Could Jesus Montero be a Sleeper Contributor for the Seattle Mariners in 2015?
Monday, March 09, 2015
Montero reported to camp in late February having lost 40 pounds. The slimmed down former top prospect in the New York Yankees organization, whom the Mariners acquired in 2012 in a trade of starting pitcher Michael Pineda, is taking reps at 1B and looking to contribute with what was once seen as a plus bat.
In his only full season with the Mariners in 2012, Montero played in 135 games and hit .260/.298/.386 with 15 HR and 62 RBI. Not bad production for a rookie catcher. Most had expected a little more pop and he clearly needed to take more walks (5.2% BB%), but he looked like a player who could contribute at the big league level.
Then in 2013, Montero played in just 29 games with the major league club, hitting .209/.264/.327 and struck out 19.1% of the time. The season ended for Montero with a suspension for PED use.
In 2014, Montero showed up for camp 40 pounds overweight and spent the season in AAA. He played only 6 games in the big leagues after roster expansion.
But, it’s important to remember that he’s just recently turned 25. So while he’s not a young prospect anymore, he’s not old by any means. And historically, he’s crushed AAA pitching but been unable to translate his power at the big league level. If he’s rededicated himself to baseball, then it might not be too late for him to make some adjustments at the plate and be an additional productive right handed bat for the Mariners in 2015.
In 2010, at AAA for the Yankees, Montero played 123 games, hit .289/.353/.517 with 21 HR, 66 R, and 75 RBI, and he took walks at a 9.1% pace.
He had a slight regression in power in 2011, playing 109 games at AAA for the Yankees, and hitting .288/.348/.467 with 18 HR. But his walk rate dropped to 7.8% and his K% crept up from 18.1% to 21.2%.
The major differences between Montero in the minor leagues and Montero in the major leagues has been reflected primarily in BB% and K%, which in turn affects OBP, and slugging. He needs to be more patient, take more walks, cut down on his K rate (although everybody seems to strike out at a 20% clips these days) and make solid contact.
If he can make the adjustments, there should be opportunities. The oft injured Logan Morrison, the Mariners presumed 1B, has only played more than 100 games in a season once – 123 in 2011 with the Miami Marlins. And, Nelson Cruz has had six DL stints in his career.
Jesus Montero is one of the “no expectations” players in spring training for Mariners fans to watch and to not be surprised if he, rather than some of the offseason acquisitions, plays a major role in the team’s success in 2015.