Why I’m Not As High On Montero’s Bat As Most

Dave · January 17, 2012 at 11:53 am · Filed Under Mariners 

I know, I wrote up a Montero piece on FanGraphs yesterday and just linked to it here, and now I’m doing it again, but this won’t be a habit, I promise. Most of my Mariners-related content is still going to go here – I just decided to use Montero (a nationally prominent guy) to make somewhat larger arguments about the sport. The pieces are about him, but also about how we value players and prospects, and so they were a good fit for over there.

Anyway, here’s the piece I wrote over there today, which essentially explains why I’m not yet sold that Montero is certainly going to turn into a franchise hitter. The potential for that kind of performance is there, but history suggests that perhaps a Paul Konerko career path might be more realistic. While it’s certainly valid to be excited about what Montero could bring to the line-up, we should also be realistic about the range of possible outcomes. He could be great, more likely he’ll be pretty good, but he could also suck. Similar players have done all three. He’s probably going to be a good hitter, maybe a great one, but we should understand what risks he brings to the plate as well. The M’s didn’t trade Pineda for a sure thing.


41 Responses to “Why I’m Not As High On Montero’s Bat As Most”

  1. Steve Nelson on January 17th, 2012 12:24 pm

    Nor did the Yankees trade Montero for a sure thing.

    This is likely to be remembered as one of the most interesting trades in baseball.

  2. just a fan on January 17th, 2012 12:32 pm

    I’m going to remember this when Montero hits his 800th career dinger in August 2025.

  3. l2ider on January 17th, 2012 12:34 pm

    Both Pineda and Montero are young and not established. It’s redundant to say they’re not a “sure thing.”

    With that said, trade works for both teams in dealing from an area of strength for weakness. This will be one trade many of us will follow for their careers to weigh who came out on top in the end.

  4. beastwarking on January 17th, 2012 12:47 pm

    Paul Konerko would still be a favorable outcome if you ask me

  5. NRFully on January 17th, 2012 12:57 pm

    No matter what there’s no such thing as a “sure thing” in any deal. We’re dealing with human beings and nobody is perfect. We’ll never know what will happen but chances look good he’ll be a great player. Even if we brought in Prince, that wouldn’t be for sure. Dustin Ackley wasn’t a for sure, and still isn’t. Anything can happen but you still have to try to set up your team for the most likely chance to win.

  6. robbbbbb on January 17th, 2012 1:15 pm

    If Montero turns into Paul Konerko and Noesi becomes a league-average innings eater, then the Mariners did well in this deal. Anything past that is upside.

    Now, if Montero turns into Mike Piazza, then you can safely say the M’s won the deal, unless both Pineda and Campos turn into aces.

    The more I learn about this deal, the more I think Z did okay. This wasn’t a crushing win, like the deal to acquire Cliff Lee, but it’s a solid looking deal.

  7. Valenica on January 17th, 2012 1:16 pm

    He’s going to start as a good hitter, but if he makes the correct adjustments, has the potential to be great.

    Same with Ackley, Smoak, and nearly every top prospect ever except a few exceptions.

  8. Cody on January 17th, 2012 1:17 pm

    It will only be viewed as an interesting trade if either one or both develop into anything significant. Otherwise it will be forgotten like all other trades.

  9. CCW on January 17th, 2012 1:23 pm

    The piece at Fangraphs makes me feel better about Montero. It’s actually fairly rare that a prospect as roundly hyped as Montero doesn’t turn into at a least an above average hitter. Sure, we’d like better than “above average”, but you can’t lose a trade too badly if the guy you get is above average and under team control for 6 years. Meanwhile, Pineda… is a pitcher. Almost by definition, he’s more risky than Montero. I think the only way you look at this trade and conclude it was a “bad” deal for the M’s is if you believe they could and should have gotten a better return for Pineda.

  10. sciacca on January 17th, 2012 1:34 pm

    Would you like the deal if you were guaranteed the average slash line from Dave’s article? (.281/.349/.491). I might… It’s close.

  11. CCW on January 17th, 2012 1:54 pm

    I wouldn’t do the deal for a guaranteed .281 / .349 / .491. From a 1B/DH, that’s just not that great. I want the upside potential as well.

