It’s July 2, 2016. Guess what happened ten years ago today? The Yankees signed a highly-touted catching prospect Jesus Montero out of Guaraca, Venezuela. Montero, the former future cleanup hitter and present what-could-have-been, pretty much hit his way up to the top of the system and excited the fans with a solid ML showing late in the 2011 season. But as you know, he was dealt to Seattle in January 2012 in a trade that brought Michael Pineda and Vicente Campos to the Yanks.
Montero had been hyped as the very top commodity for the 2006 IFA signing class. The excitement stemmed from his hitting prowess. Here’s PinstripePlus.com’s assessment of his bat before the Yankees signed him”
The right-handed power hitting catcher drew immediate attention from Yankee officials in Spring Training in a two-day tryout where he participated in intrasquad games this past March … He not only held his own against much older competition, but he drew glazed and impressed looks from all the Yankees’ prospects that day.
“He’s ‘the’ top International free agent this year,” (then international scouting director) Carlos Rios told PinstripesPlus.com on March 17th. “He can really hit and he plays a prime position.”
So yes, it wasn’t a secret that Montero could hit. I was never involved in scouting so I have no idea how they evaluate players beyond their stats but it seems like just about everyone that looked at him loved the intangibles.
The major knock on Montero — which followed him for a long, long while — was that scouts didn’t like his chances of him remaining at catcher. Here’s a quote from Baseball America:
While his bat and power potential made Montero a hot commodity, his future behind the plate may be in doubt, according to scouts with other clubs. One scout said Montero was already 6-foot-3 and 230 pounds and disparagingly compared his body to that of Henry Blanco; another said he was too stiff and lacked the athleticism to catch at the big league level.
“He has above-average raw power, a lot of power, but where do you put him?” the scout said. “I don’t think he’ll catch. He’s a big-hipped kid and he’s going to get bigger; he may have to end up at first base.”
The BA article also had a nice quote from a scout, who compared Montero to Travis Hafner. We’re not talking about the Hafner that briefly played for the Yanks in 2013. The 2006 version of Travis Hafner terrorized ML pitching by hitting .308/.439/.659 with 42 HR. So yes, it was an extremely attractive comparison that had Yankee fans salivating for future.
The Yankee system at the time was on the upswing. They had an exciting young position player in Low-A named Jose Tabata, and their 2004 first-rounder Phil Hughes was tearing up the low minors en route to Double-A. Another Double-A pitcher named Tyler Clippard was having a solid season in which he tossed a no-no. Guys like Austin Jackson and Brett Gardner were trying to climb out of the low minors.
Around that time, Melky Cabrera (only 21 then) had just come up to majors and made some impact replacing the injured Gary Sheffield. It had been awhile since the Yankees had organizational talents come up to bigs and be regulars, and in 2006, fans were excited about the possibility of building yet another Core Four.
The Yankees signed Montero at dawn of the July 2nd signing day. The reported bonus was $2 million, a record amount at the time. An initial report called it $2.2 million, but Yankees disputed it, saying that it was $2 million. As you may have guessed, Montero took the No. 1 spot on ESPN’s top IFA list in 2006. Following him are plethora of names that you may or may not have heard. Here are a few:
1. Jesus Montero: You know how it went.
2. Engel Beltre: Signed with the Red Sox. Sent to the Rangers in July 2007 trade that brought Eric Gagne to Boston. He had 22-game cup of coffee with the Texas Rangers in 2013 but never made a mark in the bigs. He’s currently playing in Mexican league, hitting .354/.394/.446 for Campeche.
3. Angel Villalona: Signed with the Giants. He was a big kid who was projected to hit for power. After some decent seasons, he was charged for murder in September 2009. Whoa. Villalona was ordered to house arrest for two years and the charges were dropped after he reached a settlement with victim’s family. He came back to U.S. in 2012 to resume pro career and still hasn’t reached to Triple-A yet, let alone majors. At age 25, Villalona is with the Giants’ Double-A affiliate and hitting for a measly .336 OPS in 31 PA. Safe to say this was probably one of the worst big money IFA signings ever.
4. Oscar Tejeda: Another young toolsy guy signed by the Red Sox. And again, another guy who hasn’t made the majors. He bounced around the Boston, Pittsburgh and Washington organizations but never got past Triple-A. There is no record of him playing baseball in 2016.
5. Larry Suarez: The highest pitcher in the list. Signed with the Cubs. Never got to the majors and pitched only one Triple-A game in his seven-year MiLB career. He had a 5.09 ERA in 272.1 career IP.
6. Euclides Viloria: ESPN’s brief report described him as “Sort of like Johan Santana, but with less power.” He signed with the Padres and apparently had only one pro season. He pitched to a 5.63 ERA in 54.1 but struck out 73. It seems he suffered an injury and never pitched in the pros again. Shame.
7. Esmailyn Gonzalez: Signed with the Nationals. This one was a doozy. In 2009, MLB found out Gonzalez was named Carlos Lugo, and he was four years older than listed. The scandal forced Nationals then-GM Jim Bowden to resign. Prior to being busted, Lugo was on a roll, hitting .343 with a .906 OPS in GCL in 2008 when he was supposedly 18-year old Esmailyn Gonzalez. Lugo never got past High-A and he’s been out of professional baseball since 2014.
