Yankees catching prospect Jesus Montero put himself on the prospect map by hitting .326-.376-.491 with 17 HRs, 87 RBI, 86 runs scored and a 83-37 K/BB rate in 525 at bats as an 18 year old in the Low A Sally League. He was young for his level, but displayed excellent power and an ability to hit for a high average. He struck out in 14.6% of his at bats showing a a good approach at the plate for a power hitter.
He entered the 2009 season as Baseball America's #38 prospect in all of baseball, and he did not disappoint in High A and AA, where he hit a combined .337-.389-.562 with 17 HRs, 70 RBI, 45 runs scored, and a 47-28 K/BB rate in just 347 at bats. He missed six weeks during the season with a fractured index finger, so his numbers could have been much better. Although he remained at catcher as he moved up the Yankees system, it was becoming more and more evident that he was not going to a catcher once he makes it to the big leagues, as he had 11 passed balls and threw out just 13% of base stealers in High A, where teams were running on him several times per game according to Baseball America.
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Heading into the 2010 season, he was ranked as Baseball America's #4 prospect, even with the position uncertainty, as his bat and power would be his calling card to the big leagues. In his first full season at AA Trenton as a 20 year old, Montero hit .289-.353-.517 with 21 HRs, 75 RBI, 66 runs, and a 91-46 K/BB rate in 453 at bats.
There was talk this past offseason that Montero could make the Yankees roster with a solid spring training, but that wasn't meant to be for Baseball America's #3 prospect in all of baseball. He would start the season as a 21 year old at AAA Scranton Wilkes-Barre, but there were reports that he was disappointed with not making the major league roster, and it showed at the plate.
He hit .365 in April with just one hone run in AAA, and followed that with a .269-.333-.413 May with just 3 HRs and 16 RBI, leading some to think he was bored in AAA. If he was bored, he was snoozing in June as he hit just .235-.333-.333 in June, leading some experts to question if his bat tool was all that they expected. Montero must have heard about some of these reports as he got hot in July and started showing the power in August, as he hit .286-.352-.558 with 11 HRs and 34 RBI and was showing a better eye at the plate as well.
The Yankees called up catcher Jesus Montero a few weeks ago, and he made his major league debut on September 1st, going 0-4 with a run scored and a strikeout. Since his call up he is hitting .282-.349-.538 with 3 HRs, 6 RBI, 7 runs and a 12-3 K/BB rate in his 39 at bats thus far.
He will have catcher eligibility in 2012 even though he has caught just one game so far in the big leagues. It remains to be seen if he will be the Yankees full time DH in 2012, or he will be traded in the offseason, but he should be one of the better options at catcher on draft day 2012. Here is what the folks at Baseball America think of his potential coming into the 2011 season:
Montero may be the best all-around hitter in the minors, capable of hitting .300 with 30-plus homers annually. He doesn't have typical hitting mechanics, as he doesn't always have a smooth swing and can be a bit of a front-foot hitter, but his strength and hand-eye coordination help him overcome that. He has well above-average power, particularly to the opposite field, making him well-suited for Yankee Stadium. Some club officials compare him to their greatest recent development success story, Robinson Cano, for his handsy swing and natural feel for hitting. Cano became an MVP-caliber hitter when he improved his game preparation and batting-practice routine, and Montero could use more discipline in those areas as well.
Can Montero be a top 10 fantasy catcher in 2012? I think he could, as he has the bat to hit around .280 with 20+ HRs and 75+ RBI hitting in the Yankee lineup and playing half of his games at Yankee stadium and the short right field fence.