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With Russell Martin under control, the Yankees have an interesting conundrum on their hands. Before it looked like Martin would be available, the Yankees were prepared to commit to the 2010 season with Jesus Montero as their primary catcher. Francisco Cervelli would back him up, and Posada would DH.

Assuming that the Yankees do not trade Jesus Montero, they now have some decisions to make. How do they bring their top prospect up into the majors? Russell Martin will bring his 2-3 WAR production to the team for 2 years now, but Jesus Montero isn’t going to wait for 2 years. He hit a robust .289/.353/.517 at Triple-A last year, including .351/.396/.684 in a monster second half. He improved his defense up to an acceptable (if poor) major league level. He doesn’t have a lot to gain by waiting for two years. And he still needs to catch full time. Montero made big strides over the past season and a half once he started catching 5 days a week, and the Yankees would be making a big mistake by reversing that trend.

So, what do you do? As far as I can tell, the Yankees have three options. They could trade Jesus Montero for a pitcher. They could bring Montero up right away, but play him only 2-3 days a week behind the plate (and possibly some DH some) while Martin remains nominally the starting catcher. Or they could let him sit in the minors until he either forces his way into the majors or Martin forces his way off the team.

Of these options, I prefer the third. Montero gains long term by playing every day no matter where he does it. The Yankees can bring him up when he’s on a hot streak, or even when the weather is warm. Cold weather was was theory to explain Montero’s very slow start last season, as he had never played a cold weather game before. The Giants did this with Buster Posey last season, and it worked very well.

As an added bonus, they also give Russell Martin some time to try and rebound. If he becomes his old self, or some fraction of it, he will both have value to the team and to other teams. Say the Yankees call Montero up in late-May, and he immediately hits. His defense isn’t too bad, and the team is confident that he represents the future option. Martin would then present a great trade chip to acquire the kind of pitching that the Yankees will surely need. The Yankees would be further adding to their surplus of catching talent, and could leverage it for some team’s surplus pitching talent.

A quick aside about trading Montero: now is not the time to do it. There aren’t a lot of particularly satisfying options out there, and prices will definitely rise after the free agent spending spree that we saw. Once teams start to fall out of contention, more options will be on the market, and the Yankees have a good enough team to keep them in contention for some time now. A strong start from A.J. Burnett or Phil Hughes could even negate the need for another pitcher. And Montero is a really, really good player who shouldn’t be traded lightly.

12 Responses to “Jesus Montero’s Place On The 2011 Team”

  1. Posada is most likely retiring after this season, so there will be an opening at DH in 2012. I’m not suggesting that Montero DH full time, but he could DH the days he doesn’t catch. Maybe they can break Jesus in, catching wise, by receiving 3 days a week. The Martin signing will be able to let Jesus and Romine season a bit more in AAA and AA.  (Quote)

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    EJ Fagan Reply:

    Here’s a thought: what if Montero hits better than Jorge? Late in the season, Posada would be on the bench with Montero DHing. That might be your best playoff lineup.  (Quote)

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  2. seems like the only practical solution is your third option. As Andy alluded to, the overly crowded catching/dh situation will most likely settle itself after 2011.  (Quote)

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  3. The third option is obviously the best, and has a perk that was not mentioned-In the best cae scenario where Montero does extremely well his first couple of seasons, having him wait in AAA can postpone arbitration for a year, possibly saving the Yanks a few million down the road. (I know it’s a small-market move, but hey, $$ is $$)  (Quote)

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  4. I’d bring him up in June and have him play 5-6 times a week, splitting time behind the plate and at DH.  (Quote)

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  5. ESPN’S Andrew Marchand has a scout saying Montero’s best upside is catching a few games a week and DHing the rest but most likely he is going to be a 1st baseman type and that is why the Yankees are trying to trade him, he also seems to be calling Montero over-rated as he mentioned “he may be able to hit .265 with 25 HRs one day” which doesn’t sound like very high praise for the number 4 prospect in the country.

    I have heard scouts say (obviously not this annonymous one) that have said Montero is 2nd only to Mike Trout in hitting for average (and Trout is a leadoff man) and 2nd only to another prospect in all of the minor leagues in power but that no one comes close to his combined ability to control the zone with the bat and hit for power.

