General Yankees

Worth the Wait


Yankee prospect-in-waiting-no-more Jesus Montero knocked in the last 3 RBIs of the Yankees' wild 11-10 win over the Orioles yesterday on 2 home runs hit deep to the opposite field.  Both were off 94-mph fastballs thrown by Jim Johnson, the first a touch up in the zone in the 5th inning that traveled 399 feet over the grandstand and into the right field bleachers which – according to ESPN's home-run tracker – would have been a HR in every stadium in the majors, and the second down in the zone in the 7th that traveled 396 feet landing almost in the same spot, both having pretty much split the plate down the middle on their way in.

Little can be judged from two at-bats in isolation and the odds are probably just as good that Montero goes 0 for his next 10 as they are that he continues yesterday's display of power, but suffice it to say that as someone who has watched all but a handful of Yankee games each of the past several seasons, I don't believe I have seen in recent years anyone on this team other than A-Rod hit to the opposite field with that much power.

Whether Montero performs well enough in the coming weeks to earn himself a full-time DH spot come October is yet to be determined, but it's great to finally get a look at what he can do with the bat.  And with all due respect to Jorge Posada and Andruw Jones, I don't think you will find many Yankee fans clamoring for the DH spot to be handed back to the veterans any time soon.  Jones has gotten a fair amount of playing time as a right fielder since Montero was called up and has done quite well there in the early going.  And to say that the Yankee offense has done well since Montero was slotted into the lineup would be an understatement.

So as Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera continue to demonstrate that greatness can age well, and Freddy Garcia and Bartolo Colon demonstrate that late-career-comebacks are still possible, it's refreshing, energizing, and more than a little exciting to see new talent finally getting a shot and delivering.

32 replies on “Worth the Wait”

I have to admit prior to his time with the big club I really haven’t seen Jesus live and in person. So when I saw his first AB I thought maybe his compact stance would work against him and his size. Most big guys have a more upright stance. He reminds me of Soriano when he’s in his stance, minus the “swing at anything and that includes pitches that bounce” type of swing of course. I was relieved to see he’s not a prototypical swing from your shoes type of power hitter.
While I am happy “Jesus has been turned loose” (awful btw) I find myself getting very angry/upset at Cashman and Posada. He’s obviously not going to hit 2 HR’s every game, but between the infusion of hope/excitement/youth and the subtraction of gloom and doom that Posada brought this season, I just have to wonder why this wasn’t done sooner.

I can’t blame Posada one bit. Cervelli is the guy who sucks – with the bat and with the glove. Posada has been far better as a hitter when he catches and at his age it’s unreasonable to demand he change his routines and still be as successful. Moreover, if it weren’t for how the Yankees have handled him at the beginning and end of his career, he would be a no doubt HOFer. Go back and look at how much Girardi played even in 1996-1999 when he was terrible. In some ways, Girardi has screwed him twice.
The real problem is that Martin isn’t a full-time catcher, based on his health concerns. The Yankees would have been well-served having Posada and Martin splitting duties, like Salty and Varitek. But it’s almost like Cashman was worried about a “Who’s the starter?” controversy so they knee-capped Posada before the season ever started. If there’s any concern about his concussions, then he should have been released or retired. As a hitter/runner, there may be fewer chances for concussions but the risk is still real. That said, I wouldn’t be surprised in the least if Posada takes a one-year deal to prove he can still catch and hit. And I wouldn’t be surprised to see him put up a .800 OPS doing both.
Montero is a beast. I was lucky to be at his debut at Fenway, sitting two rows back of the on-deck circle. It’s obvious he’s not overwhelmed. I was shocked by how slim he is. He’s tall but I can certainly see him being a good enough catcher. If they treat Martin as the half-time catcher next year, Montero will have just enough chances to learn the position. My fear though is that Girardi will repeat the mistakes with Posada, preferring the glove man, and Montero won’t be given the legit chance. As much fun as it is seeing him hit, DHing him is a waste of talent. I still don’t understand why they didn’t work him out in RF. I hope that’s an indication they plan to have him catch as much as possible. He won’t be any worse than Cervelli, that’s for damn sure.