8. Carlos Triunfel: Signed with the Mariners. Ho-hum, another ML cup of coffee guy. He actually hit decently in the low minors but couldn’t figure out Double-A pitching for awhile. He got to majors in 2012 and had 24 very forgettable PA (.579 OPS). In 87 career ML PA, Triunfel has a .423 OPS. He’s still in MiLB, with the Reds Triple-A affiliate.
None of these guys reached their potential. I assume guys like Montero can make it as a late-bloomer and get a shot at being a ML regular, but the chances of that are pretty slim.
Montero hit consistently throughout the minors. He got up to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in 2010, his age 20 season. He earned a call to the majors in 2011 and hit for a .996 OPS in 69 PA. It seemed as if Montero was going to remain in the bigs and be groomed as the next cleanup hitter for the Bronx Bombers, at least until the Yankees and Mariners pulled the trigger on the Pineda trade. The idea back then was that Pineda would go on to be a No. 1 or 2 starter for New York while Montero grew into a complete hitter in Seattle.
Oh how funny things work out. Pineda is still in the Yankees rotation. He’s had flashes of brilliance but overall has been quite inconsistent (though I’m encouraged by his recent hot stretch). Montero, on the other hand, is no longer with the Mariners organization. After series of weight and attitude issues, Montero lost out on a roster spot in Spring Training this year (it went to Dae-Ho Lee) and he landed in the Blue Jays system on waivers. He’s currently with their Triple-A affiliate in Buffalo, hitting .312 with a .808 OPS.
From a personal standpoint, I was just starting to follow the Yankees more in-depth back when they signed Montero. The 2006 season was when I started to follow the system, draft and signings closely, and the hype leading to his signing was something that I thought a lot about. I was as happy about Yankees inking Montero as I was when they signed Johnny Damon. And sure, I was aware of Yankees’ spotty record with position player prospects (Jon Poterson, C.J. Henry, Eric Duncan, Estee Harris, Tim Battle, etc.), so I was cautiously optimistic about Montero when he was playing in GCL and Low-A. Once he destroyed High-A and Double-A, I really thought he was going to be a foolproof ML hitting talent, the future king of the Bronx.
Yet, here we are. Montero is in a different organization, struggling to get out of the minors. I still have a soft spot for him. I used to endlessly watch his swings, believing that he’d deliver so many HR in the Yankee Stadium. Maybe he could have a some sort of revival and be serviceable for someone else. It’s not impossible!
According to Joe Frisaro, the Marlins reached out to the Yankees and “kicked the tires” on lefty relief ace Aroldis Chapman in recent weeks. The Yankees sought big league players in return, not prospects, which pretty much ended things. Miami instead traded for Fernando Rodney a few days ago.
The Marlins are right in the thick of the wildcard race, but they probably need to add some pitching to stay in it all season. We first heard about their interest in Chapman a few days ago, and I wondered whether the Yankees would ask for big league players in return given Miami’s shallow farm system. They wound up surrendering one of their better prospects for Rodney.
I mentioned outfielder Marcell Ozuna, lefty Adam Conley, and utility man Derek Dietrich as possible targets for the Yankees in trade talks with the Marlins. It’s hard to think they’d get Ozuna or Conley for a rental reliever, even one as good as Chapman, but maybe Dietrich could be had. I’m not sure what other big league Marlins the Yankees could have targeted. Lefty Justin Nicolino? They know Christian Yelich wasn’t happening.
For what it’s worth, Jon Heyman says the general feeling within the game is that Brian Cashman is “more receptive” to selling at the trade deadline than ownership despite his public comments to the contrary. Hal Steinbrenner, Randy Levine, and all of the other head honchos are not yet to ready to throw in the towel and trade away veteran players at the deadline. That’s not a surprise.
The trade deadline is four weeks and two days away, and the Yankees will play an absolutely brutal schedule immediately after the All-Star break (Red Sox, Orioles, Giants, Astros). If nothing else, that should help clarify the team’s position in the postseason race by the end of the month. My biggest concern is the Yankees will be just close enough to the race that they do nothing, neither buy nor sell. That would be bad.
Despite the eventful ninth inning, it wasn’t worth staying up for that game. I hope you didn’t. The Yankees opened their ten-game road trip with a 7-6 loss to the Padres Friday night. Back under .500 they go. The Yankees are now 39-40. West Coast night games get bullet point recaps, so let’s get to it:
- More Eovaldi Struggles: Apparently Nathan Eovaldi and Michael Pineda are not allowed to be good at the same time. Earlier this year Eovaldi was great and Pineda stunk. Now that Pineda has turned things around, Eovaldi’s been awful. He allowed six runs (two dingers) in 4.1 innings Friday night, and three of those runs came in the very first inning. The Yankees were in a hole immediately. Eovaldi has now allowed 31 runs and 57 baserunners in his last 30.1 innings, including 12 home runs. He looks nothing like the guy we saw a few weeks ago. It wouldn’t shock me if Eovaldi lands on the DL at some point soon. Something’s not right.
