The Jesus Montero Stock Rollercoaster

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(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

The MSM-types love the word fail. The batter failed to get the runner in. The pitcher failed to bail out his defense. Jesus Montero failed to win the backup catcher’s job in Spring Training. That was a popular one a few weeks ago. It’s certainly true to an extent, because if Montero had a more productive spring, there’s a pretty good chance that he’d be in the big leagues right now as Russell Martin‘s caddy. But really, the only thing he failed at was performing well over a 40 at-bat sample. If two more hits drop in and he goes 12-for-40 instead of 10-for-40, he’s a .300 hitter and not a .250 hitter in camp. Small sample sizes, they’re a bitch.

Predictably, much was written about how Montero’s stock dropped in Spring Training, how he was no longer considered an elite prospect because of 19 games he played in camp. That, of course, is the real failure. No prospect’s stock can or should fall based on Spring Training or any random 19-game sample for that matter. Is Mike Trout no longer the best prospect in the game after hitting .276/.276/.364 in camp? Should the Royals be concerned that Mike Moustakas and Wil Myers combined to go 5-for-27 (.185) in camp? No, of course not.

Four games into the Triple-A Scranton season, Montero has picked up right where he left off last year. He has nine hits (including a homer) in 20 trips to the plate so far, including eight hits in his last 16 at-bats. Does that mean his stock is back up to where it was before Spring Training? No, the needle should have never moved in the first place. All the efforts to sensationalize Montero’s spring shortcomings have been dissipated in the first series of the season. The guy’s going to hit, we’ve known that from day one. Nothing’s changed.

Joel Sherman wondered yesterday if Martin and Montero were the new version of Scott Brosius and Mike Lowell. The Yankees acquired Brosius back in the day to be a one-year stopgap until Lowell could take over third long-term, but he played so well his first year that he ended up getting a contract extension and Lowell was shipped to Florida for three pitching prospects. Same deal with Martin; he was brought in as a stopgap but has played pretty well so far, so Sherman wondered if Montero could find himself on the trade block for help elsewhere. Brian Cashman has long called the Lowell trade his worst decision, so I assume he’s learned from that. No player should be untouchable, but we’ve already said the Yankees should only trade Montero for the very best, something that certainly didn’t happen with Lowell (who was a big-time prospect in his own right). Is it possible? Sure. But I’d call it unlikely.

Baseball is a game about the long haul, looking at small pieces of information and extrapolating them out is going to burn you more often than not. That’s a real failure. Nineteen games in Spring Training doesn’t tell us much about Montero, nor does four Triple-A games. Eight games isn’t enough to declare Martin the catcher of the future either. Until further notice, Montero remains in the Yankees’ long-term plans, no matter what is written about his stock.

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  • Rey22

    What if kind of thing:

    What if Martin does keep up his numbers throughout the whole year? What to do with Montero?

    • Manny

      Easy, trade Martin while his stock is high.

      • Monteroisdinero

        Agreed. 28 year old with injury hx at 4M vs 21 year old top hitting prospect in minors with more power and cost control.

        /no brainer

        • mac1

          4 mil is really nothing – plus you’ve got a + defensive catcher in Martin. Montero might not even be passable at the position. Then there’s the little issue of needing a front line starter…

          Not a no brainer to me and I’d bet not to the guys who have to throw to the backstop. JMO

          • Monteroisdinero

            Montero at 21 is light years ahead of Posada who caught his first game for us at 25 and played his first full season at 26. Let’s see how many of our catchers can prevent AJ’s 55 foot curveballs from going to the backstop.

            • mac1

              I’m guessing you really like Montero….

