pantheon with catching icons Yogi Berra, Carlton Fisk and Johnny Bench. As though this weren’t tizzy-inducing enough, when projecting his offensive ceiling, otherwise paragons of baseball sanity have broached names like Mauer, Konerko, and Miguel Cabrera. In responding to a reader’s question in October, Jim Callis of Baseball America chose Montero as the best hitter in the minors. From Callis via “Yardbarker”:

I don’t have confidence he’s going to stay at catcher for the long term, but I fully believe in his bat. There isn’t a minor leaguer who can match his ability to hit for average and power. He started slowly this year but rebounded to hit .351 with 14 homers in 44 games in the second half – as a 20-year-old in Triple-A. A career .314/371/511 who always has been extremely young relative to his competition, Montero has strength, bat speed and the ability to barrel balls seemingly at will…only Moustakas is in the same league as Montero in terms of power.

Still, some of us do things to stave off the hyperbole, to inhibit our own irrational exuberance, and to create intellectual distance between ourselves and the frothing lynch mob on The FAN that will inevitably call for Cashman’s head on a post at the first signs of a Montero slump.

I can’t believe we coulda’ gotten Roy Halladay straight-up for Montero! If this was Boston, they woulda’ gotten three Halladays for this kid by now.

Slightly more sane Yankees loyalists use a variety of coping mechanisms to maintain some semblance of rationality. Snarky “Jesus” jokes temporarily distract us from visions of a rookie slash line that reads like it was cut-and-pasted from Manny Ramirez’s B-Ref home page. Denial works, too. Saying things like, “He’s a little on the doughy side,” “He hasn’t faced real competition yet,” and “He’s one-dimensional” sound logical enough even though, deep down, we know they probably have little bearing on Montero’s future output as a pro. If neither of those strategies works, there’s always the milquetoast buzzkill of cautious optimism: surmising aloud that it might ultimately be in everyone’s best interest if Montero were given a full year to ripen in Triple-A, or warning that, for every Joe Mauer there are ten Ben Davis carcasses strewn across the big league landscape, can stanch one’s lapses into prospect-hugging euphoria.

But these coping devices are fleeting, mainly because having unrealistic expectations is such a stubbornly endemic component of being a Yankees fan, post-‘96. The “can’t miss” rhetoric proffered by some of the more astute and sober analysts in the game, coupled with the knowledge that Montero is the best Yankees hitting prospect in decades, will prevent a good number of us from sitting back and simply enjoying the natural ebbs and flows of a supremely talented young ballplayer.

Part of this impatience probably stems from the novelty of having our very own homegrown position player blue chip who’s on the cusp. And the proliferation of blogs and online scouting sites has enabled fans to follow Montero’s almost daily progress for the past several years. Had scouting reports been as prevalent in the early 90s, we might’ve held the same outlandish expectations for Derek Jeter, as opposed to the gigantic collective shrug that took place when the future captain made the opening day roster in 1996. Or maybe Jeter would’ve been run out of town by then, seeing as he was sent down the previous season for failing to outhit a gimpy Tony Fernandez. (The hypothetical specter of a reinvigorated George Steinbrenner harassing the Yankees brass over coffee and Danishes to “get me Roberto Hernandez for this gangly bum!” should fill us all with terror and a bit of caution.)

To its credit, the current Yankees organization has taken measures to make Montero’s eventual arrival as soft a landing as possible. By acquiring the enigmatic Russell Martin, the big club can afford to stave off Jesus’ call-up. Of course, this assumes Martin doesn’t remain mired in a mid-career offensive funk. If, however, Montero mashes in Scranton while neither Martin nor scrappy hustle machine Francisco Cervelli can exceed their 2010 WAR of 1.9 and 0.3 (?!) respectively, the only rational alternative for a team perennially competing for a championship will be to bring up the kid. What won’t be rational will be the fan and media response to it.

Prepare for a fairly massive outbreak of incredulity when Jesus Montero the human being fails to live up to the mythological beast-child with “light-tower power.” And when the fault lines in his game reveal themselves to be more gaping and persistent than his PS3 avatar’s would suggest, nerves will become even more frayed. I envision Lohud and NYY Fans crashing beneath waves of collective outrage if Montero has the temerity to slug fewer than 10 homers by Labor Day. To that end, imagine, if you dare, a mid-May oh-fer against Josh Beckett, or a bottom-of-the-ninth bases loaded strikeout looking against Papelbon. I offer my deepest sympathies for the WFAN call screeners should either occur.

