Yesterday, the Yankees were very close to signing DH Nick Johnson to a one year $5.5 million deal. This sends a loud message to Scott Boras and Johnny Damon to look elsewhere for work. But, I think the louder message is that the Yankees are leaving an opening for mega-hitting prospect Jesus Montero to either make the ballclub out of spring training, or he will be the first hitter called up once Johnson hits the DL.
Johnson is a great hitter, not great power, but he's an OBP machine. In 2009, Johnson went 8-62-.291-.426-.405-.831 in 457 ABs between Washington and Florida. He has a career OBP of .402, and his OBP% was actually higher than his SLG%. He has never had more than 500 ABs in a season, but he did have exactly 500 ABs in 2006. This tells you that he gets hurt alot.
As for Montero, he has been described as one of the best hitters amongst all minor league prospects, and some say he has 80 power on a scouting scale of 20 being the lowest and 80 being the highest. I never could figure out why 80 is the highest, but anyway, he has pretty good power.
Between High-A and AA in 2009, Montero went 17-70-.337-.389-.562-.951 in 347 ABs.
Here is what Baseball America had to say about him in their Top 10 Yankee prospects list:
Strengths: Montero doesn't have a classic swing or textbook rhythm, but he's gifted with hand-eye coordination, keen pitch recognition, a knack for barreling balls and tremendous strength. He can be out front or off balance on a pitch and still crush it. He covers the plate well and makes excellent contact. Montero hasn't delivered completely on his raw power, but he's close to projecting as an 80 hitter with 80 power on the 20-80 scouting scale. One veteran scout called him the best young hitter he has seen in years.
He's expected to catch at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in 2010, mixing in time at DH and perhaps first base. He's prime trade bait but also could be a complement to the New York's veteran sluggers in short order—if the Yankees can find a lineup spot for him.
In his ESPN chat yesterday, here is what Keith Law had to say about when Montero will hit the big leagues:
Mike (New York)
Keith 2011 is a plausible debut for Montero, right?
Yes. Could see him this year.
I think the Yankees have found a lineup spot for him, but may want to see how he produces in AAA before calling him up, once Johnson gets hurt. Is Montero part of the Yankees plan to reduce payroll? They let Hideki Matsui and Johnny Damon go, and sign Nick Johnson to be their DH.
I will not be surprised to see Montero playing in Yankee Stadium in 2010.