James: I have no problem with any play-time decisions made by the New York Yankees for the period 1996-1999 for what should be abundantly clear reasons. No one can be projected as a no-doubt HoF’er if x, y, or z had happened, but even if you could say that about Posada, I’ll take 3 championships in 4 years vs. any player’s personal milestones anytime.
Similarly John, with the Yankees finding them surprisingly (at least to me) in 1st place in early September, I don’t have a problem with how long they waited on Montero. The late-season infusion of energy through a call-up like this is fantastic. Maybe having him come in earlier would have been even better, but I don’t know. Things have worked out well so far so I’m really fine with it. Like you and James I’ve been impressed with more than just yesterday’s two dingers. He has worked the counts really well so far and laid off some tough breaking pitches in hi-pressure situations, two things you don’t always see from new call-ups.
Re: where Posada goes from here, I wish him every success. Really. And I don’t doubt your point James that perhaps he’ll put up big numbers somewhere else. That just wouldn’t bother me.
I do think your point re: where to play Montero is going to be intriguing to say the least and perhaps if they had brought him up earlier as per John’s point they could have experimented with him in RF, C, etc. which is toughter to stomach in a late-September tight pennant race. But if he continues to perform well with the bat, I’ll be fine with them DH’ing him through the playoffs and then dealing with his position-integration next season.

I’m not getting into that conversation again, but I will say from Cashman’s POV it makes zero sense considering his stance has been “Montero will not be traded”…I could understand being a little more patient with Montero (and keeping Cervelli) if he was concerned with hurting his overall value and perception IF he was going to be trade bait. Montero should have been up sooner, not simply because of the results of the last few days, but because of how this team is comprised. Having Jeter, Mo, etc…on this team would help aid in any transition that Montero might have struggled with. This is not the Royals where their mentor is Jeff Francouer…

” I have no problem with any play-time decisions made by the New York Yankees for the period 1996-1999 for what should be abundantly clear reasons. ”
Sorry, but Girardi was awful. No one talks about this fact of those years. It deserves to be said. It was like Cervelli as the starter and Montero (without the reputation) riding pine. In hindsight it’s absurd.
Where I agree completely with John is how much of a nothing Cervelli has been. I know they were thinking this way in Spring Training – Montero as a backup C and DH – but by May/June there was no reason to ignore this possibility, especially as Cervelli became CC’s personal catcher. I’m almost 200lbs and 5’10” and I could be CC’s personal catcher.
Yes, it’s hard to argue with results. But there are a few cases where the Yankees are still dumb and the money helps make up for it. In context, should Nova have been sent down? He’s likely approaching 20 wins right now if he wasn’t. Should Noesi have been banished to mop up duty when they’ll still need to fill a rotation next year? When the biggest problem on this team is starting pitching, and they prioritize vets with little upside to kids with arm strength and stuff, there’s a major problem. Montero is the same class. Martin (and Cervelli) get the benefit of the doubt even as neither is very good. If Montero is OPSing .850 to .900 as a 22 year old, he should be starting catcher next year. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say he’ll be luck to get 80 starts. In fact, I could see them carrying Martin, Montero, and Cervelli. That’s plain idiocy.

I’m not arguing anything about Girardi’s performance in those years James. My point is simply – as you note above – about results trumping all. To bring the analogy through ot today, if the Yankees surprise us and win it all this year (no, no I don’t expect it – notonly do I not expect them ot reach the World Series, I don’t expect any tAL team tha treaches there to beat the Philly pitching which I suspect they will face), then I’ll be happy that they did exactly what they did in 2011.
Why would you assert that Nova’s being sent down is a bad thing? How do you know that if he hadn’t been sent down he would have done just as well as he has done since being sent down? To be clear, I’m not arguing the opposite (i.e. that he would have been worse if he had stayed in the bigs the whole time), but i think that in reality no one can really know what the result of treating him differently would hav ebeen? Maybe he would have been better. Maybe worse. What we do know is that by handling him exactly as they have, they have gotten a legit #2 starter, which they most desperately need. Kudos to them in my view.
As for next season and Montero, whether or not he is the starting catcher should have at least as much to do with how he performs behind the plate as it should have to do with what he does with the bat. I look forward to getting some data on that once he catches big league pitching, but I’m not ready to assert that this guy must be their starting catcher next season. If he is good enough there and brings the bat I’ll be thrilled of course as I imagine we all will be and then yes, I’ll be annoyed if he doesn’t get the playing time. But I don’t think what he OPS’s should be the primary determiner of where he plays in the field.