            • Ted Nelson

              Come on… this is getting really old. Everyone likes Montero: that’s why he’s a consensus top 3 prospect. You don’t have to act like he’s flawless or everything will definitely go perfectly for him. You don’t have to construct arguments that because he hits the ball far in BP that is a sure sign he will be a MLB star.
              At least if you were taking a lesser prospect and saying you really believe in his ability to be a MLB starter… you’re saying something. Cheerleading for Montero is like arguing that Pujols will OPS 1.100 when everyone else is merely projecting 1.050…

              If Martin’s good it’s not a no-brainer to trade him. Certainly it’s an option. It’s also an option to keep he and Montero. It’s also an option to trade Montero. All 3 could prove to be the right or wrong move.

            • Jorge

              Just as there are concerns as to Montero’s potential development, as there are with any prospect, there are concerns as to Martin’s ability to stay healthy and perform. When you consider that Montero’s overall ceiling is higher than Martin’s ever will be, the most logical answer, to this guy, is that you strike while the iron is hot with Martin and get the most you can for him.

              The frontline pitching will come, even if it does not arrive in 2011. The team may not win every World Series. Oh no.

              • Ted Nelson

                Montero’s ceiling is higher, but you also can’t ignore that his floor is a lot lower than a sustainably good Martin’s (especially at C… because Jesus could make it as a hitter and not as a C). Martin’s ceiling is also pretty high, though, as in 5-6 WAR C, which he was in 2007 and 2008. Certainly Jesus could be amazing, but 5-6 WAR annually would be a great career for anyone.

                I’m not saying it’s necessarily the wrong move, but trading a strong starter for a prospect who has yet to prove anything is a risky move. The Yankees don’t HAVE to trade either one, so it should depend largely on the offers they get IMO.

                • Rockdog

                  Well said. Also, this is a really nice problem to have.

      • The Big City of Dreams

        I’m hesitant to trade Montero because in the upcoming yrs who knows how this team will look offensively. To have a young impact bat on the Yankees is very tempting.

    • jon

      keep jesus in the minors

      i wouldnt mind keeping him there for as long as possible to start his clock later

      • Chris

        I’d prefer to bring him up so that the Yankees can win more games, but that’s just me.

        • Ted Nelson

          I tend to agree that you don’t keep him down too long (basically, you’re either starting his clock this season or next season… and I think at some point this season he’ll be up because he’s mashing and/or the Yankees need a bat), but I believe jon’s argument is also that he’d like to win more games… By having Jesus as ready as possible when he comes up, you win more games. By having Jesus on a team-friendly deal longer, you have more money for other parts of the team and you win more games.

  • Manny

    Can we get the Montero watch under the Banuelos watch? We don’t need a picture, just the batting line?

    • YanksFan in MA

      Just bookmark him at MiLB. I’d bet Mike was losing it updating the line every day last year, which is why they went pitcher this season.

      • Sayid J.

        He also probably didn’t want to pick somebody who is likely to be in the majors this year because then the prospect watch would be over. I think the idea is to pick a mid or lower level prospect and watch him over the course of the season rather than to keep track of a guy at the MLB doorstep

        • MannyGeee

          you really want to save some time, you should do the Igawa Watch.

          seriously, how fun would that be!

  • mac1

    Its very true that 8 games isn’t enough to declare Martin the Yanks catcher of the future, however 9 games is more than enough. Goodbye Hey-Zeus, hello, (insert #1 starter of your choice here).

    • Monteroisdinero


      • mac1

        Rather roll the dice on Man Ban and DB, Yanks have enough offense. If Montero turns out to be Posada plus, then you gotta hope they got value for him – but that’s far from a given.

      • Ted Nelson

        Agreed there…

        I mean I could see a situation where you trade Montero, but to just say I’d rather trade Jesus than Dellin Betances at the same value… I would like to see more analysis than “we have hitting and not pitching” behind that… If Betances is a releiver or never makes the bigs and Montero is a HOFer… who cares what positions they play?

        In fact… part of the lesson of the Lowell trade is that you hang on to the better prospect regardless of current need. Of course another lesson may be that it’s not always easy to say which prospect will be better long-term… but my point it more that if mac1 is not disagreeing Jesus is a better prospect he shouldn’t worry so much about position.

