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Tag: jesus montero
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I’ve Got No Expectations

 MLB: Seattle Mariners at Cleveland Indians

Man, sour times for Jesus Montero. From the Seattle Times:

After each season, players meet with training and medical staff to set up their offseason. Each player is given a target weight they are expected to come in at for the following season. According to sources, Montero has never once met that target weight since joining the Mariners. This year he came in 40 pounds over the weight the Mariners wanted him to come in at.

It’s led to frustration within the organization. General manager Jack Zduriencik was particularly critical of Montero and his future.

“We are disappointed in how he came in physically,” Zduriencik said bluntly.

That disinterest in conditioning in the offseason didn’t do much change the minds of people who have been skeptical of Montero’s work ethic. It certainly didn’t inspire Zduriencik, who was clearly unhappy with the situation.

“It’s up to him,” Zduriencik said. ” I have zero expectations for Jesus Montero. Any expectations I had are gone.”

[Photo Credit: USATSI]

Comings and Goings

 

From Hardballl Talk, here’s some off-day news on Michael Pineda and Jesus Montero.

[Photo Credit: Sam Falk/The New York Times]

True Indeed

Jesus Montero returned to the Bronx tonight and greeted his former team with a solo home run. It was nice to see Montero, surely bittersweet for some of his biggest supporters, and cool to see him hurt the Yankees in a way that didn’t hurt too much.

Hiroki Kuroda got into trouble and worked out of trouble for seven innings. He was unspectacular but delivered a tough, veteran performance. Oh yeah, he out-pitched Felix Hernandez. The crushing blow was a three run homer from Raul Ibanez who has hit for power so far this season. Andruw Jones added a pinch-hit, two run homer as the Yanks beat the Mariners, 6-2.

P.S. Robbie Cano went 4-4 and is now batting .308; Alex Rodriguez had two hits and is hitting .297. The slow starters are starting to heat up.

[Photo Via:Elevated EncouragementZero, Frank Franklin II/AP]

On the Move

The Pineda-Montero deal is official. Chad Jennings has the details.

Here’s a nice piece on Pineda by Christian Red in the Daily News.

[Photo Credit: Appleplusskeleton]

Time Will Tell

Here’s Jonah Keri’s reaction to the Pineda-Montero trade:

When breaking down a player’s value, it’s easy to fixate on his weaknesses. Pineda’s got some question marks, but two of the main criticisms levied against him — that he was a lousy pitcher away from Safeco Field and that he faded badly down the stretch last season — don’t hold water. Dave Cameron broke down both those criticisms, noting that Pineda’s core skills stayed strikingly consistent, and that luck and regression toward the mean played far bigger roles in his fluctuating stats.

Within that post, Cameron explained that despite its enormous reputation as a pitcher-friendly stadium, Safeco doesn’t play as an extreme park in right field, only left-center. That part is true: Safeco dinged homers by lefty hitters at a relatively modest 5 percent rate. Problem is, Yankee Stadium’s ludicrously short porch in right helped inflate homers at that park a massive 43 percent. That’s not to say that no right-handed pitcher can possibly survive in that park. Some chap named Mariano Rivera’s been pretty OK there so far. Like Rivera, Pineda offers a pitch that’s highly effective against left-handed hitters, a slider that at its best bites down and in. It’s just a one-year sample size, but Pineda held lefties to just .237/.296/.357 in 2011. Still, there’s a seed of doubt here. Pineda posted the seventh-lowest ground-ball rate among all qualified starting pitchers last year. You can try to apply a simple park adjustment to a fly-ball pitcher moving from a homer-suppressing stadium to a nightmarish launching pad, but it’s unlikely that Pineda’s move to Yankee Stadium will be that easy to predict. He might see one too many elevated fastballs scrape over the wall, panic, change his approach, and fall apart. Or maybe he’ll become a Yankee in the Paul O’Neill mode, embracing his new digs and playing above his already considerable talent.

