Last year when we did our position-by-position post-season recaps, I wrote a piece touting Miguel Montero for his consistent performance and exceptional draft value. His numbers between 2009 and 2012, save for the one injury-riddled year he played just 85 games, were very consistent as he posted an average in the .280′s with 15 to 18 home runs each season while also maintaining that relative consistency in both his walk and strikeout rates and other batted ball data. That consistency, coupled with his always reasonable price tag, made him a pleasure to own and someone I felt confident in recommending as your fantasy catcher. But this past season, that consistency was replaced with struggle and because Montero didn’t cost you much on draft day, he became the poster boy for “you get what you pay for.” The decline is in full-swing and it’s time to move on from him.
The decline of Montero is easily identified in his overall numbers this season. While his walk rate was still better than his career average, it declined significantly from 2012 (12.7%) to 2013 (10.7%). His strikeout rate spiked to it’s highest total (23.2%) since 2008, his GB/FB increased, his batting average and ISO dropped, he swung more, made less contact and his SwStr% was a career-worst 12.2-percent. As a result, his home runs, runs scored and RBI all saw a dramatic decline. All of this earned him a drop in Zach Sanders’ end of season rankings as he went from No. 7 to No. 22 in the span of one year.
Back problems plagued him sporadically throughout the year, so we can obviously throw some blame on that, but the spike in ground balls and the corresponding drop in BABIP were serious culprits as well. You could say that he was more unlucky than anything else, but at 30-years-old and considering how high his ground ball rate was nearly every month, you have to look more towards an overall decline than just a one-year statistical aberration. If he were 23-years-old it would probably be a different story, but considering the mileage on his body, the wear and tear he endures as a catcher, and the diminished skills that come with age, it looks as if his run of consistency may have just come to an end.
Along with the across-the-board drop from 2012 to 2013, you also have to look at the drop from the year prior as well. It wasn’t as noticeable as it was this time around, but it showed in a number of areas — most notably a rise in strikeout rate, diminished contact rates, a spike in his SwStrk% and an unusually high BABIP that didn’t really pull his average up. Hindsight being 20/20, these were probably red flags that should have been noted last year, but he actually showed stronger plate discipline numbers in 2012. Not to mention the fact that a downward trend is easier to identify after three straight seasons of it rather than trying to compare numbers to previous years affected by an array of injuries.
Moving forward, it appears as if it’s time to move on from Montero. Age and general wear and tear have taken their toll on him and a resurgence seems very unlikely. If he were in the American League and could move to first base or DH to lengthen his potential service time in baseball, it would be one thing, but there’s simply no place to do that in Arizona. Let someone else pull him off the top of the scrap heap next year. There are plenty of younger, stronger options out there for the taking.
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