Jesus Montero and Defensive Value

Dave · January 16, 2012 at 9:40 am · Filed Under Mariners 

It’s 2,300 words and I still feel like I just scratched the surface of the subject, but for those interested in whether I think Montero should be a catcher or a DH, I tackled that issue at FanGraphs today. For those who just want a summary – I can see the arguments for either decision, but I don’t think it will make a big difference in his value either way. A brutal defensive catcher isn’t really that much more valuable than a DH. Personally, I think I’d probably move him out from behind the plate, but if the M’s want to try to make it work during a season where bad catcher defense probably won’t cost them a division title, I’m okay with that too.


93 Responses to “Jesus Montero and Defensive Value”

  1. Nebikard on January 16th, 2012 10:13 pm

    can he be trained to play LF?

  2. Nebikard on January 16th, 2012 10:14 pm

    I guess that if I were a baseball player, I would try to increase my value as a player by learning how to play as many positions as possible.

  3. bongo on January 16th, 2012 10:18 pm

    I think a lot will depend on how Jaso, Olivo and Montero look during the spring. In particular, if Jaso has a hot bat and fields decently, it wouldn’t surprise me if Olivo is traded, Jaso becomes the first string catcher and Montero ends up at DH and as 2nd string catcher, with Moore as an insurance policy in Tacoma. Similarly, while Smoak has first dibs on 1B, if he is injured or starts off slowly, then Carp will play some 1B as well as LF. Wells’ playing time will depend on how healthy he is, as well as how well Gutti plays and feels. Personally, I’d say there is decent likelihood that the lineup that finishes the season is different by 3-4 starters from the lineup that started the season.

    As far as converting Montero to the OF is concerned, I doubt it will be an easy task. It might even require some effort to get him up to the level of Ibanez out there, let alone Wells, Guti or Ichiro. Even Carp should be able to keep ahead of Montero as a fielder, if he continues to improve.

  4. Dave on January 16th, 2012 10:33 pm

    You have a right to be here? Seriously?

    No, you don’t. Stop acting like a clown or that privilege will be revoked.

  5. Steve Nelson on January 16th, 2012 10:38 pm

    @Nebikard on January 16th, 2012 9:57 pm

    You guys were right, I should have read the first comment. Sorry for calling everyone “fools.”

    Honestly, I just don’t think someone who everyone thinks is a defensive liability should be playing whatever position that he’s apparently not good at. I say plug him in as a permanent DH and switch him to 1B during interleague play. Play Carp at LF regularly and have him work on getting better at playing the OF, or maybe just package him and send him off.

    Dave. Go away? Really? That’s not a very constructive thing to say. I have a right to be here.

    You might want to familiarize yourself a bit with the “USSM Orientation” and the “Comment Guideline”. Your post triggered the comment that it did because it was so incredibly far below Replacement Level Commenting that even Bavasi would have given it an outright release in Spring Training.

  6. GLS on January 16th, 2012 11:04 pm

    “can he be trained to play LF?”

    I’ve mentioned this before in other comments, but Baseball America has him listed at 6’4″, 224 lbs, with 13% body fat. I bring this up because I think it’s helpful to understand that this guy isn’t some big giant blob. This is a young man, 22 years old, that would appear to be in excellent physical condition. He’s been playing professional baseball since he was 16, presumably on something like a year-round schedule. He’s a baseball player. Why wouldn’t we at least try him in LF in spring training?

    And here’s something else. I don’t hear anybody questioning that he can be trained to play first base in time for the season. So why not Left Field? Can he really be much worse than Carp?

  7. gwangung on January 16th, 2012 11:17 pm

    And here’s something else. I don’t hear anybody questioning that he can be trained to play first base in time for the season. So why not Left Field? Can he really be much worse than Carp?

    If he’s physically slower, yes.

  8. cmonseattle on January 16th, 2012 11:32 pm

    What about trying him at 3B? He’s righthanded, has a great arm, and C is harder than 3B. Maybe he doesn’t have the reflexes, but it seems like this is one place teams have moved people off of C in the past. Possibly a far-fetched idea, but considering the way the Mariners have moved people around the past few years maybe not.