• That’s what makes this trade so fascinating. Though it’s not a swap of players at the same position, it still resembles what you’d call a challenge trade. Before this offseason, you’d have to dig deep to find examples of high-impact young players traded for each other; deals tend more often to involve one veteran for a bunch of prospects, or pretty much any other combination that’s not two wildly hyped 22-year-olds changing teams. One of the biggest (and only) ones that immediately jump to mind was 2007′s swap of Delmon Young for Matt Garza — and even that’s cheating, since Jason Bartlett was also a key part of that trade. There’s also Josh Hamilton for Edinson Volquez, but for whatever reason, this type of trade has suddenly become all the rage. There were other players involved, but Mat Latos for Yonder Alonso fits the profile. So too does Anthony Rizzo for Andrew Cashner. If two teams laying it on the line by trading young, potential impact players is about to become a trend, I’m all for it.

[Photo Credit: Martinico37]

Observations From Cooperstown: Posada, Pineda, and Pena

Jorge Posada still hasn’t made his decision official, but it’s become common knowledge that he has decided to retire rather than continue his career as a backup catcher in Tampa Bay, Baltimore, or Philadelphia. While I would never begrudge a player who wanted to prolong his career as much as possible, there is some artistic symmetry in Posada beginning and ending his playing days in the same place.

Posada represents the latest in a long line of great Yankee catchers, a succession that began with Bill Dickey before continuing with Yogi Berra, Elston Howard, and Thurman Munson. Dickey and Berra are members of the Hall of Fame, Howard and Munson are not, and Posada will become the focal point of what should be an interesting five-year debate over his worthiness for the Hall of Fame.

The comparison of Posada and Munson has long fascinated me. Based strictly on OPS (.848 to .756), one would conclude that Posada was the superior of the two. Posada certainly had more career value, thanks to luck and longevity. But using an eyeball approach–assuming you’re old enough to have seen both players–Munson was the better player, especially when you factor in the areas of fielding and baserunning.

As much as I like Munson, he just didn’t have the career longevity that is needed for a Hall of Fame player. I would also vote “no” on Posada’s entrance into Cooperstown, though I’m open to change my mind. The relatively late start to his career, along with his defensive deficiencies and baserunning misadventures, render him just short of my personal Hall of Fame line. But that should not be interpreted as some kind of insult. Any player who is even considered for the Hall of Fame is a player of achievement, a player of longevity, a player who is worthy of praise and appreciation. Posada’s offensive excellence—encompassing his ability to hit with power, draw walks, and do damage from both sides of the plate–made him a modern day version of Ted Simmons.

And let’s not forget that early in his career, Posada was a respectable receiver who generally developed good rapport with his pitchers. For every A.J. Burnett, there have been dozens of pitchers who came to trust and rely on Posada’s enthusiasm, passion, and leadership abilities. By all accounts, Posada has been a good and well-liked teammate who has blended well with the vast array of personalities the Yankees have had over the last 15 years.

Posada’s career path is rather remarkable given its origins. It’s worth noting that he was not a highly touted player when first signed by the Yankees. He was a 24th round selection in 1990. He started his professional career as a second baseman with the Oneonta Yankees, a short-season Class-A franchise in the NY-Penn League, before someone in the organization had the foresight to convert him to catcher. When the Yankees first brought him to the major leagues, they often used him as a pinch-runner. It’s almost as if the Posada of the 1990s was someone else, some alien life form who possessed the powers of self-transformation. I guess his makeover is proof that players are adaptable, than they can evolve, and that a longshot can become a success in the game of major league baseball.

Farewell, Jorge. Next stop, Old-Timers Day. I think you’ll be pretty popular that day.

***

I think I’ve been as big a booster of Jesus Montero as anyone who writes for The Banter, so you might expect that I’d be unhappy with the trade that sent him and Hector Noesi to the Mariners for Michael Pineda and Jose Campos. Granted, I’m a little disappointed that I won’t have the opportunity to see Montero play every day in pinstripes, primarily because I think he is going to be a star hitter, the kind of player who will hit .300, slug .500, and carry a team’s offense for days at a time.

As much as I like Montero, I love the trade. Scouts praise Pineda the way I rave about Montero. At six-feet, seven inches and 260 pounds, he’s been described as a “monster,” even as a “leviathan,” which may be the first time I’ve heard that word used to refer to a ballplayer. (He looks like a bigger version of Lee Smith, if such a thing is possible.) With his 95 to 98 mile-an-hour fastball and bone snapping slider, Pineda makes mitts pops and heads turn.

