Wednesday, May 16, 2012
Transforming Into A Catcher
In his short stint with the Yankees, Jesus Montero became one of my favorite players, and I was really hoping he would have a long and bright future at Yankee Stadium. If we were to believe Brian Cashman and the Yankees' talent evaluators, Montero had a future with the team as a catcher. Unfortunately, that was a hyped-up metaphor by Cashman to eventually induce a trade.
Out of the cleanup spot on Friday vs the Yankees, Montero went yard in the sixth inning - to a familiar destination: Right Field. In his young career, he has 9 HRs in 190 ABs, which include 4HRs at Yankee Stadium - where he's batting .425/.521/.800. And, even more impressive, in 33 ABs when going to the opposite field as a RHB, he is batting .394/.382/.879 with 5 HRs and 13 RBIs. Prodigious results that are tailor-made for Yankee Stadium. For Montero - as most would agree - hitting was not going to be a problem; particularly, hitting with power. According to scouts: "He's a natural hitter with an advanced approach at the plate. He has excellent hands and an amazing hand-eye coordination that enables him to square balls routinely."
However, there has been no shortage of disbelievers when it comes to his defense and many feel that he would not project well as a Major League catcher. The Chatter: Strong arm, but has a slow transfer and release when throwing to second base - a byproduct of messy footwork. Baserunners will exploit this flaw to the hilt. He's a poor defender in most respects and has significant holes when blocking pitches (breaking balls) in the dirt. Which by the way...most young catchers have. He doesn't have enough athletic ability to overcome the limitations that are caused by his 6-foot-3, 235-pound frame and doesn't fit well in a crouch. As a result, he will never be a full time catcher.
Don't count his manager - Eric Wedge - as one of Montero's skeptics. Wedge "believes in the kid," and doesn't understanding or accepts the babble about his defense. "There is a lot of demand with the catching position, and you have to respect that...you can't rush a 22 year old."
I'm not a talent evaluator and will never pretend to be, but the two games Montero caught at Yankee Stadium gave us a glimpse of a young player who has put in the necessary work to improve his defense - principally, with balls in the dirt. There is no doubt he's continuing to work extremely hard to refine his defensive game and could gradually transform into an above average catcher.