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An in-depth look at the “should Jesus Montero catch” question

Jan 16, 2012, 3:23 PM EDT

Jesus Montero

Over at FanGraphs, Dave Cameron takes an extended look at the question I briefly touched on on Saturday: what position should Jesus Montero play now that he’s a Seattle Mariner?

My quick view, based on the roster more than anything else, was that Montero should at least be given a shot to catch to see how he does and see if he can be made serviceable.  Dave’s view: that if Montero can avoid being the worst catcher in baseball, it’s probably worth a shot, citing Mike Napoli as a success story. With success being defined as “no, he’s not great, but his bat at catcher outweighs his defensive shortcomings.”

Of course, there’s an in-depth statistical analysis of all of this which, even if you don’t care about the stats themselves of about Montero or the Mariners, provide a nice walk though all of the ways catchers’ defense matters.  It’s not just about throwing out base stealers.

And while we’re on the subject, let me promote myself by noting that I will be on NBC SportsTalk on the NBC Sports Network tonight at around 6:50 Eastern to discuss the Montero-Michael Pineda trade.  You should totally watch: I’m sneaky-handsome.

  1. nekotman - Jan 16, 2012 at 3:28 PM

    Sneaky maybe. Handsome no. But at least you are a Braves fan so I can live with that.

  2. randygnyc - Jan 16, 2012 at 3:33 PM

    I’ll guarantee that the M’s will give him a chance to catch. For how long, I’m not sure. There’s little downside to offering him the opportunity.

  3. deathmonkey41 - Jan 16, 2012 at 3:35 PM

    Could he really be any worse than Posada was behind the plate?

    • paperlions - Jan 16, 2012 at 5:56 PM

      Yes.

  4. cur68 - Jan 16, 2012 at 3:41 PM

    “Sneaky Handsome” eh? Yeah, you rock that. 8)

    Montero as a catcher needs a to come under the tutelage of a Molina. Benji is unemployed. There. Problem, meet solution: the Molina Hegemony. Baseball is better with more Molina input.

  5. vanmorrissey - Jan 16, 2012 at 3:57 PM

    Uh, if it were Tiffany I’ll be there no doubt. You? DVR.

  6. fuggles7 - Jan 16, 2012 at 4:17 PM

    Sneaky Handsome.. they using more powder then to keep the glare down from the lights?

  7. churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Jan 16, 2012 at 4:34 PM

    And here’s fangraph’s prospect writer Mike Newman saying the complete opposite. In fact he says:

    Catching 101 includes a lesson in properly protecting the thumbs – which Montero seems to have missed – as he rarely tucks his right hand safely behind his back foot and out of harms way. Taking things a step further, Montero’s bare hand “floats” mid-pitch as he adjusts to catch and frame. This leaves him susceptible to foul tips off of the hands.

    In general, this is a relatively simple adjustment, but scouting him in 2008, and then seeing the same bad habits in 2011 leave me wondering if his hand positioning is more a function of balance which would be harder to correct. Quite simply, Montero could be the second coming of Ivan Rodriguez defensively and Montero’s heightened injury risk may not be worth it. A badly broken thumb costs a player months of playing time and could run the risk of long term damage.

    http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/index.php/mariners-take-rare-mulligan-with-montero/

  8. butchhuskey - Jan 16, 2012 at 5:31 PM

    Before I saw Montero on tv everyone kept talking about how fat he was and that he was too fat for the position, but he doesn’t seem all that rotund to me. I mean, Matt Wieters is really tall for a catcher and Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez has spent 20 years at the position- it’s not like Montero is a Jeremy Brown look-a-like.

    • paperlions - Jan 16, 2012 at 6:00 PM

      I haven’t heard a single person say he was too fat, he is too big. 6’4″, 225 at 21 yrs of age doesn’t profile as a person that will be able to easily squat behind the plate for the next 10 years….plus, he just appears to suck at it. It isn’t like the Yankees only tried him back there for a few games, he has been trying to catch for years, and he still sucks at it.

      Even if he became passable at C, how much offense does all of the wear and tear on the body cost a team? There is a reason catchers tend to fade late in years and early in careers.

    • pellypell - Jan 17, 2012 at 8:22 AM

      You guys got it all wrong, people were saying he was “phat”.

      Word up!

  9. aaronmoreno - Jan 16, 2012 at 7:30 PM

    It seems like very few scouts think he has any kind of future behind the plate. They think he’s too big, has bad hands, and doesn’t like catching. At some point, shouldn’t we trust that Montero can’t play back there?

    I say this as a stat guy who believes in taking risks. Montero can’t catch.

  10. papacrick - Jan 16, 2012 at 8:32 PM

    What happened to Olivo? That dude was a stud last year.. At least against my Tigers. I think he hit at least one bomb in every game against us and had at least a .600 avg. not sure how he fared elsewhere but he couldn’t have been bad.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Jan 16, 2012 at 10:34 PM

      The Miguel Olivo who hit .224/.253/.388 last year? Or the one who’s hit a career .243/.279/.421? Yeah he’s terrible offensively. And what’s worse is apparently he’s still better defensively than Montero =\

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Jan 16, 2012 at 10:36 PM

        Here’s some more fun. Miguel Olivo has 3565 Plate Appearances and has walked a total of 145(!) times. Barry Bonds walked more than that in 5 separate seasons (and tied it once as well).

  11. mmason0071 - Jan 16, 2012 at 9:01 PM

    Since the Mariner’s have had a historically bad offense the last two years, they shouldn’t distract Montero with learning to play the hardest position on the field. They should let him concentrate on learning to be a major league hitter, at DH or first. And if Smoak finally hits well enough to claim first, well that’s a problem they would like to have.

  12. humanexcrement - Jan 16, 2012 at 11:25 PM

    As a Yankee fan, it’s nice no longer having a stake in this matter, but I’ll say what I’ve always said: Yes, Montero deserves a chance to catch, but he’s never, ever, ever going to be a good enough catcher to justify the wear and tear the position will inevitably have on his ability to hit. Jorge Posada was a decent defensive catcher in his prime, and his numbers, while outstanding for the position, were never so good as to justify sacrificing a great-hitting first baseman or DH in favor of replacing him with a good defensive catcher who couldn’t hit. Montero should be used the way Detriot uses Victor Maritnez–regular DH, part-time first baseman, part-time catcher. He has the offensive ability to be another Edgar Martinez or Frank Thomas at DH. Not saying he WILL be that good, just saying he could. Why wear him out at catcher with below-average defensive ability on for an offense-starved team? Take away his catcher’s gear for a moment, lock him in the batting cage and feed him nothing but raw meat and see what happens.

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