Amidst any of these abject horrors, the most obvious thing of all will be overlooked, which is that Jesus Montero is really young. When Montero digs into the batter’s box for his first big league game at some point this season, he’ll be about as old as many of us were when we found ourselves slack-jawed to discover that Mom and Dad had just donated our entire baseball card collection en route to converting our old bedroom into a Bow Flex commercial. And yet even mild failure on Montero’s part will represent, for many, not just the mismanagement of resources (They could’ve gotten Halladay, you know), but further proof of the narrative that the Yankees organization is incompetent when it comes to developing top-shelf young talent.

In the worst-case scenario, Montero will struggle in all facets of his game: He’ll prove an unwieldy statue behind the plate and an exposed mark at bat. His swing will be long, he’ll clash with A.J., and he’ll lag out of the shoot. The boo birds will surface, always with a fresh and nuanced take things, and their sell low, buy high brethren will demand a trade, at least, they’ll claim, while the kid still possesses some value. Meanwhile, Montero will have only played a fraction of a season, all under the microscopic scrutiny of the New York media and a helicopter mom fan base awaiting the emergence of Hank Aaron in shinguards.

But this worst-case scenario will likely never come to fruition. Because before it ever happens, there’s a very real chance that Jesus will already be gone.

Categories : Players

100 Comments»

  1. Andy in Sunny Daytona says:

    I like how the chants from the “experts” have gone from, “No way he catches in the majors” to “no way he stays at catcher long term”. Once some of these experts actually see Montero catch for themselves, they’ll see that he’s not as bad as they’ve been told.

    Jesus keeps going, coverting one lost soul at a time.

    • Monteroisdinero says:

      This. He will be fine as a catcher. i have seen him several times-talked to Wynegar. He will surprise. May even surpass the legendary defender we have come to know. Sado.

    • Jake says:

      They say that not fully because of his defense but because like maur if he is super good they will want to move his position so the wear and tear doesn’t set in,they aren’t all like yogi

  2. The Real JobaWockeeZ says:

    But this worst-case scenario will likely never come to fruition. Because before it ever happens, there’s a very real chance that Jesus will already be gone.

    Especially when Cashman said it would be a rare situation in which that would happen.

    I’me expecting Levine any moment now to make a Jesus for Blanton swap.

  3. Squishy Jello Person says:

    I will always have the knowledge that in 2009, he did, in fact, recieve my get-well-soon card.

  4. KofH says:

    Should Frankie’s WAR really be a surprise? He’s by definition a replacement player…

    I really want Joba to start (just keep it to yourself) so we don’t feel compelled to trade Jesus. And for Martin to have a good year so we don’t bring up Jesus any faster than we should.

    • MikeD says:

      That’s right. Cervelli is a replacement-level player, which is what he was meant to be. The problem is he ended up catching more games and more innings than Posada last year, making him our starting catcher, or at worse the co-catcher. That wasn’t his fault.

      Replacement level players are not as easy to find, btw, as people assume. Cervelli has value, especially at his price, so there will be plenty of takers for him if the Yankees decide they no longer want him.

    • YankeesJunkie says:

      Even if the Yankees converted Joba to a starter it would probably be necessary to trade for another starter either before or during the season as it would be nice to have insurance of Nova as a sixth starter.

  5. Cliff says:

    Not trying to be a jerk but this post would have been fantastic without the final line that completely ruined it. What tells you he is going to be traded (within the next week at that)? And for who?

    If you are going to make a claim or speculate like that, please at least give it some sort of supporting argument.

  6. Poopy Pants says:

    0/2

  7. Andrew says:

    The phrase “scrappy hustle machine Francisco Cervelli” made me audibly gag.

    As to Montero, I think expectations will be high, but the catcher spot is guaranteed to be #9 in the lineup for I would assume the entire season. The team’s offensive success will not revolve around catcher, whether it’s Martin, Cervelli or Montero behind the plate. They did this with Jeter, and Cano took forever to really move up in the order. It’s a benefit of breaking position players into a usually-stacked Yankees lineup.

    That will make it easier for The Jesus, and may get him some better pitches to hit early on, allowing him to hopefully minimize the usual breaking-in cold streaks, or at least, keep them from snowballing to epic proportions.

  8. Hughesus Christo says:

    I have faith in Jesus. Nobody f*cks with the Jesus. What would Jesus OPS? Jesus is my homeboy. Jesus walks. Jesus saves. Jesus H. Montero.

    If some jackass Levine/Hank-orchestrated trade robs me of that magic I WILL become a Giants fan.