    • Ted Nelson

      Because #1 starters are always available and teams have been trading prospects as good as Jesus for #1 starters regularly… Makes sense.

  • Yank the Frank

    Everytime I see a Yankee prospect not immediately live up to his hype I think of Bam Bam Meulens. In the eighties Bam Bam would always be killing AAA pitching but flop everytime the Yankees brought him up and the Yankees brought him up time and time again. I hope that doesn’t happen to Montero.

    • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

      You take that shit back.

      • Yank the Frank

        I wish I could.

    • AC

      The only thing Bam Bam could hit wad the straight fastball. He could never adjust to MLB pitching. He was like Cerano in ML movie.

      • MannyGeee

        hats for bats… keeps bats warm

    • Jorge

      Yankees system and evaluation of talent in 2011 > Yankees system and evaluation of talent when Vic Mata and Bam Bam Muelens were prospects.

      • KeithK

        Yankees system and evaluation of talent in 2011 >>>>>> Yankees system and evaluation of talent when Vic Mata and Bam Bam Muelens were prospects.


    • pat

      The least Muelens ever struck out in a season while he was still a prospect was 121 in 118 games. The most Montero has ever struck out in a full season is 91 in 123 games. While their results may appear be the same, the manner in which they achieve them is pretty different. Montero is a much more well rounded hitter.

  • Ross in Jersey

    It doesn’t help that he was so hyped up in the offseason that people were acting like he could come up this year and immediately hit like Albert Pujols. His prospect status went from optimistic to unrealistic. There was only one direction for him to go, and naturally people over-analyzed a few dozen spring training at-bats.

  • Jaun Pablo Motorola aka ridiculous Upsidedown the Elder

    The Jesus is supreme, devour

  • Greg G.

    Baseball is a game about the long haul, looking at small pieces of information and extrapolating them out is going to burn you more often than not. That’s a real failure.

    Repeated for emphasis.

  • Monteroisdinero

    Jesus hit .250 in ST, the same as…

    Russell Martin.

    Montero could hit a ball over the green monster on a check swing.

    /only partially kidding

    • MannyGeee

      I feel like you are only 1/2 leaning into some Chuck Norris-esque “Montero-isms” here

  • Mickey Scheister

    As soon as Ian Snell returns from retirement, Cash use Montero as that chip, cash em in and get the most underated player in MiLB history…Ian Snell. Cmon Cash, make it happen!

  • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

    …we’ve already said the Yankees should only trade Montero for the very best, something that certainly didn’t happen with Lowell (who was a big-time prospect in his own right).

    In Cashman’s defense (even though he probably doesn’t want it), Lowell was flipped for Ed Yarnall, who was also a big time prospect in his own right. Yarnall was a big framed, power pitching lefty seen as a future workhorse staff ace. He had already been the centerpiece of the Mike Piazza trade.

    He busted. It happens. I’m sure we’d all like a do-over on that trade, but it’s not like trading Jay Buhner for Ken Phelps. Cashman was simply trying to move an elite prospect at a position of depth for an elite prospect at a position of need.

    I don’t want Cashman to trade Montero simply because Russell Martin is around, but if he’s flipping Montero for, say, Domonic Brown or Mike Trout or Shelby Miller or Michael Pineda, it’s a trade I could find somewhat defensible.

    • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

      (does more research)

      FWIW, Ed Yarnall was ranked higher than Mike Lowell by BA back in 1998, when the trade went down.

      It was a prospect for prospect swap that didn’t work out. Lowell looked like a very good 3B, borderline all-star but not an MVP candidate. Yarnall was much riskier as a pitcher and not a position player, but he had more upside as a 22 year old 6’4″ strikeout LHP starter. That’s a Cy Young potential.

