Montero the Man Child

The international free agent market opened yesterday with a bang, with two 16-year old Latin Americans signing for huge bonuses. The Yankees signed catcher Gary Sanchez for a $3 million bonus, and the Cardinals, not to be outdone, spent $3.1 million on outfielder Wagner Mateo, a record amount for a Dominican position player. Signing kids to big bonus money involves a fair share of risk, as one doesn’t know fully what type of player or even person a 16-year old will grow up to be. A team has to feel fairly confident about it’s ability to scout and forecast a player’s potential, but these players still sort of feel like expensive lottery tickets.

Wily Mo Pena signed for what was once a record $2.44 million, and he had only two seasons in which his WAR was in the positive, and neither seasons were with the team that signed him. Joel Guzman also received a huge bonuses, and he has a whopping 62 big league plate appearances to his credit. Those are a couple of the bad stories, but there is one story of a bonus baby that currently is developing into a really good one, and that is Jesus Montero‘s.

Signed for a $1.6 million bonus by the Yankees, scouts have raved about Montero’s future power potential, some going far as to grade his power an “8″ on the 2-8 scouting scale. The knock was on his body, which some said he looked like Travis Hafner. (He’s currently listed at 6-4, 225). At 16-years old. I guess when you are projected to hit like vintage Travis Hafner, no one seems to mind.

Montero is just 19-years old and is currently dominating the minors. After posting a .326/.376/.491 line in Single-A ball, Montero started his season in the High-A Florida State League, a notoriously friendly league to pitching. In over a little 200 plate appearances, Montero was a man among boys, leading the league with a .444 wOBA. A promotion to Double-A has not slowed him, in 86 plate appearances Montero has a superb .325/.395/.571 line. Between Tampa and Trenton, he has just an 11.6% strikeout rate, which is outstanding for a young power hitter. His walk rate is 8%, but he should grow more patient at the plate with experience and maturity.

Montero just been playing like an absolute man child, and at this pace it’s not inconceivable that he’s ready for a big league job at 21-years old. But if there is hole in his game, it definitely on his defense. As a catcher, the young Venezuelan has allowed 74 stolen bases in the 43 games he’s caught this season, and has thrown out just 15 would be base-stealers.

A move to 1B or even DH could be in order, but we know the Yankees are pretty historically indifferent to defense. Maybe the Yankees think he’s their mini-Piazza. Hitting the way he has at a young age, maybe it’s not completely preposterous to believe so.




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Erik Manning is the founder of Future Redbirds and covers the Cardinals for Heater Magazine. You can get more of his analysis and rantings in bite-sized bits by following him on twitter.


28 Responses to “Montero the Man Child”

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  1. Greg F. says:

    I think that you give Montero every chance to stay at catcher, because his hitting there would be immensely valuable compared to his production at 1B or DH. He’s only 19 so there is still some hope that he can improve to be an adequate defensive backstop.

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  2. Kevin S. says:

    I still think the best answer is to trade him to someone who thinks he’s a catcher, thus extracting full value from him. I want to get excited about that bat, but the other thing that worries me (that has to worry you with any Latin American bonus baby) is if he really is his listed age.

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  3. KG says:

    What if the yankees think he can stay at catcher?

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  4. AndrewYF says:

    The Yankees aren’t trading their best hitting prospect since Jeter. Not now, anyway. Maybe if he could land them, like, Hanley, but I don’t see that happening.

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  5. Jack says:

    “74 stolen bases in the 43 games…thrown out just 15 would be base-stealers.”

    Honestly, that’s more of an indictment of the pitchers he’s caught.

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  6. Dan says:

    Even if he is 21 already and he has to DH, a guy with this level of talent is worth a fortune. If he actually is a .300, .400, .500 caliber player over the first 6 years, having a player like that under their control would save them tens of millions of dollars. By the time he is playing every day, Posada is retiring, Matsui is gone. A bat that big is worth too much to trade away for anything but a big time young talent.

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    • Kevin S. says:

      Well, yes. That’s why I said trade him to someone who thinks he’s a catcher. That’s about as valuable as you can get. The return wouldn’t be a dozen balls and a bucket of Delaware River mud. Montero’s the chip that gets you, say, Hanley, or Braun, or Jose Reyes.

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  7. Rich says:

    If Montero proves that he can’t remain at catcher, could he really be a much worse RFer than Adam Dunn?