If Pineda duplicates the way he pitched for the Mariners, particularly over the first half of the season, the Yankees have a perfectly formidable No. 2 starter. If he adds a third pitch to his repertoire and pitches to a reachable higher level, he becomes a full-fledged No. 1 starter, someone who can eventually wrestle with CC Sabathia for the mythical top spot of the Yankee rotation.

As a bonus, the trade with the Mariners also netted Campos, whom some scouts project to be better than Pineda. With his smooth delivery and live fastball, the 19-year

-old right-hander will start the season at Single-A ball, but could move up to Double-A by midsummer.

While the Yankees often deal prospects for established veterans, they don’t often make trades where they deal young talent for young talent. In fact, I can’t remember Cashman making this sort of transaction in the past. This deal reminds me of the 1978 trade in which the Yankees traded Mike Heath, a highly touted young catcher, to the Rangers for a power-throwing left-hander named Dave Righetti. (The deal also included a longtime veteran in Sparky Lyle, but Heath and the three other prospects going to Texas were really the keys to the trade.) Righetti became a serviceable starter before Yogi Berra made the controversial and still-debated decision to move “Rags” to the bullpen, where he had some level of success but never became a dominant closer.

I think Pineda will turn out to be a better pitcher than Righetti. He’ll need to stay healthy, and have some luck along the way, but I think his chances of success are pretty good. With Pineda and the bonus addition of free agent Hiroki Kuroda, the Yankees now have their deepest rotation since the days of Clemens, Pettitte, Mussina and Wells…

***

As with any trade, the Pineda deal leads to the inevitable question: what is the next move? The subtraction of Montero leaves the Yankees without a DH. Joe Girardi has said he wants to rotate some of his resting veterans into the DH slot, but that’s not a fulltime proposition that can be sustained through 162 games. There will be plenty of days when the Yankees will want–make that, need–a proper DH who can put up some raw numbers. Two free agent candidates appear to be at the top of the list. They are Johnny Damon and Carlos Pena.

I’d be fine with either one on a reasonable one-year contract, but my preference would be Pena. At 33, he’s five years younger than Damon, outslugged him by 44 points in 2011, and has a history of launching long balls at Yankee Stadium. With 28 home runs and 101 walks for the Cubs in 2011, Pena fits the Yankee offensive blueprint to a tee.

Pena can no longer hit for much of an average, and he must be platooned, because he’s become like Oscar Gamble against left-handed pitching. The Yankees have a solution for that in the re-signed Andruw Jones, whose prowess against left-handed pitching has been well documented. A Jones/Pena platoon would be an ideal fit for the seventh position in the Yankee batting order.

On the other hand, Damon still has something to offer. He can hit the long ball (16 home runs) and can still steal a base (19 stolen bases in 2011). He would bring more of a contract presence to the lineup, an ingredient that was sometimes missing in 2011. And we know that Damon would have no trouble fitting into the clubhouse dynamic or dealing with the New York City press.

Damon or Pena, which is your choice?

[Photo Credit: Seattle Mariners Musings]

Bruce Markusen writes “Cooperstown Confidential” for The Hardball Times and can be found from time to time on Facebook.

Respond React

 

It is remarkable how news is delivered and digested in the Twitter Era. It comes at us in a flurry–rumors, confirmations, reactions, analysis. There is little time for reflection and an overload of hyperactive reaction.

Last night, the trade of Jesus Montero to the Mariners for Michael Pineda, prompted conflicting feelings for Yankee fans. Many are disappointed to see Montero leave. Here is a player that was nurtured by the organization–even though they dangled him a year-and-a-half ago to Seattle for Cliff Lee–a guy who looked more than promising when he arrived in the Bronx late last year. Montero was hyped, of course, this being New York, but he was also a player that many of us felt would be a pleasure to watch in pinstripes for the next decade. And now that is gone–whoosh.

Montero is being replaced by the another promising player, a young pitcher with a great fastball and an effective silder, but Pineda is not our guy. We’ve got no attachment to him yet. He’s just a face, a stat line. He’s not The Jesus.

