On Montero and opposite field power

Nakajima and the sign-and-trade possibility
What Josh Willingham's contract tells us about Swisher's

Over the last few years, we’ve heard quite a bit about Jesus Montero‘s power to right, the opposite field for him. We caught a glimpse of that opposite field power in September, when three of Montero’s four homeruns were hit out to right. For some perspective, Ryan Braun and Matt Kemp tied for the league lead in opposite field homers hit by right-handed batters in 2011. They each had nine, or three times as many as Montero in roughly ten times as many plate appearances.

Opposite field power is generally more impressive than pull power because for one, it takes a ton of raw strength. Making contact with a pitch that is essentially behind you and still driving it 350-feet isn’t something most baseball players can do with regularity. Secondly, it supposedly indicates a better approach and the willingness to wait on a pitch, letting it travel deep in the zone before swinging. That part is more up for debate that the raw strength part, but I certainly think it passes the sniff test.

Over the last three seasons, Nelson Cruz leads all right-handed hitters with a .417 wOBA to the opposite field. Miguel Cabrera is second at .409, and Derek Jeter of all people is third at .398. I only say “of all people” because we don’t think of Jeter as a power guy, but he certainly does a ton of damage the other way. That’s a good reminder that having opposite field power doesn’t necessarily have to mean just homers, it could also means doubles and triples. I don’t expect to see many three-baggers out of Montero, though. Over the last three seasons, righty hitters have averaged a .274 wOBA on balls hit the other way. Clearly, opposite field pop for a righty bat is a pretty scarce and valuable commodity.

Not to rain on the parade, but we have to remember that Montero still has a long way to go before proving that his opposite field pop is a sustainable thing in the big leagues. He had 69 plate appearances and put 44 balls in play in September, which is nothing. Five of Travis Snider’s first eleven homers in the show were hit to the opposite field, and none of the 17 he’s hit since them have gone the other way. This could vanish quick. It was fun to see Montero launch some bombs the other way late last year, and the scouting report indicates that this could be something more than a fluke. The kid sure does seem to have a swing geared for the small part of Yankee Stadium, and that’s pretty exciting.

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Nakajima and the sign-and-trade possibility
What Josh Willingham's contract tells us about Swisher's
  • Bean Tooth

    Thanks for that, Mike. With the anticipated disappointment of Darvish, it’s comforting to watch what Jesus can do.

    • ADam

      Here’s to hoping that Joe gives him the playing time he deserves, and doesn’t pull a silly seniority/respect playing-time plan over having the best team on the field.

      • Ted Nelson

        What DH has more seniority on the team? Nunez?

        • ADam

          The roster is not filled out yet buddy, will see how it plays out in April.

          • Cris Pengiucci

            Highly doubt they’d have someone like Andruw Jones DH against righties and don’t see them bringing in a DH type to do that. The older players needing rest (A-Rod, Jeter, perhaps Teix occasionally) shouldn’t take away too many at bats from Montero. Until I see otherwise, I don’t beleive there’s anything to worry about.

          • Ted Nelson

            Who else is going to be a more senior Yankee than Jesus? Posada, Jones, Chavez, Thames, Nunez… there aren’t many candidates.

            • Ted Nelson

              Maybe Ramiro Pena will be their DH: 334 PAs.

              When your GM compares a prospect to Pujols… good chance he’s going to play.

              • http://www.bronxbombersreport.com Craig Maduro

                That was said in jest, but I agree he’s likely to get plenty of burn if he’s still on the team (fingers, toes and everything else crossed)

                • Ted Nelson

                  I think it was sort of in jest… obviously not really saying “yeah, Pujols is ok… reminds me of Montero.” I think the joke was more on the Pujols end than the Montero end. Certainly wasn’t like him comparing Pena to Pujols to rip the guy or to get a laugh. He had to know how it would be taken. I doubt Cashman says much to the media without thinking it through. I took it as a “we don’t need to pay Pujols $250 mill the next 10 years because we’ve got a damn fine hitter in Montero.” One could argue it was posturing to raise his trade value, but I think it was also to give the kid the vote of approval.

    • Peter R

      Ya it is pretty clear her is going to Toronto or Rangers right now. Toronto put in a “whopper” bid and Rangers bid “40-49mil.” Pretty sure both of those are bigger than the Yankees “modest” bid, even if “modest” for the Yankees means “rich” for everyone else.

      Just seems like they valued him lower than someone like Texas did.

      Here’s hoping he is a great Blue Jay(but not too late) and the Yankees sign him as a FA in 4 or 5 years.

      • Peter R

        wow typo-madness. Obviously he is a dude and late=great lol.

  • pat

    I’m not exaggerating one iota when I say I watch his highlights every day.

    • Gonzo

      Monterisdinero part deux?

      • pat

        More creepy stalker-ish.

        • jsbrendog

          do you pleasure yourself while doing so? i think you do.

  • vin

    It’s important to remember that Pujols has a Montero-like bat. Man, do I love Cashman.

    I’m so excited to watch Montero play everyday that I don’t really care how the rest of the offseason turns out.

    • vin

      That pitch on the first homer was definitely a mistake (outside, but up), but that was a good pitch by Johnson on homerun #2.

      • pat

        Yup. He went down and got that 2nd one. Markakis done Jimmy wrong by basically just turning around and watching them, hah.

  • Hey Now

    It seemed like every one of those Travis Snider HRs came against the Yanks. Whatever scouting report the Yanks had on him has hopefully been put through the shredder.

  • Gifted Tha Go Gitta

    I’m anticipating many surprises on “routine” opposite field pop-ups!