  12. basebliman on January 17th, 2012 1:55 pm

    What’s wrong with Paul Konerko? The guy’s been a pretty damn good hitter who’s only had a couple of sub-par seasons. I’d be very pleased with that kind of production from Montero.

  13. Shawnuel on January 17th, 2012 2:02 pm

    Nothing at all wrong with a Konerko career path, but with all the hyperbole that has surrounded Montero, (the next Cabrera, Manny, Edgar, Thomas etc.) even from outside the Yankee camp, I think people are expecting more.

  14. nwade on January 17th, 2012 2:56 pm

    Here’s the thing I think a lot of people keep forgetting (or glossing over):

    Montero fulfilling his potential is not how you grade whether the M’s “won” or “lost” this trade. Because considering Montero on his own is only half the story! The M’s roster and minor-league depth is a huge important canvas that this trade is layered on top of, and is the context by which it must be judged.

    So the question is not “is Montero being as good as player XXX”. The question is: Does a 3 WAR / 120 wRC+ bat (i.e. Montero’s potential value – feel free to substitute your own threshold numbers) offset the loss of Pineda’s WAR, given the minor-league options and other possible trades that the Mariners had available?

    Obviously we’ll never know all of the trade possibilities, but given the dearth of hot hitting prospects in the M’s organization, I would think that their lack of offensive depth “lowers the bar” somewhat – assuming that one or more of the young pitching prospects can combine WITH Montero to produce more value (WAR?) than Pineda could; or than Pineda + young-pitcher-X (Hultzen/Paxton) could. I don’t know if you could even do an objective analysis of this; but I’d love to see someone (with a higher Baseball IQ than me) take a stab at explaining how the existing M’s roster and farm system may (or may not) allow Montero to be a “net gain” for us, even if he doesn’t reach Elite Hitter status.

    (I know, I know – theoretically a run saved is a run earned so pitching and hitting values can be equally offset. But by the same token you cannot field a team with 9 pitchers and get all 9 players’ full expected WAR value – as 8 of them will be playing the field instead of pitching! So at some point, organizational depth and roster construction *has* to come into play, doesn’t it? The trade and free-agent markets are limited in size and scope, so you can’t always simply flip a player of value for another player of equal value at a different position.)

  15. Mariners35 on January 17th, 2012 3:07 pm

    All the more reason why I really hope that Smoak, Ackley, Wells and Carp really take off, that Guti and Ichiro rebound, and that some other surprise trade pops up in the next month to improve 3b. Even if Montero wildly exceeds expectations, he’s just one guy…

  16. robbbbbb on January 17th, 2012 3:39 pm

    Dave’s analysis makes one more point, here. It shows there’s ~10-15% chance that Montero completely tanks, and washes out of the league.

    The odds are very good that Montero’s still providing value for the Mariners in six years. And the upside (5 win player) is still there.

    What are the odds that Michael Pineda washes out of the league within six years? And the upside is about the same.

    I’m liking this deal more and more all the time.

  17. PackBob on January 17th, 2012 4:47 pm

    A good “hold onto your horses” article. Pineda has already had an outstanding rookie season, which Montero hasn’t had. On the other hand, even a league-average bat would help the Mariners’ lineup. Virtually the entire lineup is a question mark for 2012, so Montero should fit right in.

  18. hub on January 17th, 2012 4:54 pm

    I hate, hate, hate losing Campos. Seeing him pitch in person was enough to take my breath away. Five years from now, I fear he could be the best of the four.

  19. casey on January 17th, 2012 5:00 pm

    I was checking M’s second half stats earlier today. Was blown away by Mike Carp who in 64 post All-star games got 255 at bats and hit 15 doubles, 1 triple and 12 homers with a run away team best 46 rbis. He also tied Ackley for second in runs behind Ichiro.

    So began to extrapolate to full season of 500 at bats being 25 homers and 90 rbis – pretty decent. And before you say it’s a mirage … check out his triple A stats from last two seasons and there is a pattern you can follow.