      • CS Yankee

        Good stuff

        I wouldn’t trade any pitcher in the farm that was elite (ManBan, Dealin Dellin, etc) regardless…but in a catcher the percentages change for me.

        Whereas we have 3 elite, and if they are all proforming you know that they will only have 1.5 spots for them and that .5 is servicable by Cerv. So, Martin, Jesus, Austin, & Sanchez if they are grow & produce they really need to trade one or two for a position or arm in need assuming that it is a trade of equals or more (more, because C is a higher chip).

        • CS Yankee

          err, all not are

          BTW, not saying trade the big bat just saying they may need to sell one high.

        • Ted Nelson

          Pretty big *if* as far as all 3 panning out. (Then again that might make the case for trading them better as easily as it makes it worse…).

          There’s also some flexibility. JR Murphy might be able to move to 3B, 1B, LF, RF… Sanchez may have some positional flexibility if needed as well. Even if Montero does work out as a C, it might be best to split his PAs between C and DH with a stronger back-up than Cervelli to save his knees and (maybe) your defense.

          “I wouldn’t trade any pitcher in the farm that was elite (ManBan, Dealin Dellin, etc) regardless…but in a catcher the percentages change for me.”

          Theoretically in a one-off deal I might rather trade an equivalent pitching prospect over a position prospect since pitching prospects tend to be more volatile. I would certainly not say that Dellin Betances is untouchable… I think the chances are at least as high that he’s a reliever as starter… and then you also have to consider the chances that he never even makes it and that he’s a back-end starter and not a front-end starter…

      • Ted Nelson

        Sort of… but the trade happened after the 98 season, and after the 98 season Lowell’s ranking improved and Yarnell fell out of the the top 100. If the trade happened before the 98 season I think your point would be stronger… as it were, the Yankees traded a guy whose stock was rising for a guy whose stock was falling after he got absolutely smashed in AAA late in the season.

        • Chris in Maine

          And third basemen Scott Brosius was named MVP in the ’98 WS. Area of excess for an area of need.

  • Monteroisdinero

    Watching BP in ST when all the Yanks hit on one of the back fields. The only 2 guys that had awesome power to LF were ARod and Montero. They put on quite a show.

    For those who fear Montero can’t catch and I obviously am not one of them, his bat alone at DH next year will be worth keeping. He has plenty of power to all fields.

    • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

      Articles like this are like catnip to you.

  • Johnny O

    Did Montero’s stock really drop because he hit .250 in ST? While Joel Sherman and Wally Matthews get something fun to write about, I don’t think scouts and GM’s actually feel that way.

    Only thing I would say that ST showed is that his defense wasn’t all that great so he still needs improvement if he is to become a full time catcher. But again, that’s something that was a commonly held belief anyway.

    Has Frankie Piliere landed yet? We need someone to counter Sherman and Wally’s gloom and doom about Montero.

  • YanksFan77

    Mark 15:44 Pilate (Andrew Marchand) marveled that [Jesus] was already dead; and summoning the centurion (ESPN minor league baseball site), he asked him if [Jesus] had been dead for some time.

    Mark 15:5 But the angel (Mike Axisa) answered and said to the women (RABers), “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified (by various scouting reports).”

    Mark 15:6 “He is not here; for He is risen (in the prospect standings), as He (Brian Cashman) said.”

    • NJ_Andy

      As a seminary student, I lolled.

      • king of fruitless hypotheticals

        Timely as well!

  • The209

    and I was thinking “fail” was an internet meme …

    • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

      You’re confusing “fail” with “Jon Heyman”. Jon Heyman is the internet meme.

      Don’t worry, it happens to the best of us.

  • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

    Brian Cashman has long called the Lowell trade his worst decision, so I assume he’s learned from that.

