Yankees Making Right Choice with Montero

Yesterday the news leaked that the Yankees plan to use their top prospect Jesus Montero as their main catcher next season. The plan is to use him in about 100 games behind the plate which pushes longtime catcher Jorge Posada out of the role.

Montero has been the Yankees unquestioned top prospect for a while now, but it hasn’t been clear that the Yankees would go this way.

The biggest issues is that these are the Yankees. They are seemingly always in a position to win it all. It’s a great atmosphere to watch a baseball game, but it is far from an ideal situation to hold on to a prospect, let alone break him into the majors.

Over the past two years the Yankees haven’t exactly been shopping Montero, but his name has been linked to countless rumors. Anytime a team is talking trades with the Yankees they have asked for him.

The Yankees got serious in trading Montero about a year ago when Roy Halladay was on the trade market. As much as they wanted to keep him, a pitcher like Halladay is always on the Yankees shopping list. If he could have been had for a then 19-year-old minor leaguer then so be it. Things didn’t work out and the Yankees weren’t exactly upset to hold on to their prospect.

Then came this past July trade deadline. Cliff Lee was being shopped by the Seattle Mariners. The Yankees had a strong team, but worried about their rotation behind CC Sabathia and Andy Pettitte. A.J. Burnett was in the middle of breaking down and Javier Vazquez was already broken. The other member of the rotation, Phil Hughes, was a huge question mark because of an undefined innings limit.

The Yankees were aggressive in their bidding for Lee and at a certain point it appeared that Montero was a goner as things looked serious. That trade fell through as ultimately the Mariners liked Texas’ package surrounding Justin Smoak slightly more.

Even after those trades fell through and the Yankees still had Montero it wasn’t a given that he would be the 2011 starting catcher.

Montero’s defensive abilities were always in question. As a young catcher there were questions about his size and how hard it would be for him to stick behind the plate. Even as he got older he was unable to quite critics who said he would never make it behind the plate.

Because of this questions about the Yankees trading him were still around and probably will continue to stick around all this winter. Does he really have a solid position? He seems to be too slow to play in the outfield and the Yankees were set at both first and third, two other possible positions for him.

With those defensive questions in mind there was some thought that the Yankees would have him repeat triple-A again in 2011. After all, he is still just 20, he’ll be 21 this winter, another year in the minor leagues wouldn’t kill him and it would have given the Yankees another year to keep his contract costs down.

The problem with this is that Jorge Posada is old and getting older. His defensive abilities seemed gone in 2009 and were completely shot in 2010. On top of that the once sturdy catcher has been more injury prone as he gets older. He needs to be in the DH spot where he can stay healthy and continue to contribute consistently to the offense.

Besides that there is the matter of another catching prospect Austin Romine. Romine is a highly regarded catching prospect and while his bat is not as tantalizing as Montero’s he still has potential to be a special player.

He played a full season as the catcher in double-A and despite a late season slump, he is ready for the jump to triple-A. If Montero had stayed in the minors it would have only stunted Romine’s development and to a lesser extent those behind him.

Speaking of the catchers behind Romine, many of those players have a decent amount of upside as well. There is J.R. Murphy, Kyle Higashioka, and Gary Sanchez. Those three players might be far away, but they’ll be close to the Bronx in no time.

The Yankees need to give Montero a shot at the major leagues and Romine after him rather quickly so that they know what they have in these players. By doing that they’ll have a better idea of what their plans should be with these other catching prospects.

It sometimes takes a while to get a good look at a player to properly judge them. If Montero spends 2011 in triple-A that’ll make it hard to give him, Romine, and the other players following a fair look. This way they’ll have a better chance at keeping the ones that will truly have an impact in the Bronx and dealing the others to fill other holes in the big league roster without getting burned in the end.

This seems like obvious stuff, but the Yankees nearly dealt Montero a few times and I for one am glad that they’ve held on to him. Now is his time as well, keeping him in the minor leagues any longer would not only hold him back, but it would hurt the Yankees lineup as well, and possibly stunt the development of those behind him.

The Yankees are making the right choice going with Montero in 2011.

