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Jesus Montero (3-5, 2 R, 1 SB) - The jewel of the 2006 international free agent class, Jesus Montero signed for a two million dollar bonus as a 16-year old which forced Yankees fans to wait until 2008 for him to make his full season debut. After a .326/.376/.491 showing as an 18-year old, Yankees fans have reason to be excited as Montero will enter 2009 as one of the top young hitting prospects in the game and the possibly the organizations #1 prospect.
- Excellent height with room to fill out and add muscle
- Holds hands very low in stance; bat head straight up and down (think Jose Oquendo)
- Gets taller during load; normal hitting position
- Excellent bat speed; Explodes through ball
- Compact through strike zone; Excellent at keeping hands inside the ball
- Even swing plane through strike zone; Line drive swing
- Creates top spin, not back spin on hard hit balls
- Works middle of the field well; Hard hit balls to left-center and center field
- Aware on base paths; Stolen base; Advanced to 2B on fly ball to center field
- Defensive ability is that of an average high school varsity player; Awkward behind the plate
- Threw first inning throw down into center field; Dropped elbow; Stood straight up; Did not fire out
- Strong arm when elbow stayed up; Long wind up; Did not throw from the ear
- Did not protect bare hand behind the plate when receiving pitches
- Did not back up first base on a 6-4-3 double play; Catching IQ?
- Demeanor may rub some the wrong way; Some may question his intensity
Overall, Montero was an exciting player to watch. With his advanced hitting approach and repeatable swing mechanics, I can see him competing for batting titles. At 18, he has time to learn how to add backspin, but his line drive power should allow him to hit 25-30 home runs annually even if he doesn't. After watching both Montero and Jason Heyward play, I'm convinced Montero is a better pure hitter at this point while Heyward remains a better all-around prospect because of his defensive ability.
On defense, Montero is part project, part butcher behind the plate. His current catching ability is eons behind his offense and it would take a minor miracle for his defense to catch up. With that said, I question the Yankees decision to keep him behind the plate when his offense could be ready for the show by 21, but his catching will likely not be ready until years later if ever. The sensible move would be to move Montero to first base and allow Austin Romine to cement himself as the Yankees catcher of the future.
One other point worth mentioning is Montero's overall demeanor. Old school baseball fans may not appreciate the way Montero plays the game. From dancing in his catching squat between innings, to joking with the umpires, baseball purists may mistake his and youth and confidence for arrogance. He's a guy that could be the toast of the town when playing well, but a goat when slumping. However, he does have a star quality about him which could make him a very marketable and popular player.