The arguments run both ways–hitters aren’t as risky as pitchers, a starting pitcher is more valuable than a DH, a great hitter catcher is even more important than a good starting pitcher–and they are all valid. Yankee fans are experiencing duel emotions but there is room to mourn the loss of Montero and to be eager about the addition of Pineda. The risk involved in trading something as precious as Montero and Pineda makes this all the more unsettling. So we’re anxious, and that’s what makes this exciting and gives us baseball nerds something to keep  our engines going in the middle of winter.

Here are reactions around the web from: David Waldstein (The Times)Cliff Corcoran (SI); Paul Swydan (Fangraphs)Steven Goldman (Pinstriped Bible); William J (The Captain’s Blog); can’t forget No Maas, and over at It’s about the Money Stupid, check out this fine collection of links from around the web.

Finally, here’s Dave Cameron with a scouting report on Pineda over at Fangraphs:

Among qualified AL starting pitchers last year, only Brandon Morrow and Justin Verlander posted a higher strikeout rate than Pineda, who whiffed 24.9% of the batters he faced. His K% was better than David Price, CC Sabathia, and yes, even Felix. Pineda’s live fastball and willingness to live up in the strike zone led to a lot of swinging strikes, and that had nothing to do with the park he played in.

Lots of young pitchers can throw hard and rack up strikeouts, however. What sets Pineda apart is his impeccable command at such a young age. 66 percent of the pitches he threw last year were strikes, and his 7.9% BB% was below the league average. It is highly uncommon to see a kid with that kind of live arm arrive in the Major Leagues pounding the zone, but that’s exactly what Pineda did. 94-97 MPH fastballs to get ahead, and then an out-pitch slider or a fastball out of the zone with two strikes to get the K. It was a recipe for success, and Pineda used his command of those two pitches to establish himself as one of the game’s best young starting pitchers.

So, while he’s not perfect (his change-up is lousy and left-handers can still jump on him from time to time), Yankees fans should be thrilled with their new addition. And, given the price that other young arms have been fetching this winter, they should be even more thrilled with the cost.

Pineda is the third quality young arm to get traded this winter, following the trades that shipped Gio Gonzalez to Washington and Mat Latos to Cincinnati. Given that both pitchers come with one fewer year of team control and lack Pineda’s dominating fastball, a strong case could be made that the Yankees new starter is the most valuable asset of the three guys that were moved. However, compared to the other two packages surrendered, the Yankees didn’t really pay much of a premium to get Pineda, and one could even make an argument that they gave up less value overall than what the Reds surrendered to get Latos.

 

[Photo Credits: DanytumblogPhillipe Reichert, Attimi Rubati x2,electric feeling, Studio Museum in Harlem]

Jesus Has Left the Building (When the Sh** Goes Down, You Better Be Ready)

Dag, I leave the Internet for a few hours, and the Yanks spring into action. Word has it that they’ve shipped out The Jesus and Hector Noesi to the Mariners for Michael Pineda and another young pitcher named Jose Campos. In another move, they will sign Hiroki Kuroda to a one-year contract pending a physical.

Didn’t figure the Yanks would stay on the low forever. They move Montero for another promising young talent in Pineda. I’m not expert but seems like a win-win sort of deal. As much as I would have liked to see Montero, I’m thrilled that the Yanks are getting a gifted young starter in Pineda. And I know they’ve coveted Kuroda since last season.

Wonder if they’d go nutzo and make a play for Prince to DH. Doubt it, but hey, let’s have some fun. And what about the starting staff? Phil Hughes and AJ Burnett? What’ll happen? After a quiet winter, put another log on the fire and let’s have at it.

[Photo Credit: Super Ninteno Sega Genesis]

Proceed With Caution

Shane Spencer, Kevin Maas, and going back even further, Joe Lefebvre and Sam Militello…still, nice that the kid had a good game yesterday.

Alive on Arrival

Jesus Montero will be with the Yanks tonight. According to Jack Curry, he’ll be in the starting lineup. A debutt against Jon Lester is a grown man’s welcome to the big leagues, for sure.

Can We Talk?