“How do you know that if he hadn’t been sent down he would have done just as well as he has done since being sent down?”
Because I look at his trends before and after. He had already improved dramatically before they sent him down:
April: 1-2, 5.82 ERA, 21.2 IP, 1.61 WHIP, 11 BB, 12 K
May: 3-1, 3.90 ERA, 32.1 IP, 1.57 WHIP, 13 BB, 15 K
June: 3-1, 3.58 ERA, 32.2 IP, 1.22 WHIP, 11 BB, 21 K
His last start before the demotion he gave up one run in 5 innings to the Mets.
August: 5-0, 3.82 ERA, 33.0 IP, 1.18 WHIP, 7 BB, 24 K
That’s the same pitcher, before and after the demotion. That emphatically doesn’t deserve any kudos. If the kid had a few unlucky breaks, I have little doubt he’s already in the bullpen. He’s made it so they have no choice. That’s the only way marginal prospects break in with the Yankees.
As for Montero, if Piazza can forced his way into a position, then Montero can. As a 22 year old, hitting well-above average, he needs a position. If it’s not catcher, then like John, they should have traded him. I’d sooner cheer for Papi as the Yankee DH than watch a young kid have his whole career knee-capped. Trade him for someone like Justin Upton or Matt Kemp.

I would almost be relieved to see him move from behind the plate. If his bat is as good as they it can be staying at catcher only hurts his long and short term value. Catchers take so freaking long to develop and that’s simply because they have the most difficult position on the field. Look at Wieters, guy had more hype than Jesus and he’s now on year 3 and finally “getting it”…Look at Mauer, leg issues, knee issues, etc…he’s one of the best hitters in the game and his career will be cut short if they don’t move him. I am not saying he can’t do it, I am just saying if his bat is as special as they say, let’s find him an alternate home.

What’s the alternative though, John? They’ve never worked him out in outfield. 1B is clogged with a declining, and overpriced, talent. Watching him play, I think he could handle RF in Yankee Stadium, but then they should have given him reps out there. Maybe that’s an option when Swisher is done after next year.
I’m pessimistic. If they thought he could be a catcher, he should have punted Cervelli this year. Maybe they were worried about the reps at DH, or Montero seen as punting Jorge and the pressure that would accompany that, but it feels like I’m giving them more credit than they deserve. The current mess of the pitching staff is all their own making. Cashman promised no more expensive but middling free agents, then he went out and signed Burnett. Meanwhile, he could have traded Joba for Haren/Oswalt; Hughes+Montero for Halladay, etc.

I am fairly certain that he has worked in the OF before. It was either ST 2010 or in the early parts of the minors season same year…I could be wrong. I don’t know. But history tells us that catchers take longer to develop and sometimes the demands of the position cause “sure things” to become failed prospects.

I’ve been watching closely and there’s been no sign/report of outfield work. He could have certainly played out there in the minors but didn’t. I think part of it is maintaining his trade value and the other part is them thinking he can be a good enough catcher. Whereas some of the comps Cashman made were absurd, hoping he could be Posada seems like a pretty darn good best case scenario.
I agree completely on the problems with developing catchers. And you don’t even mention Posey and Carlos Santana. I just don’t think the Yankees have a choice here. Best case is Montero shows he’s good enough behind the dish, then he splits duties with Martin/Romine for a few years. The real problem though, after Teixeira at 1B, is A-Rod. They need to put him somewhere. Though if his glove is still good enough, and all accounts suggest it is, then the team is better off with his declining offense at 3B rather than clogging up the DH spot. He can’t stay healthy though.
The big question next year is whether Montero gets 60-80 starts behind the plate. That’s just enough to keep developing, but maybe not enough to really hurt him. He does need to go to the Posada school of avoiding all collisions.

“That’s the same pitcher, before and after the demotion.”
Agreed. Our difference James is whether you look at that and say “Look, it didn’t hurt anything” or rather “Look, they could have gotten that the whole time rather than losing a month”. Since part of the equation can not just be about Nova but also about what his demotion meant for the other starters they were trying to get straigthened out, I’d say that based on results and where the team is right now, they handled him just fine. You clearly disagree. OK. I’m fine with a team that is leading the division and on pace to winn 100 games this season.
Re: Montero, Swisher has had a pretty good year. I’ve got no problem testing Montero out there next pre-season if that’s where they see working him in. And as John says, it may very well extend what could be a career with a big bat. I imagine though that you kind of have to choose. I mean if they want to try him at catcher they kind of need to commit to that and all that goes into it, no? What is hard to tell right now is whether they are willing to go full in like that. I assume that is what we will learn in Spring training 2012 and/or by what moves they make to fill right field. Don’t forget that Derek Jeter will also need a spot to play if not next season that certainly the following season.
I just am not sure what they’ve lost by not slotting Montero in defesively this season rather than simply waiting to do so next season and letting him gain some valuable experience – and hopefully confidence – with the bat during the late Sept division race and playoffs.