- The Amazing, Disappearing Offense: The Yankees loaded the bases against Colin Rea in the first inning and did not score, in part because Jacoby Ellsbury misread Mark Teixeira‘s single off the bat. He should have scored from second on the bloop to center, rather easily too, but he held up and only made it to third. To be fair, Ellsbury made up for it with an RBI single in the second. Rea was behind in the count all night — he threw a first pitch strike to only eleven of 24 batters — but somehow managed to retire 13 of the 15 final batters he faced. Sigh.
- Too Little, Too Late: To their credit, the Yankees did put up a fight in the ninth. Brian McCann homered in the sixth for the team’s second run, then, in the ninth, a walk (McCann) and a hit-by-pitch (Starlin Castro) put the wheels in motion. Pinch-hitter Alex Rodriguez singled in a run, Didi Gregorius doubled in another run, Aaron Hicks fielder’s choice-ed in another run, and Brandon Mauer wild pitched in a fourth run. That cut the deficit to 7-6. Pinch-hitter Carlos Beltran doubled to put the tying run in scoring position, but alas, Ellsbury and Brett Gardner grounded out to end the game. Almost.
- Leftovers: Ellsbury had yet another catcher’s interference. This one led off the game and he literally knocked the catcher’s glove off his hand. It was Ellsbury’s seventh CI, one short of Roberto Kelly’s single-season record … the only when losing relievers allowed an unearned run in 3.2 innings … Conor Mullee left the game because he felt something in his fingers. That stinks. Hope it’s nothing serious. He’s had more than his fair share of injuries over the years … A-Rod had his glove and was ready to play third had the Yankees tied the game in the ninth. He looked like a kid on Christmas morning. I wanted the Yankees to tie it just to see Alex in the field again. Alas.
Here are the box score, video highlights, and updated standings. Also make sure you check out our Bullpen Workload and Announcer Standings pages. The Yankees and Padres continue this series Saturday night — yes, a Saturday night game on the West Coast — when Ivan Nova and Drew Pomeranz will be on the mound.
Here are the day’s notes:
- Remember when OF Aaron Judge was mired in that ugly slump a few weeks ago? Well he was just named the International League Player of the Month (PDF link). Congrats to him.
- Both LHP Ian Clarkin (No. 3) and Judge (No. 7) landed on this week’s Prospect Hot Sheet, so check that out. Clarkin started the season slowly but has really turned it on of late. Guess he’s finally shaken off the rust after missing all of last season.
Triple-A Scranton (2-1 win over Buffalo) six straight wins
- CF Ben Gamel: 1-5, 1 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 K — first homer since May 27th and his third of the year overall
- RF Aaron Judge: 1-4, 2 K
- C Gary Sanchez: 1-4, 1 2B, 1 RBI, 2 K, 1 SB — he’s 4-for-4 in steals this year and 34-for-45 (76%) in his career
- 1B Tyler Austin: 1-3, 1 2B, 1 BB, 1 K — four straight games with a double … 16-for-44 (.364) with seven doubles and five homers in his last 12 games
- DH Ike Davis: 0-3, 1 BB, 1 K
- LHP Dietrich Enns: 6.2 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 5 K, 5/2 GB/FB — 65 of 100 pitches were strikes … I thought he was scheduled to pitch Sunday, but I got my days mixed up … either way, ho hum, another scoreless outing
- RHP Mark Montgomery: 0.2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 2/0 GB/FB — 13 of 18 pitches were strikes
- RHP Nick Goody: 1.2 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 1/2 GB/FB — 14 of 22 pitches were strikes (64%) … allowed a solo homer … between Spring Training, MLB, and the minors, he’s allowed 13 homers in 40.1 innings this year (2.90 HR/9)
I have to say, if you’re staying up for tonight’s series opener against the Padres, you are one dedicated fan. A night game on the West Coast on a Friday night? Geez. Not only that, but it’s a holiday weekend, and it’s a 10:40pm ET start too. Why is the game starting a half-hour later than usual? I have no idea. That’s such a Padres thing to do. Anyway, here is the Padres’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:
- CF Jacoby Ellsbury
- LF Brett Gardner
- 1B Mark Teixeira
- C Brian McCann
- 2B Starlin Castro
- 3B Chase Headley
- SS Didi Gregorius
- RF Aaron Hicks
- RHP Nathan Eovaldi
The weather in San Diego tonight is perfect. I’m not even going to both to look it up. It’s safe to assume the weather is perfect. Like I said, tonight’s game will begin at 10:40pm ET. You can watch on YES. Enjoy, if you’re still awake.
Anyway, here is the open thread until the regular game thread comes along in a few hours. The Mets are playing the Cubs, and it appears that is the only nationally televised game tonight (MLB Network). There’s some serious rain in the forecast though, so that one might not be played. If it is, talk about that game, this photo of Yulieski Gurriel wearing Yankees gear, or anything else right here.