Yesterday, Lisa Winston (of MLB.com and GotMiLB here on MLBlogs) was the special guest on A Show of Their Own. She covered the AFL this year and had some great information to share with us. To listen to the interview click here. Speaking with her on air was very inspiring. You can tell she LOVES minor league baseball. I enjoy minor league baseball as well, the Charleston RiverDogs (Yankees single-A) are my favorite team to watch as of this year. I was able to participate in the RiverDogs Fancaster of the Year this past season and had a blast! I came in third, even though I was nervous and just sucked. Anyway, Jesus Montero is quickly becoming my favorite prospect. If you haven’t heard of him, here is your chance to learn more…. (Enjoy the pic I snapped this year).
With the nagging shoulder injury that plagued Jorge Posada this year, many Yankee fans are wondering what will happen when Posada eventually retires. I’m not implying Posada will or needs to retire after one surgery, but for the purpose of this blog, lets pretend it’s the future and Posada is no longer the man behind the plate for the Yankees. So, what is the answer for the Yankees behind the plate? Simply put, Jesus is the answer…
Ok, before you all think I’m crazy, let me introduce you all to Jesus Montero. The Yankees signed Montero as an international non-drafted free agent on October 17th, 2006. Montero was signed out of Venezuela as a 16 year old (he is 19 now). Of course, Montero is a catcher, but he is best known for his power hitting abilities. In his first year (2007) in the Gulf Coast League, Montero belted 3 homers in only 33 games. This year as a Charleston RiverDog, Montero hit .326 and was in the top ten of most offensive categories. Scouts say that Montero’s power is comparable to Philadelphia Phillies’ First Baseman, Ryan Howard. The only thing that seemed to exasperate Montero this year offensively was left-handed pitchers (he would fit right in with the 2008 Yankees).
Seriously though, Montero is the most likely guy to take over Posada’s job when he retires (Austin Romine is a close second). With Cashman now in “Builder Bob mode,” I don’t see the Yankees trading for a catcher when Posada becomes inept. Yankees fans will have a hard time adjusting to life after Jorge, but life with Jesus looks to be just as rewarding. Posada is a vocal leader, I’m not sure about Montero, but even if he’s not that kind of leader, I don’t think it will matter. When Jeter and Rodriguez retire, look for Joba and Cano to morph into leaders of the team. Montero is, like I said, most noted for his offensive skills, but what about his defensive skills?
In his inaugural year, Montero committed just one error in 182 total chances as catcher. This past year, Montero had a .993 fielding percentage. Clearly, Montero knows his way around the plate. He’s so good, in fact, Montero was invited to spring training this past year with the big team. Montero hit a homerun in his only at bat, but that was not enough to keep him around. Montero was assigned to minor league camp shortly after. I don’t believe it was ever the intention of the Yankees to keep Montero on the big team this past year, I think they just wanted to assess his abilities for themselves. Montero was promoted to Class-A Charleston at the beginning of this past year. This move was the best for Montero, I believe. Montero had such a great year behind the plate for the Riverdogs that he was named the starting catcher for the South Atlantic League All-Star team.
The only thing that worries the scouts is Montero’s size. Montero is listed as 6’4″, 225lbs. Some scouts say that Montero is too big to be a catcher and will be limited to the DH role, but I disagree. Current Yankee back up catcher, Jose Molina, is listed as 6’2″, 235lbs. Molina is arguably the best back up catcher in all of baseball and his size doesn’t seem to bother his athletic ability. If you look at Montero, he doesn’t look any bigger than Posada. I think his body is fine for a catcher; I wouldn’t want him to be any smaller than 210lbs behind the plate, but at the same time, he cannot gain much more weight. I’ve seen Montero up close, in person, and he’s not as big as the scouts want people to think. Everyone knows catchers are not great base runners, with the exception of Joe Mauer, so I don’t see any problem coming from his size. He moves great behind the plate and has the stats to back that up. He’s a power hitter and that’s what the Yankees will needs when Posada’s gone.
As a life long Yankee fan, it’s going to be hard for me to see Posada retire (when that day comes), but I know if the Yankees stick with Jesus, we’ll be in good hands. Don’t expect to see Montero any time soon, I wouldn’t expect to see him up in the majors until 2010 or 2011. Even at that time, I don’t see him as the everyday catcher. He’ll undoubtedly spend some time apprenticing under Posada. If you haven’t seen Montero play in person, you’re missing out, trust me.
FINAL WHISPER: Do yourself a favor and check out some MiLB games this year. They are soooo much fun. Here’s hoping Ty can manage the RiverDogs to the SAL Championship!
Baseball Nerdish as Always,
Title Courtesy of Carrie Underwood