    I hope the M’s test him out at 3B, too. I did a quick google search of “jesus montero third base” to see if anything would come up. The best I got was an article from Larry Stone over a year ago that said “His modest athleticism and below-average speed probably preclude a move to the outfield or third base, a position he played prior to signing.

    The idea of Montero playing third reminds me of Pablo Sandoval, who did some catching in the minors, and now he’s a good defensive third basemen.

  9. asdruballs on January 17th, 2012 12:35 am

    One scouting report I read on Montero mentioned a play in which he hit into a double play and was trying to book it to first to beat the throw(essentially going top speed) and his time was still very bad. That killed my hope that he could play outfield.

  10. GLS on January 17th, 2012 1:02 am

    “If he’s physically slower, yes.”

    I’ve never heard Carp described as any kind of a burner.

    I obviously don’t know what kind of speed Montero has, but it seems probable that he’s on the slow side. It remains to be seen if he has enough foot speed to field the position.

  11. cmonseattle on January 17th, 2012 1:18 am

    Left Field is where they need to put Montero. It makes the most sense.

    Why does that make the most sense? I would rather see Casper Wells in left. He has a lot more experience as an outfielder and has showed that he’s pretty good out there.

  12. GLS on January 17th, 2012 2:31 am

    It makes the most sense because it takes him out from behind the plate and gives him an everyday position in the field, leaving the DH spot open. It also leaves First Base open for Smoak, who actually is a First Baseman.

    It’s important for him to not play catcher for two reasons:

    1) Most reports indicate that he is somewhere between below average and genuinely bad at being a catcher. At the same time, the position of catcher is one of the most important defensive positions on the field, if not the most important.

    2) His value as a player rests primarily on his ability with the bat. Catching not only exposes him to injury, but the daily wear and tear of playing the position is likely to suppress his offense.

    Dave mentioned that point specifically in this post:

    “…there’s a mountain of evidence that shows that hitters perform significantly better when they move out from behind the plate. The physical toll of catching is harsh, and not many players can endure the beating they take over the long term.”

    Of course, if he is an absolute disaster in left field, it won’t work. But, from what I understand, he’s never played first base either. So, if you are going to try and get him to play another position, why not try left field first? If it works out, and he’s adequate out there and can make the routine plays, then you’ve really got something. It it doesn’t work out defensively, then you still have 1B and DH.

  13. KevinPmoorE on January 17th, 2012 3:28 am

    You do not have 1st base! Hello? We have a 1st Baseman. The point is NOT to bring in Montero to get rid of Smoak, who I’m sure is obviously the better defensive 1st Baseman. The point is to start stacking these hitters together.

    This argument that DH has no value in the AL is ridiculous. I keep hearing “most of his value is with his bat.” Well no kidding, then if we need to put him at DH, then that’s where he goes to put up his 40 homers a year. Why not let him win 10 consecutive EDGAR MARTINEZ awards? I’m pretty sure Gar had some “value” for this team for a long time.

  14. GLS on January 17th, 2012 4:22 am

    Obviously, you put him at DH if you need to, but we’re talking about a 22 year old athlete. Why would you pigeonhole him at DH if you don’t have to? It’s not like this guy is a bad body slugger like Ryan Howard or David Ortiz. Carlos Lee has played left field his entire career and he’s 6’2″ 265. But it’s completely out of the question that Jesus Montero could play out there?

    Also, I shouldn’t have to point out that if you can find him a position on the field where he doesn’t kill you with his defense, that opens up the DH spot for another hitter. If you’re reading this blog, I assume you understand that logic.

  15. tmac9311 on January 17th, 2012 6:15 am

    I don’t think Carp makes this team unless he is an outfielder. I hope during spring training we play Montero and Smoak at 3rd, just for the fact it’s going to be hard to play them at the same time, and I’m not too thrilled to have 5 of our 13 batters being C and 1B.

    Just for the sake of argument, how bad would Smoak have to be at 3rd to not start over Seager? Is trying those 2 at 3rd a worthwhile idea, or just a waste of time?