  • Gonzo

    Travis Snider. What is the deal with him? Late bloomer, or…

    • vin

      Rushed to the majors… he’s still on 23 (24 in Feb). He’ll figure it out eventually.

      • Gonzo

        I was looking at Alex Gordon (although he was a college guy) and thinking some people just take time.

        • vin

          Right, any YOUNG hitter who can demolish minor league pitching should get every chance to succeed. Maybe a change of scenery will help. If he’s still in the same boat in 5 years, then he’ll be approaching Shelly Duncan territory though.

          • Gonzo

            I was thinking Dallas McPherson since they were both considered top prospects.

  • Monteroisdinero

    Be patient my friends. There is power to all fields. No pitch will be safe.

  • Jose M. Vazquez..

    Nobody will ever compare to Mickey Mantle in hitting to the opposite field as he could do it right or left handed. As a kid in his early years, myself a youngster, while I was sitting up in right center above the 407 sign , I yelled to Mickey “hey Mick hit one up here”. The next time up, he was batting right handed and hit one two rows to my left. I shall never for get that even though it has been like 60 years. This kid Montero figures to be a very powerful hitter also. I think he will hit for power and average too. He not only has the power to right but also hits towering drives to left and left center. Here is hoping that they have some patience with him at first. Even Mickey did not do too well his first few weeks and after being sent back to the minors he really took off. I’m hoping that Montero can crush from the very start as he is 22 and Mantle was only 18 when he came up.

    • Monteroisdinero

      And Montero won’t twist his knee on a metal drain pipe in the outfield. Amazing that happening to Mantle in the WS (playing rf with DiMagg in center).

      I too saw Mantle play. He went 5/5 with a HR from each side, 2 doubles and a triple. Tremendous shots. A few years back I had a chance to ask Frank Howard at ST who was the greatest he ever saw. He said he couldn’t be sure but the greatest hitting display in one game was the game Mantle went 5/5 against the Senators. Howard was in rf and I was in the stands.

      That was well beyond Mantle’s prime.

      • Cris Pengiucci

        Always thought you were younger than that. I have a new-found respect for you. :-)

        My first game was a “Bat Day” and I got a Bobby Richardson bat. I recall it being against the Tigers (could be mistaken), so I would guess it was 1966. I was too young to really recall a lot of the other players. Guess Mantle would have played in that game but don’t know for sure.

      • http://www.twitter.com/jordansmed JGS

        Fun fact: Mickey Mantle has never had a game where he hit two homers, two doubles, and a triple. I assume you are referring to this game where he hit two homers, a double, and a single.

        • Cris Pengiucci

          Link doesn’t work! Now I’m stuck trying to figure out if I should take back my new-found repsect or not!

        • Monteroisdinero

          Darn it-maybe it was the first of a doubleheader and he did more damage in the second game. Hondo and I must both be forgetful! I knew the stat guys would double check everything. So much pressure to post on this site-even 35 years after the game.

          or maybe his 5th ab was a long fly caught at the wall….

  • Malrick

    Matt Nokes use to hit a lot of opposite field homers.

  • Steve (different one)

    Let’s not forget about A-rod. His ALDS hr of Joe Nathan might be my favorite HR of the last decade. Just a perfect swing.

  • Rich in NJ

    Montero generates awesome backspin, which helps provide the opposite field power. A-Rod does that extremely well when he’s right.

    • Gonzo

      What’s his handicap?

      • Rich in NJ

        The manager’s seeming aversion to defensively-challenged catchers???

        • Gonzo

          Give this man a cigar!

        • pat

          /Scioscia’d

    • Monteroisdinero

      And topspin as well. One of his two hits against the Tigers in game 4 was a topspin grounder through the left side. It was, like most Montero hits, a rare thing of beauty.

  • CJ

    Any way to measure how many games montero’s defense would cost them behind the plate? His bat is truly valuable as a c not so much as a dh. Mike Napoli also has big power to opposite field and was considered a poor defensive catcher 1b/dh type, he looked ok in October wearing the gear.

    • Monteroisdinero

      About the same as Posada.

      • Cris Pengiucci

        If true, that’s music to my ears!

      • MannyGeee

        but if he a better hitter (or project to be) than Posada…

        • MannyGeee

          ‘is he a better hitter (or project to be) than Posada…

  • Jose M. Vazquez..

    I hate to say this but NY has a lot of distractions and a kid like Montero could be led astray. They should assign Freddy Garcia as his surrogate father so nothing will happen to the kid.

    • Monteroisdinero

      Montero has a strong family-like Jeter. His parents have been at many games and at ST and I think he is going to be fine if he stays away from ARod.

      Lol

      • Gonzo

        How much longer before he signs with Lozano?

      • MannyGeee

        Thinking Montero doesn’t get into ‘muscular’ women?

  • CJ

    Montero is in a tough spot, he has to become Miguel Cabrera at this point. If he hits 280 18-22 hr as a dh he’s a disappointment.

    • pat

      Dunno about that. Would depend on the other two components besides BA. a .350/.450 OBP/SLG would be more than fine, .280/.315/.400 would not.

      • CJ

        How about .315/.440. I don’t see him as a high obP guy at least for years, seems like a “rake it don’t take it” approach hitter

    • Monteroisdinero

      It’s always going to be tougher in NY but I think he has the even-temper and demeanor to succeed even if the first year isn’t Cabrera-like. You won’t see fist pumps.

  • Derek

    Montero is going to be a stud….285 ba with 20-25 hrs 80-90 rbi…thats this year…and he will continue to get better and grow into a “miguel cabrera” type player

  • Andrew

    I was at that game. People went crazyyyyyy the second homerun.