    You put together Ichiro, Ackley, Carp and Montero for a full season and you have a decent foundation for an offence. If Smoak can stay healthy and you can add one more decent bat (either from what we have now or still to be acquired) to the mix and you have 6 guys who could consistently produce some runs then Z and Wedge have something to go with the solid pitching going forward.

    Just thinking about the possibilities.

  20. Nebikard on January 17th, 2012 5:27 pm

    The more I read about Montero, the more I like him. It’s been said that he has “elite” power. It’s time for all this talent that the Mariners have been accumulating to finally come to fruitation.

    I think I’m feeling a trade coming on.

  21. smb on January 17th, 2012 5:33 pm

    I just don’t see how any of those possibilities result in a team capable of winning the division over both Texas and LA. Both those teams are currently 4/1 to win the AL Pennant, and we’re at (I’d say) an overly optimistic 30/1. And that’s just the conventional wisdom of degenerate gamblers. The statistical truths are probably even uglier. Third place really is our best-case scenario, and that’s with as much help from regression to the mean as can be.

  22. zzyzx on January 17th, 2012 5:47 pm

    Anyone else think that it was awfully nice for the Mariners to give us this trade to discuss while we’re all snowed in tomorrow?

  23. Nebikard on January 17th, 2012 5:49 pm

    I do.

  24. MrZDevotee on January 17th, 2012 6:51 pm

    As long as talk doesn’t turn to whether Montero should shovel snow, or what sort of snow shoveler he pencils out to be moving forward. Or do we move him to snow blower, because his huck and heave is a little slower than league average.

  25. sonichound on January 17th, 2012 8:18 pm

    smb-I wouldn’t say that they are building for next year. We should have more money to go after a free agent next year and a couple more of our young guys should be ready to start producing. I am more excited for this team to grow next year and start coming together in the couple years after that when Texas and the Angels start to age. I don’t think there was anything we could realistically expect that would have allowed us to compete next year.

  26. Nebikard on January 17th, 2012 9:10 pm

    Honestly, if the Mariners were firing on all cylinders and everyone played to their career averages and the young guys produce they way they are expected to, we might actually have an intense year.

  27. Klatz on January 17th, 2012 9:50 pm

    I can’t help but think that the possible impact of drafting Hultzen instead of Rendon had on this offseason. One of the reasons that the front office was willing to trade Pineda is because Hultzen is relatively major-league ready and Paxton isn’t that far behind.

    If we’d had Rendon, Paxton, and Walker as the top prospects, I’m not sure the FO wouldn’t have asked for more or been willing to give up less to get Montero. Perhaps not including Campos in this hypothetical situation.

    I sure hope they were right about both Hultzen and Montero. Pineda was a pretty valuable piece, comparable but not equal to Latos.

  28. jordan on January 17th, 2012 11:13 pm

    Dave: I appreciate that you understand mathematical statistics enough to not just throw out the word average and use mean to calculate an expected outcome. It is refreshing after seeing so many people use the mean just because it is easier, not realizing how skewed it can become. Okay, useless post over.

  29. KevinPmoorE on January 18th, 2012 11:59 am

    Merry Prince Day!!

    Today’s the day Darvish finally signs with Texas and tonight or tomorrow the M’s sign Prince for 8 years $200,000,000!!!!

    It’s a freakin’ happy day! Go M’s!

  30. nwade on January 18th, 2012 12:52 pm

    Kevin has obviously been out in the Seattle snow for too long today… 😉

  31. Jordan on January 18th, 2012 2:03 pm

    Kevin is just trolling as Bavasi. Fortunately, we all see right through his disguise.

  32. KevinPmoorE on January 18th, 2012 2:09 pm

    I wish Bavasi would’ve signed a real player from the left side that could hit in this field. Sorry, the only definition of trolling I know is fishing but I may not be hip.

  33. Valenica on January 18th, 2012 5:26 pm

    If nothing else, Montero has the best MLB-ready bat by far out of all prospects. You can look at other top prospects who cleared AA+, Mesoraco, Myers, D’Arnaud, Alonso, Rizzo, Jackson, etc. and Montero is clearly the best. And he’s the youngest out of them all. That’s something.