  16. The Ancient Mariner on January 17th, 2012 6:18 am

    that opens up the DH spot for another hitter

    Given this roster, it would be truer to say that it opens up the DH spot for someone who’s a better fielder and worse hitter than Montero. I don’t see logic in playing Montero in LF just so you can DH Casper Wells.

    tmac, remember how well it worked shifting Lopez to 3B and Figgins to 2B? And Figgins had played the keystone before, and the hot corner was theoretically a better fit for Lopez in the field. Given that Smoak’s not exactly Keith Hernandez at 1b, why would you think shifting him across the diamond would work even as well?

  17. HighBrie on January 17th, 2012 7:34 am

    Respectfully, Montero’s athleticism has never been his calling card. I don’t think it’s Montero’s size that precludes him from playing catcher (Weiters is 6’5″, 230), but the fact that a) he seems to lack mobility, and b) the wear and tear on his body will diminish his bat. Since his bat is the thing that might really make him a unique player, I think we should go ahead and recognize the DH as one of 9 positions in a lineup that need to be filled, and fill it with someone who can really hit.

  18. MrZDevotee on January 17th, 2012 7:48 am

    We can debate, debate, debate… But we just traded for a catcher. All signs point to giving him a chance at catcher, before deciding where else he can’t learn to play. Maybe I’m WAY off base here, but perhaps we see what he does at catcher, the most obvious position of which a) he has exclusively played the past 6 years, b) holds incredibly high value for an above average bat, c) is a position of need on the M’s.

    Again, the bar is not real high in the world of Rob Johnsons, Adam Moores, and Miguel Olivo’s. Fail at catcher first please, then we’ll talk other positions.

    (If you need to move him to the outfield, I say wait and give him Ichiro’s spot next season, based on his above average arm… And let him play winter league/Venezuelan league in the outfield next offseason, first.)

  19. eponymous coward on January 17th, 2012 7:50 am

    Just for the sake of argument, how bad would Smoak have to be at 3rd to not start over Seager?

    Seager was average to below average 3B on offense and average on defense (his WAR ranges from 0.5 to 0.8 on a third of a season, depending on the source, so it could be projected 1.5 to 2.5- basically, there are pretty big error bars on his offense). Smoak was below average at 1B on offense and average on defense.

    So, this is a terrible idea- you’re putting a guy who didn’t have a great 2011 (yes, I know, he had some good weeks- but he had a bunch of bad ones) at a completely new defensive position that’s considerably more challenging, just because Kyle Seager doesn’t hit DINGERS!11111!!!

    This team should give Smoak and Montero their shots at positions they’ve played through their pro careers before throwing them around the diamond like pasta and seeing if they stick to the wall as al dente.

  20. gwangung on January 17th, 2012 7:53 am

    I’ve never heard Carp described as any kind of a burner.

    And I’ve never heard Carp described as a particularly good defensive outfielder, either.

    As I said, I can think of several ways where Montero could be worse than Carp, all of which are distinctly possible or probable.

  21. Mariners35 on January 17th, 2012 8:20 am

    Wedge specifically said during the winter meetings that he sees Carp as the everyday left fielder.

  22. Jordan on January 17th, 2012 9:06 am

    Carp/Wells LF
    Guti/Carp CF
    Smoak/Carp 1b
    Montero/Carp DH
    Jaso/Olivo/Montero C

    7 players, 5 positions. Competition and not enough spots- not a bad problem to have.

    Of course, we all would like to see Figgins and Olivo disappear.

    Dave, what now part 3 soon? It seems Montero just upgrades/replaces Trayvon Robinson while creating an insignificant hole in the rotation (could be filled by Noesi). So the Mariners could still upgrade the rotation and an infield spot. Is that accurate? Is that your prediction? Does Carp get moved to make ‘room’ for Montero or do we keep him as competition, a Wells platoon or insurance for Ichi/Guti? I could still see a Figgins for Zito-esque swap and then a low impact infield signing. Thoughts?

  23. xsacred24x on January 17th, 2012 9:08 am

    I feel bad for Z this organazation doesn’t give him any money to really work with and keep cutting his budget back so he has to trade Pineda and then throw in Camps for Montero and basically get fleeced. O well Yankees just became my 2nd Fav. team i usually root against them now that they have Pineda can’t and i hope he turns into a #1 for them.

