Monday, April 27, 2009

Peep this Prospect! Sweet Jesus Montero

Let's start this Peep This Prospect! with a little mystery game, shall we?

Mystery Player 1, at Age 19, in Low A Ball: .326 BA, .376 OBP, .491 SLG. 17 HR, 87RBI, 24 2Bs.

Mystery Player 2, at Age 20, in Low A Ball: .324 BA, .389 OBP, .565 SLG. 17HR, 84 RBI, 32 2Bs.

Mystery Player 1 is Sweet Jesus Montero. Mystery Player 2?

That's right. Albert Pujols.

Jesus Montero is a 6'4", 225lb, 19 year old catching prospect from Venezuela and is touted as the best hitting prospect in the Yankees farm system since one Derek Sanderson Jeter, and not just by the Yankee fanbase. Baseball Prospectus ranked him a 5 star prospect, the best in the Yankees farm system, and had this to say about him:

Montero's bat falls into a special category. He has plus-plus raw power that he's learning to unleash in games, but he's first and foremost a hitter with a quick bat, tremendous plate coverage, and no weaknesses in terms of any pitch type or location. His plate discipline improved throughout the year and he began to drive the ball more, leading to a .344/.407/.534 batting line after the All-Star break.

.344/.407/.534. That's just sick. That's an OPS of .941 for a 19 year old.

ESPN Insider Keith Law had this to say about Montero in his recent Top 100 Prospects rankings:

Montero's a catcher in name only, but his bat is very promising. Montero played the whole year at 18 in the Sally League and had no problem making consistent contact. He has a quick bat and takes a healthy cut, with plus raw power that's around average in-game right now. He extends his arms well for good plate coverage, adjusting well to off-speed stuff so far, but doesn't have much patience and will have to work the count more as the quality of pitching improves. Behind the plate, he has an average arm but his throwing motion is long and it takes forever for him to get from the crouch to his release. He's already enormous for a catcher, listed at 6-4, 225 pounds, and is only going to outgrow the position with time, but his bat will play at first base.

This gets to the essential problem with Jesus Montero. The Yankees will need a new catcher about the time Jesus is ready to break into the bigs, but Jesus' gigantic frame and defensive difficulties suit him better for first base. The Yankees just signed a 1B to an eight-year deal. Don't know if you heard.

His height and size don't automatically disqualify him for the catcher position. After all, Joe Mauer is 6'5". So the question is whether Montero can become merely average defensively behind the plate. If he can, the Yankees will have a tremendous asset, a Wieters-like power-hitting catcher. As Baseball Prospectus writes:

There's little doubt that he's going to hit; the question is how much value will he have at the game's most demanding offensive position.

In sum, the Yankees are looking to have a serious impact bat in Single A, a power-hitting catcher with an incredible bat. The question for now seems to be whether he can stay at catcher. In the mean time, let's enjoy the fireworks.

Sweet Jesus Montero will be added to the daily Prospect Roundup.

Action really starts at the 1:34/1:35 mark. Note where that ball lands. I wish I had a better video to embed. If you want, you can also see him at the Futures Game right here.

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