San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy has said for a while now that he would try to get catcher Johnny Monell some quality action at Yankee Stadium, since the 27-year-old catcher was born and raised in the Bronx. On Tuesday, the San Francisco Chronicle‘s Henry Schulman seemed to confirm this, writing “Native New Yorkers Johnny Monell and Juan Perez surely will get a start or two in their hometown.” While this seems to be a nice ceremonial move at face value, how much could it end up playing into Monell’s status for next season?
Monell is a seven-year veteran of the Giants’ minor-league system, and he would seem to be a candidate to be outrighted to the minors following the season if the Giants feel that they need to open a spot on their 40-man roster. The Giants will want to add some young players to the roster to protect them from the Rule 5 Draft, and the only 40-man spot that seems sure to be vacated is the one currently occupied by Barry Zito, though several more could be opened depending on whether Hunter Pence, Tim Lincecum, and Javier Lopez decide to sign elsewhere. Since Monell already got through the Rule 5 Draft last season, the Giants may see him as someone they feel comfortable exposing to waivers.
That being said, if Monell can deliver a solid performance with whatever time he is given over the remainder of the season, maybe the Giants will feel more compelled to keep him on the 40-man throughout the offseason. He seems to clearly be the Giants’ third-best catching option at the moment and should be the understudy to Hector Sanchez next year. The Giants still like former second-rounder Andrew Susac, but most of the 23-year-old’s offensive numbers dropped steadily in each month he played with the AA Richmond Flying Squirrels and an injury ended his season on July 31. He has a chance to redeem himself in the Arizona Fall League, but as of now there’s a chance that he will at least start the season next year in Richmond, while Monell holds down the Triple-A job.
Monell’s playing time has been scarce thus far, but he has done some good things. He’s 1-for-4 at the plate, having gotten his first major league hit on September 14 in Los Angeles. That night was also his big-league defensive debut (and only action behind the plate to this point), and he looked comfortable as a backstop. Monell has big-league power potential and is a rarity as a lefthanded-hitting catcher, so if he can show off some skills both offensively and defensively, maybe he will be able to position himself for a future full-time big-league career. One thing’s for sure: Monell needs to impress in his hometown stadium if he wants to get off on the right foot.