  24. Valenica on January 17th, 2012 10:17 am

    Smoak can’t play 3B because he’s left handed.

    If you want bat-first, no glove 3Bs, we have Catricala. If you want bat-first, no glove LFs, we have Carp. We already have our star 1B Smoak. Montero has nowhere else but C/DH. And playing him at C means we keep Wells’ bat in the line-up over Olivo’s, and Wells’ glove in the field over Carp’s. That will add up to more wins in the long-run. Unless Montero’s defense is -40 run bad, but I’ve never heard a scouting report say anything close to that.

  25. gwangung on January 17th, 2012 10:18 am

    I feel bad for Z this organazation doesn’t give him any money to really work with and keep cutting his budget back so he has to trade Pineda and then throw in Camps for Montero and basically get fleeced.

    Really? Really???

    A good possibility we might be thinking the other way around in a couple years.

  26. qwerty on January 17th, 2012 10:18 am

    I feel bad for Z this organazation doesn’t give him any money to really work with and keep cutting his budget back so he has to trade Pineda and then throw in Camps for Montero and basically get fleeced. O well Yankees just became my 2nd Fav. team i usually root against them now that they have Pineda can’t and i hope he turns into a #1 for them.

    Say what?

  27. Mariners35 on January 17th, 2012 10:21 am

    Actually, come to think of it, 3b has become a much more gaping hole now. Unless Seager projects to be an above-average glove, or Liddi is really ML-ready overall.

    Catricala is at least a year away, maybe 2. I don’t know as remaining free agents like Wilson Betemit or Felipe Lopez are really a significant upgrade over looking at Seager or Liddi for a full season.

    Any 3b out there to target? The farm could probably afford to pony up one more quality pitcher and one or more of the outfield pile, depending on who came back.

  28. the tourist on January 17th, 2012 10:21 am

    “I hope during spring training we play Montero and Smoak at 3rd”

    Smoak throws left-handed. When is the last time you saw a non-first-base infielder who threw left-handed (besides little league)?

  29. bongo on January 17th, 2012 10:37 am

    Jordan said:

    “Guti/Carp CF”

    Carp is probably not a good choice as backup center fielder; it would be more realistic to assume Wells taking that role.

    “Jaso/Olivo/Montero C”

    I agree that we should think of Montero as a “last resort” at C currently. If he were to upgrade his defensive skills he might make it to backup. But I’d be quite surprised if Montero ends up catching more than say, 30 games in 2012.

  30. Valenica on January 17th, 2012 10:59 am

    Catricala’s a year away, maybe half if he lights up AAA the same way he lit up everything else. There’s no way it takes him 2 full years to make the Show.

    The only good 3Bs you could target are Wright and Headley, both would require at least Walker or Paxton. You could maybe argue Reynolds or Prado. But it’s probably the wrong time to make a move on a veteran 3B. Like everyone loves to say, we’re more than one bat away. Wait it out, see what Seager, Catricala, Liddi, and Martinez can do while the pitching comes up, and if no one shows promise then make a move.

    If you want to talk prospects, not much is better than Seager and Catricala. 3B is pretty bad around the league prospect wise, as most of the best ones just finished A-ball.

  31. just a fan on January 17th, 2012 11:14 am

    Maybe the M’s should be training one of these minor league catchers to play 3B and/or LF and/or RF.

    If Montero is a C/DH, then we’ll need a more full-time C. In that case, it would be nice to have an extra catcher for when Montero is DH, but that C would hopefully play another position or two so as to not be clogging a roster spot.


  32. just a fan on January 17th, 2012 11:18 am

    “Smoak throws left-handed. When is the last time you saw a non-first-base infielder who threw left-handed (besides little league)?”

    There’s a first time for everything! Smoak could be the Jackie Robinson of Left-handed 3rd basemen.

  33. Valenica on January 17th, 2012 11:27 am

    We had minor league catchers? Last I checked we were converting Shortstops to Catcher. 😀

    Draft Zunino and we have the best C/DH job-share ever.