About Rob Abruzzese

Rob Abruzzese created Bronx Baseball Daily in 2008 just before graduating from Brooklyn College. He currently serves BBD as its editor and works as a reporter at the Brooklyn Daily Eagle. Follow Rob on Twitter @RobAbruzzese.
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24 Responses to Yankees Making Right Choice with Montero

  1. steven says:

    i agree 100% right montero 4 2011 roy

  2. Donniedbaseball says:

    With Girardi, Pena and Posada available for tutelage and the success that Buster Posey just had with the Giants, the Yankees are correct to stay this route. They need a strong right hand bat and that seems to be what Montero is. I have faith in the fact that the Yankees seem to know which developed players to give the starting roles to given the success of Jeter, Posada, Cano and now Gardner.

  3. Mindkind says:

    Awesome article, I love the prospect and Montero is as good as advertise will be just what the doctor ordered for the Yankees. This will give a nice injection of youth to the team. Gardner, Cano, Montero, Hughes ect, Who says the Yankees don't develop players?

  4. Pat says:

    Semi-off topic, but if Hughes hadn't been on an innings limit could the Yankees have had two 20 win pitchers this year?

    • It's possible. He was skipped a few times so there potentially could have been other wins. The thing is, he also benefited by picking up one win in relief in a game he wouldn't have appeared in without the innings limit. So it's hard to say. My guess is no.

    • DirtyWater says:

      What innings limit? He pitched 176.1 I and 15.2 I in the playoffs so 191 IP total..over the 2009 total of 106 or so counting the minors. Thats nearly double-don't fool yourself and think the Yankees held him back in relation to how much he should have been stepped up. Did they burn him has yet to be seen. Joba stepped up 60% and wasn't effective after 130IP last season. Aceves nearly tripled his output over the same time frame and came up injured.

      Yanks eat arms. How many should Hughes have pitched??? 200? even though most were easy innings against #5 chumps that he built 18 wins on. Don't fool yourself he wont pitch 200 effective innings next year anymore than he will win 18 games pitching above the #5 slot.

      • Mike S. says:

        Who says he'll be a #5? He could be a #3 after what he did this year…

        and even #3 pitchers don't get 200 IP in the regular season. Didn't happen for the Giants this year. Didn't happen for the 2009 Yankees.

        and, Dirty Water… we know the Standells song. So we know where your bias lies.

        and, btw, besides Hughes being 2-1, 3.60 vs. Boston,

        Here are his splits. Just the facts:

        Against teams .500 or better, 9-5, 3.84.

        Against teams less than .500, 9-3, 4.62.

        • Mike S. says:

          …and to continue, those #5 chumps?

          Here are his wins as a starter in 2010. 17 wins as a starter. Here are the opposing starters, and I don't think some would like being considered #5 chumps. Let's see how many would qualify as a "5 or chump" in your book.

          Kazmir, Sheets, Buehrle, Beckett, Bonderman, Carmona, Bergessen*, Millwood, Moehler*, Pelfrey, Pauley*, O'Sullivan*, Marcum, O'Sullivan* again, Porcello (I wouldn't put the 21 year old {Hughes is just 24} in chump category), Mazzaro*, Shields.

          I see some nice names in there. Not chumps or #5's.

          Like I stated, FACTS.

          • Mindkind says:

            Good stuff Mike S. I'm just happy Hughes is finally living up to his promise. The Yankees have a very talented young pitcher developing right in front of us. He will have bumps on the road but for all the trouble he still won 18 games!

          • DirtyWater says:

            You asked who qualifies in my book? Here ya go:

            1. Kazmir, A 9-15 chump Hughes wins on the back of 6 runs over 4 IP

            2. Sheets, Give you this game the ONE and ONLY game he won in 2010 where the Yanks scored 4 or less

            3. Buehrle, .500 pitcher 1.4 WHIP =chump Yanks give him 7 runs support

            4. Beckett, Becket gives up 9 ER on way to .500 5.7 ERA year hmmmm 2010 chump

            5. Bonderman, 8-10 5.53 ERA um chump.

            6. Carmona, losing pitcher for the offensively challenged Indians. Yanks 5 runs support.

            7. Bergessen*, Brad Bergesen? 4-12 4.98 ERA 1.435 WHIP don’t hold your breath for a CY unless the C stands for chump. Yanks 8 runs support.