  • JZ

    I think Martin’s emergence as healthy and productive this spring may be one of the more overlooked aspects of Montero’s failure to win the backup job. Once it became clear that Martin’s knees and hip were good, the Yanks had to figure he would be catching pretty much all the time. Nine games into the season, has Gustavo Molina caught a single inning? Add Jones and Chavez to this and it’s hard to see how Montero would get any at bats right now. So the plan to slip Montero into the backup role, allowing him to catch a couple times a week and maybe DH another time or two, simply vanished. Yes, Montero didn’t play especially well during ST. Even if he had, would the Yanks want him on the big league club doing nothing but riding the bench? All the instruction with Tony Pena couldn’t make that a good idea.

    • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

      And if Cervelli doesn’t get hurt, all of this is moot. Montero could have hit .400 in the spring, and if Martin and Cervelli have injury-free, non-craptacular spring trainings, Montero still starts the year in AAA.

      • CS Yankee

        If he slugged 1.600 in his ST at-bats he would of moved North with the club.


    • Ted Nelson

      Good point. There’s a lot of context to consider. If Martin (or even Posada… as DH) is hurt and not Cervelli and/or Chavez/Jones is hurt/done… perhaps the Yankees turn to Montero somewhat out of need.

    • Klemy

      Stop arguing with the use of facts!

  • Ted Nelson

    Lowell came on in the high minors and was a good prospect, but I think we really need to be calling out Sherman for comparing Montero to Lowell. Lowell was 24 years old his first full season in AAA (2nd stint there), not 21. Montero is a batter who plays C. If Martin is a great C for the Yankees… Montero can step in as 75% DH, 25% C.

    Not to say that BA rankings or any rankings are the end-all or that all prospects development curve is the same by age, but Montero has been #4 before his 20 year old season and #3 before his 21 year old season. Lowell OPS’d .651 in short-season ball his 21 year old season. Lowell was #71 going into his 24 year old season and #58 coming out of it. Ed Yarnell was #60 going into the same season and unranked coming out of it… So, for what it’s worth, the consensus is that Montero is a better prospect than Lowell and even that Yarnell was as good a prospect as Lowell going into that 1998 season (though not coming out of it… and they were traded coming out of it).

    Trading Lowell is a lot more comparable to trading Romine after this season if he has a very hot season between AA and AAA, and getting say Drew Pomeranz coming off a rough 2nd half to 2011.

    • king of fruitless hypotheticals

      Montero as DH and 1st backup catcher is a great future I’d think–less wear and tear, still has some value more than Ortiz because he can play in interleague games, basically creates a roster spot by holding the extra catcher job. Would be nice to see him get some PT at first to be able to spell Tex…

      …is 1B is the place for non-athletic power hitters to ‘end up’ a myth or am I just suffering from a long bought of jasongiambism?

  • OxxStone

    BTW, how is Romine doing so far?

    • YanksFan in MA

      Taking a lot of walks, but not getting a lot of hits. Walks are very encouraging though. Hits will come but I think the upside with the bat is lower than it was this time last year.

      • king of fruitless hypotheticals

        would LOVE a Romine daily driver with a Montero to take out for spins once a week…

  • Gonzo

    I wouldn’t be surprised if anything happened to Montero at this point. I mean traded, called up in June, stayed in the minors all year, etc… You name it, I can see all scenarios happening without surprise or shock.

    • Esteban

      Ascending into heaven, running for president, becoming a star badminton player. The sky is the limit.

      • Gonzo

        Well, he wasn’t born in this country, so it would have to be for Venezuelan office not US.

        Hell, he could probably figure out a way.

        • CS Yankee

          He could run for president of his home owners association.

          • Klemy

            Okay, let’s try to stop setting the goals so high. He is only 21 years old. To become president of his home owners association would be a ridiculous jump and we cannot simply expect it.

  • Jorge

    They need to stop having the fine folks at Fox Business News drive the Montero conversation.

