At 6’4″ and 225 pounds, Jesus Montero looks nothing like Yogi Berra wearing pinstripes behind the plate. That is, until he swings the bat.
Montero, the 21-year-old Venezuelan has hit .310 with 38 homers in the minors over the past two seasons. That includes a rapid climb through Single-A ball where he hit .356 and a G-6 breeze through Double-A Trenton where he hit .317. At Triple-A Scranton-Wilkes Barre last season, Montero hit .289 with 21 homers and 75 homers. In 2010, Baseball America had Montero tabbed as the #4 top prospect in all of baseball and in 2011, he squats at #3 just ahead of Domonic Brown.
The catching situation in New York is an interesting one. Long time backstop Jorge Posada, 40, was informed last November that he would give up the tools of ignorance this year and concentrate on being the DH. Posada still has his catcher’s gear in Spring Training, but he may have to dust it off before taking an occasional stint behind the plate.
In the off-season, the Yankees acquired free agent catcher Russell Martin from the Dodgers. Martin underwent knee surgery in December and has been plagued with injuries the past few seasons. Moreover, Martin was once one of those rare catchers who could actually run and hit # 2 in the lineup. Knee surgery has probably put an end to most of that.
That being said, the Yankees say that Martin enters the season as the starter in The Bronx and that Jesus Montero will compete with Francisco Cervelli and Austin Romine for the backup job. Montero certainly has the advantage with the stick, but Cervelli and Romine are still stronger defensively and have more experience. Needless to say, however, Montero clearly has the most upside.
“Pitchers are going to love throwing to that big target,” said Posada in describing his eventual successor. ”But coming out of the crouch and blocking balls, you have to stay short and quick.” Clearly, Montero’s size is an added bonus on the offensive side, but makes for some adjustments when a crouching catcher is 6’4″.
2011 Fantasy Baseball Projection: Jesus Montero — Usually, when there is a 21-year-old prospect, the obvious thing to do is to keep him down in the minors for more seasoning for the first two months of the season and then bring him up, but remember, this is the Yankees so they don’t really need to protect their pocketbooks as much as other teams. This is an interesting situation to keep your eyes on during Spring Training to see where it all shakes out with Martin’s return and the development of the other players contending for the position. That being said, Montero should be the regular Yankees catcher by mid-season. Anticipate Jesus Montero to put up some strong hitting numbers in his first season at .265/15/50/0 this year and for 2012, he could be a .275/20/70/0 guy if he wins the regular spot and continues to develop.
FANTASY BASEBALL DUGOUT UPDATE — Cervelli took a ball off of his foot on Wednesday in Spring Training and it is now being reported that he has fractured his left foot thus opening the door even more for Montero to start the season in Yankee pinstripes.