            8. Millwood, 4-12 5.1 ERA 1.5 WHIP… BAL chump was winless before during and after the game gave up 6 runs

            9. Moehler*, Brian Moeller? Chad Moeller might have been more effective. You gotta be kidding me. Major chump won 1 start this year. 9 runs support.

            10. Pelfrey, certainly not a chump but the Mets only score 3 off 5H 3BB 2HRs and lose on Yanks 5 runs support. Mets O is the chumps

            11. Pauley*, ? says it all. 4-9 27yo AAAA chump.

            12.13. O’Sullivan*, O’Sullivan* again, Since your only concentrating on Hughes win my guess is your choosing to ignore the LAA’s O’Sullivan where Phil got rocked for 6 runs over 5 IP. KCs O’Sullivan games? 20-6 run differencial. 6.11 ERA in 2010. Nuff said?

            14. Marcum, This really a win to brag about? Hughes lasted 5.1 Innings and Marcum gave up 5. Sandwiched between losing to Rays #5 Davis and Sox #1 Lester. Blue Jays #1…were they eliminated by then? What slot would he be in on a contender?

            15. Porcello (I wouldn’t put the 21 year old {Hughes is just 24} in chump category), I would. when Hughes faced him he was 5-11. 11runs support.

            16. Mazzaro*, less than 25 starts in AAA…maybe too early to call him a chump career but his numbers this year not great. Still gave up 7ER in 3.2 IP so a chump effort really.

            17. Shields. Loss 4-3 4er Yanks score 5 in 1st.. 8 win sheilds goes .500 WOW.

            Facts? Yup heres some more facts you choose to ignore: Huges won ONE game where the Yanks scored less than 4 runs. He enjoyed a near 7 runs of support. You just posted the games he won pretty much…what about the losses and no decisions? Guess some FACTS are harder than others to face up to.

          • Mike S. says:

            You miss the point. Those guys aren't chumps. They are guys that many other teams would want to have and who are or were considered 1-2 or 3 pitchers heading into the season.

            What do you expect, Hughes to face nobody but aces all year? Get real.

            Phil can't control how many runs his teammates give him. Very lame, buddy. Very lame. What's he gonna do, ask his teammates to knock it off? He doesn't need that many runs?

            He won 18. 4.19 ERA not bad for a 24 year old. Still learning, still developing. For his first full season in a rotation, very good.

            Or is it that you just can't admit that?

      • He certainly did have an innings limit. They skipped him at least four times by my count. Two times to start the season, once around the all-star break, and another time before the season ended. I don't know what you expected, but everyone figured he would finish at about 175, which is what happened. The playoffs are different.

        • DirtyWater says:

          4 times so an additional 24 Innings or so…how many #5s pitch 200+ innings? Whats the usual step up in innings per year?

          Playoffs are different? They don't count on his shoulder? What he use a different body in the playoffs?

          • His innings limit was based on his previous career high in innings pitched of 146. So a jump from that to 176 isn't bad at all.

            The playoffs are different because you are in it to win it. You would like to limit a guys innings, but you don't do it at the expense of winning.

          • DirtyWater says:

            What pitching 146 innings in A-AA ball back in 2006 somehow stretches him out from about 100 innings in 2010?

            So winning this year is more important than developing Hughes for years to come? Guess then you sit every winter and wait on the latest CC or Cliff Lee's answer eh?

            I don't buy it.

  5. smurfy says:

    The real split in Phil's season was around the All Star break. His gusto was gone. The pizazz on his fastball and cutter fizzled. The question, to me, is not whether he should be slotted against tougher competition, but whether to count on that critical extra, that "plus," and can he master a good changeup?

    • DirtyWater says:

      Kinda interesting to see if Phil Hughes blowing the All-Star game comes full circle:

      Would the Rangers drop behind if they had started the world series at home?

      Will Cliff Lee cite the WS loss as a factor in staying in or leaving Texas?

  6. Whether you like it or not, stretching Hughes out to about 175 from 146 was the plan all season long. I don't see the point in complaining about it now since we've known about it since Feb/March. Plus there was a strict pitch count on him all year. If they hadn't done that he probably easily reaches 200 innings and blows his arm out.

    It's not like this is an exact science either. You can't coddle these pitchers too much. It's still a major improvement from even 10 years ago.

