Jesus Montero was signed by the Yankees out of Venezuela in 2006, earning a robust $1.6 million bonus. There was some controversy about this: Montero's power was evident, but it quickly became clear he was extremely raw defensively. He had a strong arm, but doubts about all other aspects of his defense seemed to indicate he would face a move to first base or even DH, thus increasing the pressure to hit and justify the bonus.
He made his pro debut in 2007, hitting .280/.366/.421 in the Gulf Coast League, showing decent plate discipline and raw power potential. I gave him a Grade C+ in the book this year...remember that's a good grade for a rookie ball guy...and noting his power potential but pointing out the defensive issues and some concern about what his batting average and OBP might look like.
Batting average and power haven't been problems in 2008: he's hitting .309/.348/.453 for Charleston in the Sally League. Plate discipline is an issue: he's drawn just 14 walks against 44 strikeouts in 278 at-bats. The good news is that while the walk rate is low, the strikeout rate is also low for a young guy with power. Scouts like his swing, and even marginal improvements in his strike zone judgment will go a long way towards helping him maintain his hitting at higher levels. He is still just 18, and hitting like this in a full-season league is an excellent marker at that age.
Montero's defense is still a work in progress and he has spent a lot of time at DH this year. However, the numbers aren't bad: he's fielding .991 right now, has an average range factor, and has caught 26 percent of runners trying to steal on him, which isn't good but isn't as bad as what he did in the lower minors. He's made progress, but will it be enough? End-of-season scouting reports and stats will help us know.
In the meantime, I'm definitely impressed with the bat and will raise him to Grade B- with higher potential...he could go higher by the end of the year.