Seattle Mariners catcher Jesus Montero has never had his hitting ability doubted. However, his fielding and defensive ability as a catcher have been a concern since he came up in the New York Yankees‘ system. As far as the 2013 season is concerned, Montero will be a catcher. Veteran signees Kelly Shoppach and Ronny Paulino will likely compete for the role as the backup.
Montero caught 56 games in his first season with the Mariners after he was swapped for RHP Michael Pineda before last season, splitting time with veteran catchers Miguel Olivo and John Jaso, both no longer with the team.
Manager Eric Wedge is confident that Montero will be able to handle the workload of being a regular catcher, saying, “I don’t have any doubt he can handle it from a talent perspective, that he can handle the role fundamentally.” Wedge has always been known for being confident in his player’s abilities, but is he ignoring the fact that Montero is a below average catcher?
Mark Anderson of Baseball Prospect Nation offers this evaluation of Montero behind the plate:
“Poor defender in every respect. Doesn’t receive well, boxes many pitches and is prone to passed balls, particularly on breaking balls in the dirt. Has a slow transfer and release on throws and his footwork is messy in every regard. Game still moves very quickly for him. Will never be better than below-average behind the plate and really isn’t a viable defensive catcher for more than 30-40 games a year.”
Although Montero’s big frame (6’3” 235 lbs) has been a hindrance to his development as a catcher, it has allowed him to develop a good amount of power, finishing third among AL rookies in Home Runs, behind only Mike Trout and Yoenis Cespedes. Montero also finished third among rookies in batting average at .260, behind the same two.
Plate discipline is the only weakness that Montero has shown offensively, swinging at 39% of pitches outside of the strike zone, compared to the league average of 30%. Also, Montero has struggled with taking walks, about once every 20 at-bats. That rate put him in the bottom 15, among qualified AL hitters.
I think a position change would greatly benefit both Montero and the Mariners organization. I would much rather have Montero’s bat in lineup for 150-160 games, instead of him risking injury while trying to catch 120 games in a season.