  • China Joe

    Another MSM talking point about Jesus is how he is clearly lazy and mentally soft. I don’t know about his work ethic, but the mentally soft part is a joke. He’s hit two setbacks in his brief career (the early season struggles in AAA last year and not grabbing the big league job this year) and both times he’s bounced back with authority. Maybe he won’t stick at catcher, but the kid is obviously a ballplayer.

    • The Big City of Dreams

      I shouldn’t be amazed how the MSM jumps on a player especially a young one but boy did Montero catch a ton of heat during ST. Even talking heads like Francesa felt the need to jump into the fire and make a comment. “Yankees are down on Montero” It may or may not be true but the kid is 21 yrs old learning his craft can he catch a break or is that too much to ask.

    • Klemy

      MSM thinks he’s Dominican?

    • CS Yankee

      They said he worked really hard during the off season.

      I recall that he was benched for a game or two for not running out a grounder plus it has been said that pitchers haven’t praised him.

      His bat is awesomesauce, his glove decent (from what I’ve seen), but how is he with the pitchers? To me, what they aren’t saying means something…Martin (only been here for a couple of months), Cerv’ & Austin all have been praised.

  • KeithK

    Montero’s ST statistics don’t tell us anything significant about his ability. But his Spring Training performance did tell the Yankees something important about him right now. The fact that he was pressing and not playing all that well doesn’t mean that he won’t be a very good major league player but it might mean that he wasn’t ready to be one this month.

  • David, Jr.

    I wouldn’t trade him except for a top young starting pitcher. If he can play passable defense, he could be far more valuable than Posada. DH/BUC to hopefully start a long career. Exactly what they need to do – finally let it start turning over to younger players.

  • rabblerouser

    As others have said, Montero will be traded ONLY for a top young-enough starter.
    And it’s anyone’s guess as to which young-enough top starters might be put on the trading block.
    With King Felix perennially unavailable, I can’t think of any who’d fit the bill. 27-28 years old, with an already established track record, healthy, looking at arbitration or free agency, currently pitching for a smaller-market team that won’t be able to afford a big-market salary.

    On the other hand, finding at-bats for Montero on the Yankees would be a problem right now and in the forseeable future. I mean, where is the guy going to play?
    His catching remains suspect. There’s no question about this. Numerous experts don’t think he’s got the goods. (And no, he isn’t seen as “another Mike Piazza” behind the plate. Piazza was more mobile.) As a back-up catcher/DH/PH, how many at-bats would he get were he on the big-league team right now? And would it be better for Montero to get 400 at-bats in AAA in 2011, or 173 in the big leagues?
    Even if Montero were a first baseman–and, as far as I know, that’s not yet even been tried–from where would he get at-bats?
    A-Rod isn’t going to play 3B for another four years. Tex is a fixture at 1B. Posada is the DH now and they’ve got to give at-bats to Chavez who, healthy at last, can hit. Andruw Jones, too.
    As great as Montero’s potential with the bat is, his future is a question mark–a big question mark.
    I think the Yanks ought to start working this kid out in LF or RF. It’s not yet been tried and might yield some promising results. You never know. I’ve heard folks say he’s too slow to play in the OF. Maybe so. But I think the Yanks need to find out. No one seems to think he can catch in the big leagues and, as a DH, or even as a first baseman, there’s just not going to be a place for him to be anything near a F/T player for the Yankees.

    • Jess

      “No one seems to think he can catch in the big leagues”

      The Yankees do.

  • Nick

    I submitted a similar idea last week in the submit a tip box.
    To extend the similarity further, in 1998 they drafted Drew Henson, so they had another stud third baseman in the low minors…as they do with catcher now with Gary Sanchez. The failure with the Lowell trade wasn’t just with the prospects they got for him, Lowell’s eventual development, and Brosius’ rapid decline- its that their back-up plan, Drew Henson, was also a bust.

    As a few people have mentioned, it isn’t completed similar since Jesus is a better prospect that Lowell (younger and more productive) but it is an interesting comparison none the less.