Joe Posnanski on the AL MVP race:

Right now, I firmly believe the best player in the American League is Jose Bautista. And, right now, he’s my MVP. There are plenty of good candidates who can catch him — and most of them are on teams in contention. The Red Sox have Dustin Pedroia and Jacoby Ellsbury, both are having great years. One of my favorite players in the game, Curtis Granderson, is having a marvelous season for the Yankees. Ben Zobrist, one more time, is having the best year nobody’s noticing. Miguel Cabrera continues to slug. It’s difficult to compare pitchers and hitters, but Justin Verlander has been almost unhittable — at time actually unhittable — and others like C.C. Sabathia and the Angels pair of Dan Haren and Jered Weaver are pitching extremely well.

But, for me, it’s Bautista by two or three lengths heading into the home stretch. Somebody has to catch him. And, no offense to the quality of leadership or hustle or RBIs or wins or any other sort of unnoticed value, but they’re going to have to catch him with production I can see.

Agreed. Be interesting if Verlander makes a push, though.

And over at Grantland, here’s Jonah Keri on Montero vs. Posada:

The Montero Legend took a huge leap forward Monday night. Playing the remainder of a suspended game plus a full game in what amounted to a virtual doubleheader, the 21-year-old slugger exploded, going 5-for-8, blasting two homers, and knocking in seven runs. After a slow start, Montero’s up to .290/.349/.456 for the year. Although skeptics wonder whether he can handle the defensive rigors of catching in the big leagues, most believe he’ll be a great hitter.

… Posada has actually put together a half-decent season as a platoon guy (.249/.354/.453), after a disastrous start to the year. Despite Montero’s recent surge, Posada’s line against righties compares favorably with the kid’s overall numbers. The old man may not be quite dead yet.

So what to do? Montero’s tantalizing talent still has Yankees fans drooling to get a look at him — a chance they might get in September. If Montero succeeds, Posada might get left off the postseason roster, his days as a Yankee over for good. Whatever decision gets made, Yankees fans should hope it’s based on performance, not politics. You can get away with a sub-optimal roster when the Baltimore Orioles, Kansas City Royals and Seattle Mariners are on the schedule. But in the postseason, you’d better bring your best 25 with you. Or else.

[Montero picture via Bronx Baseball Daily]

Not Ready for Prime Time

Over at ESPN, Andrew Marchand has a piece on Jesus Montero:

Right now, there is one thing Montero is certainly not: He is not ready to start, let alone star, in the big leagues.

“It is all in becoming a first-rate professional and he is still in the middle of that process,” said Mark Newman, the Yankees’ senior vice president of baseball operations, who heads up the team’s minor leagues.

…Monte — as everyone in Scranton calls him — is developing at beautiful, tree-lined PNC Field in front of crowds that average around 4,000 fans per game. When you walk into the stadium a sign greets you, saying the Bronx is 128 miles away. Sometimes, it seems, that is where Montero’s head is located, too.

“I just get the feeling that Monte is so blessed physically — and I hate to say it — he is almost bored here in Triple-A,” said Scranton hitting coach Butch Wynegar, a former Yankees catcher. “Maybe if he went to the big leagues tomorrow, this kid might just go off and he just might lock in.”

The Ex-Catcher is Awry

For all the hand-wringing regarding Derek “4-3ter” Jeter, the Yanks are getting even less out of their DH, mainly in the form of Jorge Posada.

Posada’s current .152/.257/.354 line in 113 plate appearances is ugly enough.  Of the 173 players who have amassed at least that many plate appearances this season, Posada ranks dead last in batting average (Kelly Johnson is next in line, at a comparatively gaudy .175), tenth-lowest in OBP (though still higher than the $142 million man Carl Crawford’s .250), and 118th-best in slugging (between Michael Cuddyer and the recently-exiled Milton Bradley).

If we consider only DHs, Posada fares no better. Of the DHs with 75 or more plate appearances, Posada is last (out of 13) in BA, next-to-last in OBP (ahead of only Magglio Ordonez) and fifth-worst in slugging.  And its not like its all about age, as 4 other DHs are 37 years old.

We all know that offense is down again in 2011, and DHs are not immune to this, as they’ve hit a composite .257/.339/.394 so far.  But the question remains, could someone (anyone) provide more offense for a role that is ONLY about offense?