    • DirtyWater says:

      Lemme get this straight-theres suppose to be a pattern to this?:

      2006 146 IP

      2007 110 IP (between AAA and the bigs)

      2008 69 IP

      2009 105 IP + 5 Playoffs

      2010 176 + 16 playoffs

      Ah so he was short of the 200 so no worries that he winds up like Aceves or Joba both of whom pulled up poorly at the end of last seasons heavy workload.That 10 innings probably adds up to him chucking 240 next year which he may have to if the Yanks don't sign Lee, Pettitte retires and/or CCs knee doesn't snap right back.

      Think I read the recommended step up is 30-40% not completely sure of this but doubt its in the 90-100% range Hughes took on this year.

      I don't buy your theory that playoff innings don't count on a pitchers physical strain.

      • Like I said, it's not an exact science. That 30% number is based off an article written by a Sports Illustrated journalist. He also said it's not based off the previous year, but based off their professional high which for Hughes is 146 IP in 2006. 30% more than that is actually 190 innings, so 176 is comfortably in there considering it was a few years back.

        As for the playoffs, obviously its not a magical month of the season where injuries can't occur, but you can't plan for it because it's not guaranteed and you aren't going to just give up on the playoffs because a guy has thrown too many innings.

        Considering this is very off topic anyways, we should probably just stop arguing about this. I know I'm done.

        • DirtyWater says:

          I'd like to read that article.If you find a link please post it.

          Doubt it suggests a guy is ready to gear up to 176+ innings based on pitching 146 four years previously in A and AA ball. It doesn't wash.

          No problem here with dropping the subject–I don't think you or Mike S. have provided anything concrete to suggest I'm incorrect in my views.

          • I've linked to it on at least two other occasions in the past. The guy is a journalist, not a doctor, and didn't consult any doctors or trainers for the articles. He just looks at the past 5-10 years. I happen to agree with most of what he said, but it is far from a science and really I never liked that he used such a small sample size. Pitchers get hurt. That's what happens. There is no reason to go above and beyond trying to protect them. What teams do nowadays even compared to 7 years ago is a huge step.

            If Phil Hughes pitched for the Cubs in 2003, he would have thrown 220 innings and regularly thrown over 120-130 pitches even going up to 140 in some cases. In 2010 with the Yankees, Hughes threw 110 pitches or more four times and never threw 120. I have no problem with that.

            Pitchers get hurt, even when you baby them. At a certain point you have to let them pitch. It's not the end of the world.

  7. DirtyWater says:

    @ Mike S.

    Who missed the point? All those names you posted added up to two guys with a winning records. But "not chumps" according to you. What they should have told the opposition that they were considered 1-3s at the begining of the season??

    No I don't expect him to pitch against aces all year– he's started as the #5 racked up a big record against #5s and wasn't asked to step up that often because when he was what happened? The Yankee bats didn't give him a cushion and he lost. Because its easier to hit a #5, unless he's being protected like Hughes pitching below his slot. Your kindergarden "ask your teamates to knock it off" comment doesn't recognize this fact and…well stands for itself doesn't it? Bitter little pill here for you eh?

    No one said he didn't pitch well, just he didn't pitch alot of challenging games. Yanks move him up the order next season the ERA may not change much but there is NO WAY he wins 18…unless the Yanks downshift him against the chumps.And NO FACTS suggest anything different.

    • Mike S. says:

      That's not the point. I stated that most of those pitchers were considered 1-2 or 3 on their staffs when the season started. They weren't considered chumps or #5 pitchers.

      Is it Hughes' fault that most underproduced or that Hughes got run support? Come on.

      Hughes can only control one thing…how HE pitched. To outpitch the pitcher he was up against on that given day or night. That is all, and in that regard did quite well.

      As far him winning 18 again, there are too many variables. How do you know Hughes won't put up a better ERA, pitch far better, say 3.60 but get no run support and fall to 15-13? It happens.

      He had an excellent year for his first full season in the rotation. He doesn't turn 25 until next June.

      You are the one suggesting run support. But the blinders are still on.

      About Innings. Yes, you have to watch the innings, but coddle? Some of us remember when there was a draft. When pitchers and other players lost time to serving their country. Guess what they did when they got out? They played. They pitched. Yes, they had to get some rhythm and game back, but they returned to their jobs. Watch, but don't coddle. And yes, injuries do happen no matter how careful you are.

      Enough. Sayonara.

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