  34. Shawnuel on January 18th, 2012 6:01 pm

    Sounds like Seattle just signed Oliver Perez to a minor league deal. He was decent last year…….in AA. More depth for Tacoma, I would guess. He does have a spring training invite.

  35. unkrusty on January 18th, 2012 6:06 pm

    Yeah, when I indulged in the inevitable Comparables dialogue with my cronies, and they kept invoking names like Martinez, Thomas, Cabrera and Piazza, I kept mentioning far more likely names like Konerko, Karros, LaRoche and Billy Butler.

    It’s a numbers game, and for every time you luck into drafting a Pujols or trading for a Bautista, there is the much more likely outcome you acquire a good or very good player.

    And that ain’t necessarily a bad thing. I hope the Mariners dominant constituency understands this well and judges accordingly.

  36. stevemotivateir on January 18th, 2012 6:17 pm

    The risks of this trade seem fairly equal for both the Mariners and Yankees. I wont pass judgement on this move until we see how they both perform this season (and beyond). And then I’ll reserve the right to change my opinion based on Campos’ performance when (if) his time comes:)

    I don’t know if anyone else has been checkin’ out feedback from Yankee blogs, but from what I’ve seen, their fans seem really pissed with this trade. So I find a little bonus value in that!

  37. SonOfZavaras on January 18th, 2012 6:48 pm

    Whatever the odds are of Montero reaching his absolute ceiling, where we can start realistically invoking such lofty comparable performances as Piazza, Konerko, Ordonez et al…

    …I have to believe the odds of him being better with a bat than what we’ve had recently are that much higher.

    And that in itself would be a welcome sight.

  38. greentunic on January 18th, 2012 6:53 pm

    IF we did sign Fielder, what happens then to our roster? My hypothesis…

    -Smoak and Fielder are our DH/1B. I’d prefer Smoak at 1B from a baseball standpoint, but there would be pressure to put Fielder at 1B due to his name and contract.

    -Montero at C. No way arround it at this point.

    -Carp traded/Wells in LF (if healthy). I wouldn’t mind seeing Carp in LF but we can’t commit to putting him there long term at this point. We just don’t know how real his decent offensive performance was last year.

    Now may be the time Carp’s value is at his highest. Might be able to get a C+ prospect out of him.

    There is also the chance Smoak is traded but that seems highly unlikely for two reasons.

    1. His value is at its lowest point in three or more years.

    2. With the Pineda trade, we’re given more evidence on how JZ completely wants to put “his guys” on the field. We know Montero is his guy because he’s tried more than once to get him. Pineda wasn’t his guy (a rare nugget from Bavasi). Smoak is JZ’s guy because he was the coveted prize of the Lee trade.

    Technically Carp is JZ’s guy too, but he was a small piece of a monster 12 player trade. I doubt Carp was a deal breaker at the time.

  39. amac360 on January 18th, 2012 7:31 pm

    How about a buy low trade on David Wright? At first I thought it was a terrible idea, but what if we only had to give up Carp, Seager/Liddi, Robinson and League or something along those lines? Guys that would have some value, but not so much with us. I honestly have no idea if the Mets would be at all interested in that but they wouldn’t have to pay the 18 million Wright is owed so maybe they would budge.

  40. stevemotivateir on January 18th, 2012 7:53 pm

    ^So we pay Figgins 18 million, plus Wright another 18 million, and we ONLY have to give up Carp, Seager/Liddi, Robinson, and League? No thanks! I like Wright, but I’m more interested in Seager (and Carp) getting more playing time. I doubt the Mets move Wright anyway, unless they eat some of that dough.

  41. lalo on January 18th, 2012 8:02 pm

    Hope Fielder signs with the M´s or the Nat´s this week, it´s boring when we can´t talk anything about the M´s without making Prince Fielder speculations, if he won´t sign here, I really hope he won´t sign with the Rangers, Pujols and Fielder in the same division would be nasty and unfair for us…

    I would really love a middle of the lineup with Ackley, Montero, Fielder and Smoak, but only Jack Z knows the reality, maybe Fielder is not even interested in playing for us, we´ll see…

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