  9. Nigel Bangs says:

    Jesus, really is fun to let your imagination away with this guy. Gotta say.

    • YankeesJunkie says:

      Jesus is good and has a ton of power, but man looking at Carlos Santana’s numbers in the minors especially the high minors easily trump Jesus which is hard to do.

      • Zack says:

        When Santana was Montero’s age now, he was in low-A ball. Not saying he’s won’t be a top catcher for years, but he was 24 in AAA and 23 in AA.

  10. Twains Yankee says:

    I enjoyed this article. Nice work

  11. Gonzo says:

    I wouldn’t be surprised by a trade. I think it would be a deadline trade though. If the Yanks stumble out of the blocks, Cash could very well lose control of Montero’s fate.

  12. Mark says:

    I doubt he is traded for a couple of reasons.

    1) His bat. it’s incredible, to have a right handed power bat would be huge in the future, he could hit between cano and granderson probably in a a couple of years.

    2) There is a difference between trading someone and signing a free agent. Levine can go behind Cash with a free agent because he can deal with the agent, but to go behind Cash’s back and deal with another GM, i dont think anyother GM would find that respectable and they probably would call Cash up and find out what was going on.

    3) The catching situation sorta sucks if we trade him. Cervelli is awful, god pray that Posada retires after the year (and I think he’s one of the best Yankees ever), and Martin hasnt hit in two years, and I really doubt he does now. Romine really struggled last year after the ASB and needs another year and a half at least before hes ready.

    4) there is no way that they trade him for anyone but an elite starter. Cash would not allow that to happen. so i really think that by the ASB, everyone will be wearing “Got Jesus?” shirts and people will think it was crazy that they ever thought he should be traded

    • Paul O'neill's Batting Helmet says:

      “Cash would not allow that to happen.”

      Lets just hope ownership wouldn’t allow that to happen either. I would quit if I were Cashman and that happened, as it would be obvious I was merely a GM on paper. However, I wouldn’t limit myself to elite starters. Even Jesus has his price, if some team was willing to exchange an established elite youngish position player for him at the trade deadline. But the offer would have to blow me away.

    • toad says:

      5) His age – the possibility of a long career.

      6) Team control

  13. bakekrukow412 says:

    Love the line about PS3 avatars. I created Jesus in MLB2k10 and he hit 83 home runs. Don’t even get me started about what Tex hit.

  14. Reggie C. says:

    Montero in pinstripes is a near 99% certainty. There is no one pitcher or hitter available via trade currently that is worth losing Montero in acquiring. None. Starters like Felix, Lincecum, J. Johnson, Matusz, Lester are all unavailable for obvious reasons.

    Montero has done enough damage in the minors and he’s good enough now to hit ML pitching. I think his hitting talent will be obvious from day 1 of ST. It’ll be hard to watch Montero catch Aj Burnett, but hey, maybe a double bw the CF and RF can limit our collective sighs when those passed balls accumulate.

    • Paul O'neill's Batting Helmet says:

      Matusz? I know hes got promise, but hes not worth trading Montero for. Throw in Wieters, hmmm…..but then I dont think I make that trade if I am Baltimore.

  15. Nice Piece.

    I don’t know what you’re alluding to at the end but w/ ZG off the market there isn’t top shelf value available. Who could they trade JM for?

  16. Chris says:

    The Yanks are going to have to be smart and use Montero as DH against teams with strong running games but I think they’ll ultimately be able to use him as catcher for 90-100 games per year without him causing to much damage behind the plate.

  17. Chris says:

    I’d rather see the Yankees miss the playoffs this year and give the Killer B’s a chance to develop and maybe add Yu Darvish next year than have Cashman give away Montero for a 3rd or 4th starter type like Buerhle or Wandy.

  18. Monteroisdinero says:

    Batting Montero 9th when he comes up is someday going to be a joke. Mickey Mantle batted leadoff in the 51 world series opener. The Mick! leadoff!

    Montero batting 3rd at Scranton this year. He will be batting 3rd for the Yanks in a few years. I have seen him crush a 2 strike pitch 450 feet to left center vs Pawtucket at Scranton and easily double off the right center wall with a flick of his Pujolian bat. A man among boys.

    Awesome. He is slow on the bases-I will give you that.

    • bexarama says:

      Pujolian bat

      Good to see we’re not getting too ahead of ourselves

      • Monteroisdinero says:

        Triple A Pujolian. Correction. I can’t help but get ahead of myself. Our 3 best farmhands in 30 years were/are Jeter/Hughes/Montero. They are obviously so different in what they bring to the team. For me, Montero coming to the plate at Scranton was like Pujols coming to the plate in the majors.

