Jim Callis was asked who the best hitter currently in the minors is, and he gave a response certain to please Yankees fans:
I’d take Montero, too, for the reasons that Grant suggests (Note: Grant suggested “his scouting reports, track record and the way he dominated Triple-A pitching in the second half of the season”). 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.
Of the players Grant mentions, only Moustakas is in the same league as Montero in terms of power. The only member of the group who I could see outhitting Montero would be Trout, who’s just as precocious and can use his top-of-the-line speed to beat out a lot more infield hits than Montero will. Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper, the No. 1 pick in the 2010 draft, has more raw power than Montero but isn’t as polished or pure a hitter.
It is possible that Cliff Lee will be the reason the Yankees do not win the World Series through his helping Texas win the ALCS, or that the lack of Lee in the Yankee rotation will cost them should they advance to face Philly or the Giants. Nevertheless, if Doc Brown showed up at my door, I would not go back in time and trade Jesus Montero for Lee.
The title of “best hitter in the minors” is a lofty one, and suggests immense potential. Montero is a top 10 prospect in baseball even if he does not end up at catcher, and has particularly high value to a team with a lineup that is aging quickly. Middle of the order bats rarely hit the open market until they leave their prime, making it imperative that the Yankees develop them on their own. Montero is the only such bat currently in the system, making him an important piece going forward as players such as Jeter, Posada, and Rodriguez begin to show that they are not impervious to the effects of aging.
I would certainly love for the Yankees to win the World Series this year, and I think they are the favorites even without Cliff Lee. More importantly, though, I want the Yankees to avoid the decline period that some expensive teams have when their older players with unmoveable contracts stop performing at a high level. I want them to be able to contend well into the future, and Montero is poised to be a very important means to that end. The Yankees are lucky that the Cliff Lee trade never happened.