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  8. J says:

    Do you think a call-up to AAA is possible? If he keeps on hitting like this you got to think about it.

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  9. Andy S says:

    I think that offensive production at catcher makes up for the 5-1 CS-SB ratio. Then again, I haven’t tried to calculate it out. But considering that on average catcher throws out, what, 25% of baserunners (that’s a complete guess, haven’t looked it up)? 17% isn’t awful then.

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  10. Andy S says:

    Hmm, looking it up, 25% is a gross underestimate, so maybe that is a problem.

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  11. Nelson says:

    Again: When it has been any doubt about age of any prospect signed out from Venezuela? The civil registration here is both solid and credible–it can be done directly in every hospital of the country. I have never read or heard about this issue beyond the best-known cases of Cuban or Dominican players. Though, I am not certain at all about the civil registration cababilities in thos countries.

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    • RollingWave says:

      Cuba does this pretty well too, but the obvious problem is that the pros in the MLB system like…. defected.

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  12. Jack's Son says:

    Man Beast

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  13. Mike Newman says:

    For those of you wanting him to stick at catcher, it seems obvious you haven’t seen him play in person. He’s an absolute butcher behind the dish and not any better than a bad high school player back there. The bat is a year away, but the catching game is 4 years, if ever! Move him to DH now and let him mash.

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    • RollingWave says:

      so whens the last time you saw him?

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    • Andy S says:

      The thing is I don’t know that I care how bad he is behind the dish. If his offense is that good, I have a feeling that it will more than make up for his defensive liability. At 1B, he’s just another 1B. At DH, he’s just another DH. At Catcher, you’re looking at the upside for a historically top offensive catcher.

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  14. LukeS says:

    The fact is, with a hitter like that, his defense only has to be JUST barely adequate.

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  15. JT says:

    So have they been putting him at all in the OF? Even if he is only throwing 17% of base stealers out, his arm is probably at least average. Can you see him lumbering around out there successfully? (Can’t be too much worse than Damon lately)

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  16. RollingWave says:

    He is actually throwing out 30+% in AA so far. so we might want to rethink about that.

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  17. Thunder says:

    I’ve seen him play in both Tampa (by chance) and Trenton, several times now on purpose. I am not a scout but have sat with a few of them (side note, its amazing how generally nice, approachable, and talkative scouts can be). I’ve had scouts talk to me about several players in the Eastern league over the past couple of seasons and a lot of what they’ve said has turned out to be accurate to me. That aside, one of the scouts was telling me that Montero is never going to catch in the pros. I argued and begged that the defense cant be that bad and the bat would more than compensate ala Piazza. He tried explaining to me that Montero lacks “speed” for the position. He said to think of the Montero brothers or other bigger/hefty guys that have played well defensively. Sure they are slow as hell (meaning they can’t play the OF) but they have the speed to get to the ball (agility). The scout was actually impressed with Jesus who, at one of the games I was at against the Phillies team (wow Michael Taylor) threw to second in 2.2. He said his arm is about right and that the % caught is a pretty random stat in the minors because of pitchers holding on, poor deliveries and even fielders making tags/short hops. The scouts focus on release, speed to the bag and accuracy. Montero is passable here. But back to the “speed” portion. There was a sliderl low and outside to a righty that was a past ball. Jesus’s feet didnt even shift let alone take a step out to get in front of the pitch. It didnt bounce but he barely got his glove on it let alone his body. He is stiff as a board back there and even though there are bigger (Mauer) and fatter (pick your Molina) they have the necessary “speed” to play the position which, as I understand it, can never be taught.

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  18. Ryan says:

    Montero is slow, but not Adam Dunn/Posada Slow. He’s a solid athlete with good power. That said however, he’s not a catcher and won’t stick there in the MLB unless the team he plays for has some sort of losing fetish. He’s sluggish behind the plate, he has extremely slow footwork and the extra time it takes him to get out of the crouch and make a glove transfer dampens the effectiveness of his plus arm strength.

    As far as receiving, his hands are fairly soft, but not enough for a catcher. He doesn’t frame pitches, he’s hesistant to call breaking pitches and his inability to block the plate sapps pitcher’s confidence. He got by last year in AAA largely because he received a rotation of strikethrowers and veterans with the likes of Kontos, Warren, Phelps, Mitchell etc…He certainly didn’t do Brackman any favors either…

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