        • Evan3457 says:

          No love for Bernie?

          Or Andy? Or Mariano?

          Or are you just referring to their minor league performance as opposed to skills/potential?

          • Monteroisdinero says:

            Don’t think Bernie was as highly touted. Roberto Kelly was ahead of him in center iirc. Mariano was a setup man whose first year was age 25. Andy very good but not a dominant/best in the minors prospect.

  19. Teh Comp Pick says:

    I think anyone Cash would dare trade him for ain’t available

  20. bpdelia says:

    I’m totally optimistic that this nightmare scenario will not play out.

    FIrstly I think that we have seen some patience with you guys. Cashman held onto Hughes when getting Santana was all the papers would talk about. And Montero is perhaps even a bigger prospect than Hughes.

    Also Montero’s age makes me think he’ll get a slightly longer leash.

    I’m just not a pessimist on this.

    The only way Montero will be traded is if we acquire an ace. I thought trading him for lee would have been a terrible idea.

    Can you imagine if we had and then LEE WALKED??

    No I think this is an instance when we will see some patience.

    They demonstrated patience with Hughes and really MOntero, Hughes and Jeter are the only blue chippers we have had in the 30 years or so.

  21. Monteroisdinero says:

    Montero will be a good catcher. Not gold glove good but good.

  22. pete says:

    Great post, Brock, keep it up.

    One nit to pick, and only because it is a constantly proliferated inaccuracy/misleading notion: Montero’s swing/”hitting style” was compared to Frank Thomas. He has shown a similar ability to hit for high average and for a great deal of power (and cover a ton of plate) despite an unusual swing. He has never shown the absurdly good plate discipline that Thomas has, though. Montero’s has never been a weakness, and we may eventually see his walk totals rise in the majors once he adjusts, since he’ll no longer be able to hit breaking balls low and outside for booming doubles, but as of right now it would still be ridiculous to expect him to be a consistent mid-.400s OBP machine.

  23. bpdelia says:

    I think the Thomas comparison is because MOntero tends to hit off of his front foot with a Charlie Lau type wait shift thing going on. IT’s a pretty rare hitter who can release his weight load so early and still drive the ball but Montero seems to share that with Thomas

  24. Kevin Ocala, Fl says:

    Montero is the sort of hitter @ age 20 that goes to HOF. I’ve read Bill James’ analysis on great hitting carrers now for almost 30 years, and it would seem that Montero has “Great” written all over him. No way should he be traded for anyone until he’s past 25, and has somehow turned into a bust.

    BTW, Brock your so dead-on about the MOB mentality. The Yanks currently have a fellow named Joba who may yet become great. I’m hoping that the Yankees have held him back both to protect his arm and to give him an attitude adjustment. This could be the year…

  25. Jonathan says:

    This article just REEKS of a high school paper where the writer used the thesaurus to absolute death. That or someone with a new “word smart book”. I enjoyed the content but the writing style is tedious at best. You have talent so please ease up on the unnecessary vocab lesson.

    Que jokes about me not being smart enough to understand the words.

    • Bob Stone says:

      Your comment is just a bit harsh . . . High School paper? The article is well thought out, carefully composed, topical on a very slow news day/weekend and an easy read.

      Give the guy some credit.

      Good job Brock.

      • Jonathan says:

        i didn’t mean that the paper was HS quality. I meant it as HS kids use the thesaurus extensively just to soup up their paper when the quality is lacking. I’m saying his content doesn’t need the extra vocab, it’s excellent quality by itself. I did give the guy credit with some constructive criticism. How is saying he has talent not giving him credit?

    • Kevin Ocala, Fl says:

      Your right, the vocabulary is a notch or two above the 4th grade drivel that newspapers use. My mind feels so, so, stretched….better take a xanax……..or something.

      • Jonathan says:

        That is a downright pathetic attempt at humor. Sarcasm is usually better used when you’re actually a funny person. You must jerkoff to Keith Law.

        I don’t care what level the vocab is. My point is it is excessive and keeps his writing style from flowing; and is just extra baggage on his great content.

        • Kevin Ocala, Fl says:

          Your reading a baseball blog. Who did you expect to be writing, Gore Vidal?

          Now run along and grade your papers.

    • Midland TX says:

      I disagree. I don’t think there’s anything gratuitous or ostentatious about the writer’s word choices.

    • hogsmog says:

      Isn’t it sort of insulting to insinuate that the writer has the vocabulary of a crappy high school student?