“I’d say that based on results and where the team is right now”
You mean how they used the time to get Hughes and Burnett straightened out? Or how they gave Garcia and Colon, even Sabathia, extra rest given their workloads?
My point was only in beating back some claims that Nova got better with his minors stint. He didn’t. It didn’t help *him* and since he is their second best starter, that’s where the focus should have been.
“I just am not sure what they’ve lost by not slotting Montero in defesively this season”
He could have already started the process of becoming a MLB catcher. I agree it’s unlikely they’ll go all in next year. More likely he’ll get 40-60 starts at C, they’ll carry Cervelli as well, and another 60-80 starts at DH. The problem is, that’s dumb! Hopefully though he shows enough in Spring Training to get the half-time job. I bet it would help Martin as well. Then banish Cervelli to AAA to be Romine’s caddy and an emergency replacement.
What is interesting about this year is how all of Yankee wild cards (Martin, Colon, and Garcia) have done more than we could have ever expected. Part of the appeal of those signings is that they had young’uns ready to step in if necessary. The problem though is a typical Yankee one – if healthy the vets got the benefit of the doubt.

I’m being a Debbie Downer here myself. My apologies. I’m absolutely giddy after this past week. I got to take in two games from Fenway and one was Jesus’ debut. Now to watch him perform is just plain fun!

“I’m absolutely giddy after this past week” Ditto. Post-season prospects are bit scary, but current reality is simply much better than I expected. NO ONE would have predicted 100-win possibility (they may still fall far short of that of course, but so far they’re on pace) with starting pitching that includes Colon, Garcia, Nova, Burnett, and Hughes. So yeah – I’m thrilled. And performance of Granderson, Nova, Martin, and Jeter have been pleasant surprises.

I’d feel much better if they had done more to develop pitching this year. They have as many as three slots to fill next year given Burnett and Hughes. Re-signing Colon and Garcia is an option, but the chance both repeat is negligible. Noesi, Phelps, Warren, Mitchell with a bunch of starts would have been nice. Then next year, if they sign the vets, they also clog stuff up for Banuelos and Betances.
As I think Nova, and Noesi to an extent, have shown, young fresh arms can be plenty good enough for this offense. If they’re a tad better than league average, then that’s as good as they’re likely to get among vets. Nova has already shown he has a better feel for pitching than Burnett or Hughes ever have. Maybe it’s the difference between learning to get by with middling stuff versus overpowering guys and never having to learn other ways to get guys out.

“”I’m absolutely giddy after this past week” Ditto.”
Let the kid catch. We suffered through Hip Hip’s horrendous defense for the last decade. How bad can the kid really be???

Hughes concerns and bothers me. Flashes of brilliance are all too seldom and the 6 weeks of arm fatigue or whatever he started this year with are of real concern at his age, at least to me. I expect at least one of Freddy Garcia and Bartolo Colon will be singing on a cruise-ship regailing retirees from south Florida with stories of the good old days in the majors. “No, I SWEAR! I pitched for the New York Yankees last year! And I was good!!”.
But yeah, maybe one of them will actually stick for another year. Somewhere.

More concerning is they’re giving Hughes a ton of rope – far more than he deserves and far more than Joba or IPK ever got. At some point it’s time to pull the plug and insert another option that might come around. Hughes has never shown consistently he can start, and we’ve been playing this game for too many years.
The problem with this year is they almost have to sign a retiree or two. They can’t go into the year with a front four of CC, Nova, Burnett, and Hughes then expect a kids to round out #5 when both Hughes and Burnett are such big question marks. So then they go into the year with a Colon or Garcia at #5 and they’re another year into not developing the kids to see what they’ve got. It’s a terrible Catch-22.

James, you are 100% it’s certainly not impossible to make it a quick transition to ML catcher. My point isn’t that it can’t be done, only that it’s an uphill battle to do it quickly. It’s like being an NFL QB. Can Cam Newton or Andy Dalton be successful in year one? Sure they can, but the odds are against them. There is so much responsibility and toll on your body that it just takes time in MOST cases. For every Buster, there’s JD Closser. Again, not impossible, but if they regard his bat as much as they say they do it might be smart to move him.
In Santana’s case he’s already being used elsewhere, as was Posey in rookie season. Difference here is that the Yankees are locked in at 1B. I certainly am not advocating him being a full time DH either. Guess it’s TBD.