    Sounds like this scout is saying he is an Adam Laroche type first baseman which is underwhelming to say the least…  (Quote)

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    RalphieD Reply:

    ive never heard any other scout sound so negative on montero….id trust the words of 98% of scouts versus this one  (Quote)

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    T.O. Chris Reply:

    Obviously, but this had to be brought up because it was on the front page of ESPN and people were believing this garbage if you read the posts and I have seen this argument brought up on a Red Sox forum for “how overrated he is” and how the Yankees are trying to prop him up before trading him.

    Maybe didn’t understand that when I said “which is underwhelming to say the least…” I wasn’t agreeing or worrying about it I was talking about how underwhelming a review it was and that I can’t believe that Marchand would even put that garbage up their because I highly doubt a real scout said that and if he did then he probably is a “unemployed” scout.  (Quote)

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    Tyler Reply:

    Chirs, you couldn’t be farther from the truth about Montero. I recently asked a question in Baseball America’s ASK BA section about Montero’s overall hitting ability, and Jim Callis responded by saying that nobody has the combined power and average that Montero has. Adam Laroche never EVER receieved the type of hype or praise, nor put up the numbers that Montero has. There are only 3 or 4 prospects in all of baseball that have an 80 power rating on the 20-80 scale, Montero being one of them. You will be very hard pressed to find a scout that questions Monter’s bat. His defense, sure, but nobody his bat, because he has proved what the scouting reports have said about him every single level by demolishing the baseball. Andrew Marchand has no clue what he is talking about, neither does the supposed scout as I’m sure both haven’t followed Montero as closely as I have over the past 3 years.  (Quote)

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    T.O. Chris Reply:

    How could I not be further from the truth? Its not my opinion and in fact in my post I talk about the fact that I have never heard such a poor review and I don’t agree with it.

    Or did you just read parts of the post and just assumed it was all me and posted without all the facts?

    In fact I already said everything you had said in your post, I pointed out his ability to hit for average, his extreme power and the fact that nobody in the minors combines those 2 like he does, try reading a whole post next time before judging somebody.

    If you had read my post you would know I know how good Montero is and in fact the only reason I brought up Andrew Marchand and this “scout” is because it was on ESPN and thus needed to be talked about because he is wrong.

    Maybe you just didn’t understand that I was talking about how bad I think the article was… not agreeing with it.  (Quote)

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    T.O. Chris Reply:

    I also never agreed he was Adam LaRoche I was simply putting a name to the kind of production and position this “scout” expects and in fact I think it’s a pretty huge slap in the face to Montero to call him that when I have read reviews comparing him to Frank Thomas. That is why I brought it up in the first place.

    I hope this clears up any misunderstanding you had…  (Quote)

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  6. In fact lets have a little fun with this to prove just how wrong this “scout” is.

    Adam LaRoche had 1 season of triple A ball at the age of 23 and 2 seasons at double A one at age 22 and one at age 23 (obviously he never had a full season in triple A and spent his 2003 half in double A and half in triple A) since Montero only has 1 season in double A I will take LaRoche’s best double A season for comparison.

    LaRoche in Triple A(23)- 264 ABs, 8 HR (1 HR every 33 ABs), 27 BB, 58 K, .295/.360/.466
    LaRoche in Double A(23)- 219 ABs, 12 HR (1 HR every 18.2 ABs), 34 BB, 53 K, .283/.381/.511
    ——————–
    Montero in Triple A(20)- 453 ABs, 21 HR (1 HR every 21.5 ABs), 46 BB, 91 K .289/.353/.517
    Montero in Double A(19)- 167 ABs, 9 HR (1 HR every 18.5 ABs), 14 BB, 21 K .317/.370/.539

    When you consider Montero hit .351/.396/.684 with 14 HRs after the All-Star break this year it really puts him at another level that LaRoche never even came close to.

    Montero crushes every number LaRoche ever put up in the minor leagues and he is doing at 4 years younger than Adam was able to do so which makes every single one of these numbers even more impressive because honestly it’s comparing a 19 and 20 year old boy to a 23 year old man.  (Quote)

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