  34. Johnny Slick on January 17th, 2012 12:16 pm

    I’d completely forgotten that Smoak was a lefty thrower for some reason. Yeah, the 3B thing would be right out even if rightward shifts on the defensive spectrum didn’t work extremely rarely (Dustin Ackley’s move from corner OF to 2B is a rare, rare exception). I’m actually not convinced that a decent glove man with a good arm who happened to throw left *couldn’t* succeed as a 3B but given the fact that it’s literally been more than a century since anyone in major league baseball even tried it for more than a couple of innings, it’s a bit much to ask of Eric Wedge.

    As for Montero, I’m still a fan of seeing how he does this year at catcher. If he doesn’t work out, he doesn’t work out. Me, I’d slot him in right field, where his catcher’s arm could still come into play and where our home field doesn’t really require massive range (granted that we’ve had a guy out there the past decade who is very rangey). Left field, I guess, if the team wants to keep Ichiro and doesn’t want to move him over there (he’s not exactly a spring chicken, although if he bounces back I think everyone would love to see him chase 3,000 American hits and for that matter Pete Rose’s all-time record). Third base, I think, would be tough to teach him in the majors and so is probably out, although if he played some before I guess it’s not completely out of the question.

  35. rsrobinson on January 17th, 2012 12:18 pm

    Montero is going to catch and DH this year. He’s not going to play 1B or 3B or LF. Smoak will be the everyday 1B with Carp as his backup. Carp will also DH and play LF. Don’t expect to see anything radically different than this.

  36. just a fan on January 17th, 2012 12:34 pm

    All it takes for a successful left-handed 3rd baseman is a good spin move.

  37. eponymous coward on January 17th, 2012 2:19 pm

    What I really hate about Reynolds is he’s at something like 800+ Ks in 4 years who’s a dead pull hitter, coming to a stadium who’s biggest traits are “kill dead pull right handed hitters” and “increase Ks”. He walks more than Olivo so he’s not terrible, more like a Rob Deer/Gorman Thomas type, but he’s going to be coming back to the dugout after a K a lot, and Safeco’s a lousy fit. We saw what this place did to Beltre. I can’t imagine Reynolds would do much better.

    Oh, and he’s one of the worst defensive 3Bs in baseball. Like -15 or -20 runs/year bad.

    Given that Montero is in the org now as a RHB to go with Wells, I am starting to think Reynolds doesn’t fit in. I want more of a Jeff Conine type of player, someone who would be adequate or better at 1B/LF/3B, wherever we need them in the line at a corner position that day, and is more a line-drive, all fields RHB who isn’t screwed by Safeco’s LF grayeyard for fly balls.

  38. Jordan on January 17th, 2012 4:55 pm

    Sorry Bongo, typo. Of course I meant Wells. I was simply stating it’s not a bad idea to have 6 or 7 guys sharing 5 positions; especially if they all perform to their projections (Ichiro/Guti/Carp/Wells/Seager/Smoak) and collectively our 10th guy becomes McLemore. Wow, typing this it hurts to realize how many legitimate question marks this team still has.

  39. Nebikard on January 17th, 2012 5:18 pm

    Yes, Dave, I have the right to be here. I also apologized for my previous comments in that very same post. You should do the right thing and recognize that and move on.

    Anyway, let’s get back to talking Mariners baseball, shall we?

  40. bongo on January 17th, 2012 5:32 pm

    Yes, a team with this many question marks needs a lot of flexibility to deal with them all. For example, it would be nice to have a viable 3B candidate other than Seager, given that Martinez, Rodgriguez and Liddi probably should start the season in AAA, and we’ve all but given up on Figgins. The OF situation is also troubling with Wells and Guti having health issues, Ichiro on the decline and Carp serving as only a passable LF.

  41. the tourist on January 17th, 2012 10:12 pm

    I actually kind of like the idea of Montero being a backup catcher and a starting outfielder. I would rather see him in LF than Carp.

  42. Nebikard on January 17th, 2012 10:35 pm

    What do you guys think about trying Figgins out as a leadoff hitter and moving Ichiro back in the order? After all, Chone was one of the best leadoff hitters in the game before he came here…

  43. Nebikard on January 17th, 2012 10:38 pm

    Ichiro RF
    Gutierrez CF
    Ackley 2B
    Montero DH
    Smoak 1B
    Carp LF
    Olivo C
    Ryan SS
    Figgins 3B

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