You misunderstood, John, Posey and Santana support your case about the travails of young catchers. They both lost significant stretches because of plays at the plate.
I think it’s likely the Yankees will just choose to do to Montero what they’ve done to Joba and Hughes – hold onto him until he either becomes something or when all his prospect value is gone. Knowing them, they’ll carry three catchers next year, Montero will be slated for at most 60 starts at C and then he’ll DH for 80 games or so. It won’t be a full commitment to him as a C, but it will be enough to see what he is. That’s probably the best we can hope for, though Cervelli has no place on the team.

I don’t think they’ve given Hughes too much rope. No one projected Ian Kennedy to have a higher ceiling than Hughes. At 26 he is doing substantially pitching to the worst offensive division in baseball than 25-year-old Hughes is doing pitching to the best. I still want Hughes slotted in as starter next year. If he comes out of the gate again the way he did this year, I will be very concerned about his viability. He’s all but certain to be slotted into the pen for this post-season. I’d also be happy to see him continue as a starter through October. But I’d hate to see him sent to the pen for good a la Joba or shipped out just yet.

So is next year the year you pull plug on Hughes? Suppose he repeats 2009 – great start, terrible finish. That to me was further indictment of his prospects as a starter – he’s never had one full season of good performances. His values is a mirage at this point.
I say stick him in the pen and take the kid gloves off. What has all this babying gotten them- with Hughes or with Joba?
As for IPK – he was actually the best of the three in the minors, FWIW. And the Yankees gave more starts to Sidney Ponson.

I don’t see the problem with the Yankees – at the time – trading IPK instead of Hughes or Joba. Remember that at the end of 2009 IPK was just coming back from surgery and had never shown the stuff he’s showing now in Arizona. Both Hughes and Joba were MILES ahead of IPK in terms of major league development. Both have backslid, yes, and IPK took a giant leap forward in terms of stuff, and maybe the Yankees should have bought a $100MM crystal ball but baseball doesn’t work like that.
The Granderson trade has been nothing but an unqualified success for the Yankees.

“but baseball doesn’t work like that.”
Exactly. If the Yankees had told Detroit/Arizona yeah, we’ll throw either IPK or Phhil Hughes in the deal, does ANYONE think they would have opted for Kennedy. No one. No One. NO ONE projected Ian Kennedy to outperform Phil Hughes. Not the Yankees, not any of the Yankees’ prospective (or ultimately real) trading partners at the time who you can argue are less ‘veteran-obsessed’ than the Yankees. No One. Pretending it was clear to anyone at that time – indeed pretending it could be clear (that’s why they call them projections and not certitudes) – ignores reality. And if I had Sidney Ponson or a kid in a hospital bed to choose from to make a start, I think I’d choose Ponson too (though admittedly not by much).

“That’s probably the best we can hope for, though Cervelli has no place on the team.”
Cervelli is an interesting case. His bat is perfectly fine for a back-up catcher, so the question then comes to his fielding. The one fielding metric for catchers that we are certain of is percentage of baserunners thrown out, and he’s craptacular at that. On the other hand, there is so much uncertainty about catcher fielding metrics that we really don’t know the exact quality of his fielding. Neyer recently criticized fangraphs’s WAR for catchers because of the lack of info connected to catcher fielding metrics.
Re: Cervelli. Pitchers seem to like working with him. The best pitcher on the team uses him as his personal catcher. He looks agile behind the plate as well. This is all to say that Cervelli could be a perfectly capable, maybe even above average back-up catcher.
Montero, on the other hand, still has the rep among scouts as piss poor as a catcher. Kevin Goldstein disagrees with the idea that if Piazza could be a major league catcher then Montero can be one as well. He says Piazza was much better behind the plate in terms of quickness and agility. So Montero might very well be positionless right now.

“The best pitcher on the team uses him as his personal catcher.”
That’s more an indictment of how much Cervelli sucks. CC don’t need no personal catcher. If anything, he’s the best guy for Montero to catch. He holds runners on, hits his spots, and doesn’t need to bury too may pitches in the dirt with his stuff.
“This is all to say that Cervelli could be a perfectly capable, maybe even above average back-up catcher.”
Key word there is “could”. You’ve offered no such evidence apart from his terrible rate at catching runners. Montero has the stronger arm. He’s really cut down on his passed balls this year.
If you’re right, and Montero is position-less on the NY Yankees, they should trade him asap.

Well they did trade him asap but the M’s wanted Smoak instead, which probably implies Seattle is one club that doesn’t think he’s a catcher.
Look, no disagreement that Cervelli might very well be sub back-up level, but it’s a low bar, and his bat is good enough. There is enough uncertainty about catching fielding metrics right now that I’m not immediately going to dismiss the possibility that he’s actually a decent back up.

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