Outlook for Jesus Montero in 2012

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.

Howard Bender has been covering fantasy sports for over 10 years on a variety of websites. In addition to his work here, you can also find him at his site, RotobuzzGuy.com, Fantasy Alarm, RotoWire and Mock Draft Central. Follow him on Twitter at @rotobuzzguy or for more direct questions or comments, email him at rotobuzzguy@gmail.com

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Nick V.
11 years ago

I firmly believe that, for fantasy purposes, Montero will have C elg in most formats for at least a few years. The Yankees are going to need that DH position open in an increasing number of games to protect their large investment in ARod, and they’ll have nowhere else to stash Montero for those games. Why not work him as the backup catcher, especially if his bat demands being in the lineup everyday? It seems very unlikely that the Yankees kept him as the full time C all through his minor league career only to completely ditch the idea now.

He most likely doesn’t belong behind the plate, and I bet that the Yankees learn that sooner than later, but for fantasy purposes, I bet he maintains that C elg for a few years simply by being stuck behind the plate as a backup/3rd string C.

11 years ago
Reply to  Nick V.

“Firmly believe?” Sounds like you’re a Yankees fan or a Montero owner in a keeper league. Or both . . .

Romine’s going to make the postseason roster as the backup catcher with Cervelli out. Montero’s going to be an impressive hitter, but it looks like he’ll be doing that as a DH.

Nick V.
11 years ago
Reply to  Ben

I am not a Yankee fan, but became a Montero owner because of this opinion. I don’t think the Yankees will have a choice but to play him in enough games to get him eligibility because they won’t want to have given up on all his development time as a C without even giving him a shot back there. They showed no inclination to trade him (other than for Lee) so if they were so sure he was a full time DH, it would have made sense for them to have made the switch out of such a risky position earlier. I also think they’re going to need to use ARod as a DH enough so that Montero will get the requisite games for elg.

Would have been cool if you’d read beyond “firmly believe,” but such is the state of comments threads.

Maybe I should be clear that I don’t think it’s a smart decision for the Yankees to use him as a C. His bat is too valuable to risk long term injury or something catastrophic ala Posey/Santana.

Romine’s defense is merely fine, but he doesn’t have the bat to be of real use to the Yankees at this point.

11 years ago
Reply to  Ben

Posada and Montero have both been taking catching practice recently. I would be surprised if Romine is on the postseason roster.

Montero looks terrible, but I don’t understand why they would keep him at catcher for so long if they didn’t think he could catch 2 games a week. That’s what I expect them to next year. After that, it’s up in the air, but next year he will probably be the backup catcher and full-time DH.

11 years ago
Reply to  Nick V.

The main reason the Yankees have kept Montero at catcher is because they don’t have a clear defensive position open for him other than catcher. Catcher is the most difficult defensive position, so It makes sense to keep Montero there until he proves conclusively that he no longer belongs there. That’s an open question.

With Posada gone as their DH after this season, most likely scenario has Montero DHing about 100-110 games next year, while serving as a back-up catcher (20-30 games) while also serving as a back-up 1B’man (10-20 games). This keeps Montero in the field for 40-50 games, but also leaves about sixty games open at DH to rotate players like A-Rod, Jeter and Teixeira over the course of the year.

So, yeah, I think you’re correct. Montero will be catcher eligible for a few seasons, but his long-term postion will be first base. He’ll still only be in his mid-20s when Teixeira’s contract ends.