      If he didn’t use any of the words improperly (which I don’t think he did (I also don’t know what words you are talking about)), then why do you think he used a thesaurus? Do you think everyone with a good grasp of the English language is thumbing through a “word smart book”?

      I am an adult, and I expect to be treated like one. There isn’t anything wrong here.

      • Mike HC says:

        And there is nothing wrong with using a thesaurus either. How do you think you are going to expand your vocabulary if you think trying to learn more words and different way to say things is weak, or High School, whatever that means. How dare the author try to spruce up, or improve, his writing with a thesaurus!

  26. bpdelia says:

    Ya know I went back and read the article and I don’t understand what you mean? I’m not being a dick. I’m serious. WHat “vocab lesson’s” are you referring to? The only word that could be even slightly considered “vocaby” is paragon and that was actually perfectly acceptable and not at all gratuitous in the context he used it. Sorry, I write fiction and I tend to be a harsh critic of over writing or excessive wordiness. I don’t understand. The piece is fine.

    • Kevin Ocala, Fl says:

      You missed “superlative”, “pantheon”, “endemic”,”hyperbole” and maybe a few more. Yep, Brock was really trying to talk down to his readers. I feel so mentally violated, you know?

      • Bob Stone says:

        I guess everybody’s sarcasm meters broke all at the same time.

      • Jonathan says:

        You’re just being a douche bag at this point. You must be a very personal friend to go to these lengths but obviously i didn’t say he was talking down to us or that the article was impossible to understand.

    • Kevin Ocala, Fl says:

      “No child left behind”, right?

      • Jonathan says:

        Ahahaha so funny. Because I claim his style doesn’t flow because of excessive vocab means I must be an idiot. Your “jokes” might be funnier and more original had I not predicted them in my first one.

        You’re probably trying to protect your friend but take it down a notch. I understand the words perfectly and just dislike the excessive use for this genre.

        • chaz says:

          it’s great there are more weekend writers, now.

          But as I was reading this post I also noticed prose, while impressive at times, was a tad ‘off’ for this genre of writing. It’s a baseball blog, not the New Yorker.

          I’d say focus more analysis of the players and the market and less on gaudy, long-winded references.

        • hogsmog says:

          You made it very clear that you understood what the words meant. That isn’t why people think you’re being unreasonable.

          You are being unreasonable because those twelfth-grade words were used correctly in context, and it seems like most people thought they were aesthetically appropriate as well. Unless you can explain why they didn’t ‘flow’ right, in greater detail than “We don’t hear them every day so they sound funny”, then you really are wrong.

        • Kevin Ocala, Fl says:

          Don’t know the man (Brock), I find Keith Law obnoxius, but informative. This is a baseball forum, go back to grading your CC papers….Oh, and you need to toughen your skin if you want to rip someone who wrote a nice piece.

    • Bob Stone says:

      Exactly right.

  27. jesus will be like mike pazza they said he would never catch either

  28. Monteroisdinero says:

    Whenever I get depressed about the Sox having the better off season in acquisitions, I comfort myself in Monterian thoughts that he will be our biggest upgrade albeit not an acquisition.

  29. JohnC says:

    I’m curious to see him against a guy like Lester to see how he hangs in there. Wonder if he makes the Opening Day lineup against Verlander for that matter.

  30. Jd says:

    Grow up Jonathan. The article was well written and free content.

    Montero is going to have some bad times at the plate and behind it in the early going, but should be very successful. What strikes me, even beyond his talent, is his level of maturity and ability to handle pressure. The spot light has been on him constantly along with considerable criticism of his defensive abilities, yet he continues to work and thrive. Very unusual. The kid obviously has a great deal of inner drive and self confidence. He is going to need all of that next year.

  31. KennyH123 says:

    Comparing the writer to a high school student is insulting. You’re gonna debate that? Do yourself a favor and stop posting.

    Nice article, I thoroughly enjoyed it.

  32. Mike HC says:

    Another excellent article.

  33. baycommuter says:

    This is the perfect situation to repeat the Ralph Terry deal with Kansas City (then the A’s) in the 1950s…the Yankees give Montero to the Royals for some mediocre starter for a year or two and then get him back in a one-sided deal when he’s ready. Is Dayton Moore listening? Could two teams get away with it in today’s climate?

  34. Montero has a plus arm. He will be better at throwing out runners than Posada. Much better bat and power but of my God what a hitter he is going to be. The above author makes little sense but is just playing with words. I could write something like his but from the opposite perspective.

  35. Maybe Montero is the second coming of Jesus.

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