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Montero’s Not Ready for the Big Leagues

By Mike Silva ~ March 18th, 2011. Filed under: Mike Silva, New York Yankees.

All spring I have been discussing why it would be detrimental to the development of Jesus Montero to start the season as the backup catcher in the big leagues. Still only 21 years old, Montero has been unimpressive with the glove the last few weeks. Many scouts are still dubious about his ability to stay behind the plate long term. Even offense, his strength, has been spotty this spring as he sports only a .194 batting average.

Joe Girardi‘s quote was ominous as well saying that Montero is “a work in process,” and said he still thinks “he can be an above-average catcher.” Girardi was known for his defense throughout his career, and that quote reeks of skepticism all around.

Ironically, there had been talk earlier in the spring about how much progress Montero has made. Many experts that I speak to believe the talk about Montero’s defense is overblown. Perhaps Girardi is right when he says that he thinks “it’s possible that he (Montero) wants it so bad that maybe he is trying not to mess up now.”

Many point out how Jorge Posada learned at the big league level apprenticing under Girardi. It was almost two years until he took over the full time catching duties in 1999. What’s the harm in Montero doing the same? I believe there is a big difference between the two.

Montero is not only a top Yankees prospect, but some rank him number one in all of baseball. Posada was a converted infielder with a good bat, but never ballyhooed like Montero. How will he handle failure? How would he handle being sent down to the minors? When Gregg Jefferies was given the second base job in 1989 he struggled the first two months. The Mets feared sending him to the minors would destroy him. They let him play through it and it wound up destroying his career in New York, and some argue, stunted any chance for greatness. Now Jefferies had other personality issues, but the point is he, just like Montero, was playing for a high profile team in New York. He is already nervous playing in the serenity of spring training. How is he going to feel when he gets his first start at Yankee Stadium?

Send Montero down to Triple-A to hone his skills. Let him continue to develop on defense, and continue to do what he does best- hit. Although Russell Martin doesn’t excite me as the everyday catcher, the Yankees offense won’t be hurt if he hits as he did last year in Los Angeles. When Montero shows enough defensively playing every day in Scranton bring him up and give him the everyday job. I just don’t see how playing twice a week will help him, especially with how they are describing his defense.

Francisco Cervelli is clearly a better receiver, and the prototypical backup catcher. I don’t believe this would even be a discussion if he were healthy. I still think Montero goes north with the club due to his potential, but also since the only veteran option behind the plate is Gustavo Molina, he of exactly 45 big league plate appearances. I also don’t buy Austin Romine as a legitimate candidate since his bat isn’t nearly as developed, and some were unimpressed with his defense in the Arizona Fall League.

I fear he will struggle in April, and will be sent to Scranton once Cervelli is ready come May. How that impacts the development of Montero is anyone’s guess, but I don’t believe it’s a risk worth taking with the best positional prospect in the organization.

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Mike Silva has hosted sports shows on 107.1 FM Champions ESPN Radio Long Island ,1240 AM WGBB , Blog Talk Radio and live from Mickey Mantle’s Restaurant. He’s also built and maintained two popular social media hubs: New York Baseball Digest and Sports Media Watchdog. Mike has broken national and local stories, as well as been mentioned on the YES Network, SNY.tv, WFAN, Sports Illustrated, ESPN, NY Daily News, New York Magazine, Journal News and the NY Post. Contact Mike professionally at mikesilvamedia.com

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4 Responses to Montero’s Not Ready for the Big Leagues

  1. stunna4885

    russell martin is impressive and jesus montero will be just fine. stop listening to random scouts or morons like keith “the troll” law.

  2. stunna4885

    the yankee roster as usual looks fantastic with the best offense in baseball, the #1 bullpen on paper, the strongest bench they’ve had in years and a solid 1-2-3 in cc, burnett, and hughes. factor in the fact that nova and clon look really good and the killers b’s buzzing about and its going to be a dominant season yet again for the yanks. red sox who?

  3. Mike S.

    Won’t be hurt if Martin hits as he did last year? Last year Martin hit .248 with an OPS+ of 89. The year before, Martin hit .250 with an OPS+ of 85. Yes, he had a little bit of pop. 12 HR combined in those two years.

    Meanwhile, Cervelli has 1 MLB HR. His OPS+ was 88 last year, despite having less power than Martin.

    In short, you want Martin to exceed what he’s done the past two years, otherwise, better power or not, he’s just giving you what Cervelli did last year. A below average OPS+ in the high 80′s, and defense that although ok, isn’t GG quality to compensate for the low OPS+.

  4. Mike Silva

    He wasn’t terrible his entire tenure in LA – if he returns to form the Yankees made a decent pickup, but I believe Montero will be the catcher no later than the All Star Break

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