2009 Thunder A-Z: Jesus Montero

Before 2009: Um, so before 2009, Jesus Montero was really good.  Signed out of Venezuela in 2006, he debuted on North American soil a year later in the Gulf Coast League.  In 33 games, he hit .280 with three home runs and 19 RBI.  The following year, he made the jump to Low-A Charleston and really put himself on the map, earning South Atlantic League All-Star honors and an invite to the Futures Game at Yankee Stadium.  All in all, he hit .326 with 17 home runs and 87 RBI in 132 games for the RiverDogs, and seemed destined to be fast tracked through the system despite his age.

2009: Montero entered the season as the New York Yankees second best prospect, according to Baseball America, and his performance in 2009 virtually ensured he’d be number one this year whether Austin Jackson was still in the organization or not.  Just 19 years old, Montero started the season in High-A Tampa and all he did was hit .356 with eight home runs and 37 RBI in 48 games.  He lasted about two months in the Florida State League before being summoned to Trenton on June 3rd. 

News of his assignment to Trenton, confirmed here, sent a blog record 5,200 people to Thunder Thoughts.

His stay at Waterfront Park lasted about two months, and included stops at the Eastern League All-Star Game and a trip to St. Louis for the Futures Game, his second in a row.  He hit .317 with nine home runs and 33 RBI in 44 games with the Thunder before breaking a finger on his glove hand after being crossed up on the mound by Lance Pendleton.

I enjoyed covering Montero.  Players like him are why you do this.  And not only was he an elite talent, he was also friendly and good to speak with.  In fact, he’d often volunteer to translate for players who spoke only Spanish during interviews.

After 2009: Montero will be a superstar in the big leagues.  He may make the biggest impact at the big league level of any Thunder alum, excluding rehabbers, of course.  The question, of course, is where will he play.  If you asked me — and uhhh, many of you have — if I thought Montero could be a catcher in the big leagues based on the last time I saw him, I would tell you no.  But he’s just 20 years old, and there’s still plenty of time — both playing time and biologically — for him to develop his skills behind the plate.  I wouldn’t rule out him being an everyday catcher in the big leagues, but at this time, I also don’t think the odds are favorable for that scenario.

Montero has a special bat.  An absolutely special bat.  The way he could effortlessly flick his wrists and send line drives all over Waterfront Park never failed to amaze me.  I still remember his first Double-A home run…it didn’t even seem like he got all of it, and the ball ended up hitting about halfway up the batters eye in center field on a line drive.  He’s a career .325 hitter over the course of 979 at-bats.  Three…twenty…five…career…hitter. 

Defensively, he’s not terrible and he’s not a butcher, but he leaves a lot to be desired.  His inexperience also showed.  Montero would often tip breaking pitches by going to more open stance behind the plate, something that at least two Eastern League managers and one scout noticed in conversations I had with them.  Listed at 6′ 4″, 225 pounds and perhaps a tiny bit bulkier than that at times, Montero is a big boy, and it shows behind the plate.  His release can be awkward at times, as was his footwork…which was something he would frequently work on in the bullpen, blocking balls and so on.

Suggestions that Montero can play the outfield seem laughable at this point.  He’s simply too big, and even sticking him in a corner spot would be ill-advised.  Realistically, Montero can most likely play first base, catcher and designated hitter.  However, Montero wants to catch.  I remember during the first conversation I ever had with him, he must have said that about ten times.  Sure, he wants to catch…I want to date Lauren Graham…one of those things may happen, one most definitely will not.

It seems likely that Montero will open 2010 as Triple-A Scranton’s everyday catcher.  It also seems likely that people will be asking every single day when Montero will be promoted to the big leagues, especially if he puts up the numbers he has since 2007.  But rushing Montero would be a mistake.  There’s no reason to, and he has A LOT of developing to do if he truly wants to be a Major League catcher.  Don’t be surprised to see Montero passed over for a call-up if one of the big league catchers goes down.

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com

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3 Responses to “2009 Thunder A-Z: Jesus Montero”

  1. yanksince57 - LET"S ROLL! Says:

    the one yankee in the minors who can’t be overhyped! 🙂 i, for one, can’t wait for the stadium to rock with “LET”S GO JESUS (not heyzeus)” chants.

  2. Mike Silva's New York Baseball Digest » Blog Archive » Getting to Know Jesus Montero Says:

    […] AA affiliate. There is no one more knowledgeable about the team and players than Mike. Today he posted a comprehensive recap of Yankees prospect Jesus Montero which includes […]

  3. Michaela Says:

    niceee 🙂 thanks Mike

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