Jesus Demoted; Mariners Promote Jesus
For at least a little bit of time, it’s felt somewhat inevitable that the Mariners would demote Jesus Montero and call up Jesus Sucre in his place. Which is of particular note, being that you don’t have a clue who Jesus Sucre is. But today’s an off day, and according to Ryan Divish, it’s being done — Montero is leaving, and Sucre is coming. There’s no word yet that I’ve seen on who’s going to lose a spot on the 40-man roster to make room for Sucre, but the player will be not good, so that part should be inconsequential. For us. Very consequential for him.
The general idea here is simple. Jesus Montero has been a bad hitter and he has been a bad catcher. Now he will begin the process of forgetting everything he’s learned about catching, so as to better focus on the hitting part. In Tacoma, it’s expected that Montero will DH and play first base, and so while I’m sure this is a shot to his pride, having been a backstop for so long and all, demotions are humbling and all of Montero’s big-league plate appearances are humbling, too. He’s been a top prospect on account of his bat. One could consider this a move on the Mariners’ part to shine a spotlight on that, only. People have seen this coming for years. Maybe not the bit where Montero gets demoted, but definitely the bit where he doesn’t catch anymore.
- Negative message: “We want you to stop catching. Please stop catching. Do not catch anymore.”
- Positive message: “We like your bat. We just want you to focus on that because that’s your strength. We have stripped away most of the rest of your distracting responsibilities.”
There’s some evidence to show that, historically, catchers have developed at a slower pace. Intuitively, it makes sense that being a catcher might have been retarding Montero’s offensive development. Montero was never a particularly skilled catcher, so he always had to work hard at it. Being a catcher comes with a lot of things you have to remember to be able to do. All that time spent catching is time Montero hasn’t spent hitting, and development is basically right idea + reps. Without as many reps, without as much dedicated focus, development could be hindered.
But one definitely shouldn’t take it for granted that Montero will figure things out, now. This isn’t automatic, and Montero’s still the guy with Jesus Montero’s approach. It’s not that Montero’s strikeout rate is obscene, but he just doesn’t have quality at-bats, because his timing is off because his eye is off. Montero, a few times, has put on display his considerable raw power. That’s the power that long got scouts all excited. There’s a 40-homer hitter in there, smushed between Montero’s bones and organs. But it doesn’t matter if you can’t tap into that talent on a consistent basis. Carlos Peguero has hit some incredible home runs. Every so often Dan Cortes would throw a perfectly-located blazing fastball. Everyone in the upper levels has the ability to look great. The good players are the ones who look great more often.
And remember that Montero’s basically a DH now. It won’t be of any use if he turns out to be a decent hitter. To become an average player, he needs to be a good hitter. To become a good player, he needs to be a great hitter. Over 732 plate appearances, he’s got a .699 OPS and a 94 wRC+. Billy Butler has a career 121 wRC+. He’s posted nine WAR over just about 900 games. Montero, right now, doesn’t have a good eye and he doesn’t make good contact and he sure as hell doesn’t help himself running the bases, so he’s got a ways to go. Absolutely, you shouldn’t write Jesus Montero off. The Mariners aren’t. He’s been an elite-level prospect too recently. Just understand that the odds are against him, and extremely against the likelihood of his becoming a real impact force. Good players have gone through this, but the number of disappointing players who’ve gone through this is higher.
Sucre’s replacing Montero because there’s nobody else to do it. This is a very exciting day for him, and hopefully he doesn’t think too much about the fact that he isn’t being promoted so much because of him, but rather because of everyone else. Montero sucks and Mike Zunino isn’t ready, so Sucre’s the guy. As you can imagine, Sucre is a catch-and-throw sort who is capable of holding a baseball bat upright and swinging it forward. His minor-league OPS is .630. Let’s just not talk about Sucre’s skillset and simply enjoy his enjoyment. Maybe the most surprising thing I’ve heard about him is that, in spring training, other teams were asking about his services, as if he was a player of moderate interest. But the Mariners held firm! Sucre, it should be noted, didn’t attend yesterday’s players-only team meeting, because he wasn’t on the team yet, so expect him to be less temporarily driven than everyone else. Montero, meanwhile, did attend the meeting, for no point. Maybe he’ll take the advice with him to Cheney, where he’ll do whatever they said.
Jesus Montero isn’t a catcher anymore. Jesus Montero isn’t a Mariner anymore, in a technical sense. Jesus Montero has been one of the Mariners’ very worst players. His career isn’t over, and though the Mariners would’ve preferred to not have to do this, this isn’t extreme. This is a minor-league demotion for a talented player with stuff to work on. But Jesus Montero has a lot of stuff to work on. Just a little less of it than before, because all defensive responsibilities have been removed. We’ll see how Montero responds to his freedom.