We know the Jeter slippery slope towards (and below) mediocrity still has a while to play out.   The Yanks have no better internal option in the near-term.  But what about Posada?  The Yanks owe him nothing after this season, and swallowing the remainder of his 2011 salary (roughly another $11 million) would certainly sting a bit, even for the Steinbrenners.  But the Yanks do have a viable DH option down in Triple A, and we all know Jesus Montero’s value is heavily tilted towards his bat.

Looking forward towards the July 31 trade deadline, promoting Montero to full-time DH now would allow for roughly 70 games/280 at-bats to showcase what he can do at the major league level.  Assuming the Yanks will throw enough money at Russell Martin to bring him back for 2012 (when he’ll still be only 29), Montero can be safely dealt for whatever needs the Yanks may have at that time (starting pitching most likely, and middle infield help better than Pena and Nunez).

Or . . . the Yanks could hold onto Montero through the end of the year (presuming he’s putting up a 800+ OPS), and then value the free agent market before involving him in a deal.

Rob Neyer wonders the same wonder as I do, and comes down on the status quo side:

. . . nearly all of Montero’s value as a hitter this season is due to his batting average … and batting average is highly subject to luck. Which isn’t to say Montero’s not a high-average hitter; he’s got a .315 career batting average in the minors. But he might not really be a .337 hitter in Class AAA, and he might not be a .300 hitter in the American League. And given the paucity of walks and power, if he’s not hitting .300 he’s not creating many runs. Not yet, anyway.

That said, I do not think the timing is a real issue. Since when do the Yankees care about someone’s “Super 2″ status? Plus, the rules regarding such things might well be different after this season, since they’re a part of the Collective Bargaining Agreement that expires soon. What the Yankees probably do care about is Montero’s development. Do they want a 21-year-old catcher serving as their primary DH? Alternatively, do they want their primary catcher learning on the job, while Russell Martin or someone else is DHing?

No, probably not.

Opinions?

Next?

Over at The Yankee Analysts, EJ Fagan thinks it is time for Jesus Montero to replace Jorge Posada as the Yankees’ regular DH.

[Picture by François-Marie Banier]

The Catch

Photo from The Star-Ledger

After all the playing time he got this spring, I figured Jesus Montero was likely to start the season with the Yankees while Francisco Cervelli (you remember him) was on the DL. But the Daily News talked to Brian Cashman and, well, it doesn’t sound like that’s the case:

“He hasn’t played well recently,” Cashman said after watching Montero catch in Tuesday’s 6-2 loss to the Orioles. “He’s better than what he’s shown recently, catching-wise.

“He’s been struggling with the bat, and I don’t know if it’s cause-and-effect. I just know that last year he didn’t start catching well (in Triple-A) until he started hitting. And from June on, both went through the roof.”

I’d say this continues Cashman’s offseason pattern of being just a liiiiiittle bit too honest with the media; but if the Yankees were planning on having Montero start with the major league team, this wouldn’t seem to be a particularly helpful thing to say. Austin Romine may be better defensively but he has even less experience than Montero, and Gustavo Molina was an afterthought to even Cervelli, so to me this says that Montero must REALLY not be able to catch, at least not yet. Which is what most non-Yankee scouts and prospect experts have been saying all along, after all.

The team now has a few more eggs in the Russell Martin basket than I would personally be comfortable with. And while I have to assume they have reasons for not having Posada catch even a single game this spring, I don’t feel like I really know what those reasons are. Not that Jorge is any defensive whiz himself, of course, but after all he was their catcher as recently as October. (Concussion concerns would be an absolutely valid justification, but the Yankees haven’t confirmed that as their reasoning).

No easy answers here, apparently. What would you do? What Would Jesus (Montero) Do?

