The catcher position, with respect to fantasy baseball has seen quite the inundation of new talent. There was a time when, if you didn’t own one of the big three — Joe Mauer, Brian McCann, Victor Martinez — it didn’t really matter who you had as your backstop. Sure, there were some that were more productive than others, but overall, there were numerous interchangeable players and whether you grabbed one in the 9th round or in the 15th round, it didn’t make much difference. Now, with blossoming stars like Carlos Santana, Buster Posey, Alex Avila, and Matt Wieters, things are looking a little different. The position is much deeper and production is on the rise. One of these rising stars, though, has an interesting future ahead of him and fantasy owners will have some tough decisions to make. What will come of Jesus Montero in 2012?
Montero’s talent as a hitter has never come into question. Looking at his minor league totals, you can see he’s got outstanding power potential. He’s made his way through the Yankees system quite well, posting phenomenal numbers in batting average, OBP, and ISO. Both his walk rate and K% have been solid and scouts rave about his approach at the plate. Sure, he struggled a little in the minors here in 2011, but that was all based in attitude and mental make-up than anything else. Stories of his frustration with the organization for not bringing him up sooner surfaced and it was evident in his play.
But now he’s up in the bigs and is tearing it up. Obviously we’re looking at a small sample size, but how can you not get excited about a guy who has a .286 ISO and a slash line of .357/.438/.643? He’s hit safely in 12 of his 16 games, has multi-hit performances in 6 of them including his last 3, and came up just a triple short of the cycle two games ago. He is crushing left-handed pitching while his power is all coming against right-handers. Hitting-wise, he is as advertised. Yes, his strikeout rate is a little high, but again, small sample and an increase there was to be expected initially anyway. With regular at bats in 2012, he has the potential to lead the position in almost every offensive category.
And that’s where the hitch comes in — regular at bats. Exactly how the Yankees are going to use Montero next season is not a certainty and his job as their starting catcher is not a foregone conclusion. Jorge Posada is done behind the plate but Russell Martin will be around for another year. Montero’s defense has long been an issue and it doesn’t seem that the Yankees are going to want to give everyday starts to a backstop with whom they might not feel comfortable defensively. True, they did it with Posada, but his defense was never panned as badly as Montero’s has been.
Right now, the team is using Montero as their primary DH and he will make the post-season roster as such. But moving forward, there is going to have to be a lot of work on defense over the winter. Hopefully, there’s some private work with a veteran backstop in the plans. He’s only got two games behind the plate under his belt and unless the team commits to him as their catcher, he may only qualify as a DH in most fantasy leagues, thus limiting his value tremendously. Nothing worse for your roster flexibility than to have players who can only fit in your utility slot. We’ll check back on his progress more over the winter as Montero’s name definitely has the potential to be sitting atop leaderboards as early as next season.
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