"Reasons to Watch"

I’m working on an MLB season preview right now for one of my other gigs, and as part of that I need to have three “Reasons to Watch” for every team. For some, they’re easy to come up with (How will Albert Pujols do in his walk year? Can the Phillies rotation possibly meet epectations?), and in other cases more challenging (the Pirates. Can I say “masochism”?). But for me, it actually may have been trickiest coming up with reasons for the Yankees. It was sort of a forest-for-the-trees effect: I follow them closely enough that things like their 4th- and 5th-rotation slot battles are items of major interest, but I have to remember that the average baseball fan and even the casual yankee fan probably does not give much of a damn wither the 5th starter is Ivan Nova, Bartolo Colon or your aunt Sally. For me, just about everything is a reason to watch: I want to see if Robinson Cano can keept up last year’s torrid pace, if Mark Teixeira can avoid his usual lousy April, if A-Rod’s improved hip leads to another monster season from him, I want to see Mariano Rivera because few things in our imperfect world are so reliably lovely. In fact, I ended up picking for my list Derek Jeter’s upcoming 3,000th hit, which is probably one of the few things that is not really a reason to watch for me. Or, rather, I do want to see Jeter hit 3,000, but I’m dreading the accompanying media hype, which I’m afraid will make the whole run-up to the event itself more or less unbearable.

I think in the end I’ll go with Jeter’s 3,000th hit, Jesus Montero, and Mariano. But I was curious to see what other people would have gone with. If you had to pick three “Reasons to Watch” the Yanks this season, what would they be?

Foot Fault

The foul ball that nailed Francisco Cervelli’s foot earlier this week has turned into a worst-case scenario, as further tests reveal a fracture.  Cervelli will miss a minimum of four weeks, with some estimates extending to eight weeks.

Paging Jesus Montero!

Clean Slate

 

George King on the improved fielding of Jesus Montero:

[David] Robertson’s eyes widened when asked about Montero, who went 0-for-3 and is 1-for-6 in two games.

“I first saw him when I signed here and it’s amazing how much better he has gotten,” Robertson said. “He sets up good, blocks balls in the dirt and stays down. He looks good.”

…“I like Montero, I think he is going to be a big-time player,” a scout said. “I know he is big (6-foot-4, 225 pounds), but he will be fine. All he has to do is just keep on catching.”

Catch as Catch Can

Pitchers and catchers don’t officially report for a few days still, but Russell Martin and Jesus Montero are already working out in Florida. Here’s John Harper, writing in the Daily News about the kid Montero:

Baseball America editor Jim Callis, who ranks minor-league prospects based on seeing them himself and talking to more scouts and minor-league evaluators than just about anyone, says he would have a hard time dealing Montero.

“To me he’s the best all-around hitter in the minor leagues,” Callis said recently. “He might be another Mike Piazza, the way he hits for average and power. I’ll be shocked if he doesn’t have a great career as a hitter.”

…But can Montero catch? Callis says the answer might be a matter of how much a team is willing to sacrifice defense for offense at the position.

“It’s not like he’s a total butcher back there,” Callis said. “He has a strong arm, but his transfer when he throws is slow, and he’s not the best receiver in the world. He’s not real athletic, but he has worked hard to become more flexible behind the plate.

“Overall he’s a little below average defensively, and I’m not sold that in five years Montero will be a catcher.

Yeah, the Yanks have issues with their starting rotation but there is plenty to be excited about and it starts with the Jesus.

Jesus Saves

Here’s Joe Sheehan, writing for SI.com:

There’s an assumption that the Yankees will use prospect Jesus Montero to acquire someone to fill the Lee-sized hole they see at the front of the rotation. They traded Montero once, remember, agreeing to a deal with Seattle for Lee himself back in July before the Mariners decided to trade him to the Rangers instead. The idea that the Yankees will use Montero, who compares to Mike Piazza both offensively and defensively, to get Zack Greinke has been in play for some time, but it’s not a particularly good fit. Greinke is a very good pitcher, but he’s signed through just 2012. If the Yankees are determined to trade Montero, who is one of the top five prospects in baseball, they should target less-obvious candidates who can contribute for more than 70 starts — even if it seems like these pitchers will, or should, be untouchable.

…The Yankees were unable to use their money to add a frontline starter, because the situation wasn’t entirely in their control. What they do with Montero is entirely in their control, however, and their disposition of this fantastic young hitter will tell us a lot about the Yankees’ creativity and imagination in solving problems that writing checks can’t fix.

Your move, Cash.

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