Prospect Retro: Miguel Montero
Miguel Montero was signed by the Diamondbacks as a free agent out of Venezuela in 2001. He made his North American debut in 2002, hitting .263/.343/.401 in 50 games for Missoula in the Pioneer League. I didn't write about many short-season players back then, but would have rated Montero as a Grade C prospect based on his early performance. He returned to Missoula in 2003 and put up similar but slightly improved numbers :.301/.352/.434. His defense was rated as OK but not great, and again I would have given him a Grade C.
Montero reached full season ball in 2004, hitting .263/.330/.409 for South Bend in the Midwest League. This wasn't bad at all for a 21 year old catcher, but his defense drew just mixed reviews and he wasn't showing up on prospect lists, regarded as more or less an organization player with a slight chance to get beyond that, still a Grade C type.
Things changed in 2005. He got off to a terrific start at Lancaster in the California League, hitting .349/.403/.625 with 24 homers in just 85 games. However...it was Lancaster in the California League, a great hitting park in a great hitting league, and not everyone believed this breakout was real. Doubts rebounded after he hit just .250/.311/.352 in 30 games following a promotion to Double-A Tennessee. His glove was rated as solid average by scouts, but it was the bat that would make or break his chances as a regular. I gave him a Grade C+ in the 2006 book, wring that he was young enough for the improvement to be real, but that "I tend to be leery of guys who have big bursts like that in hitter's parks."
Montero made some adjustments and hit a more impressive .270/.362/.438 in 81 games for Tennessee in 2006, showing greatly improved plate discipline. Promoted to Triple-A Tucson, he hit .321/.396/.515 in 36 games, then received a six game trial in the majors. I really liked the fact that he improved his strike zone judgment in his second trial in Double-A, and gave him a Grade B+ in the 2007 book.
Montero spent all of 2007 with Arizona, but hit just .224/.292/.397 in 84 games. His glovework was okay but not great, and he platooned with Chris Snyder much of the season. He improved with the bat in 2008 (.255/.330/.435) in 70 games, and has taken another step forward this year, hitting .295/.361/.485 in 72 games so far. He has been on a tear in July, hitting .378/.410/.689 this month. In 641 at-bats, Montero is a career .259/.327/.437 hitter with 24 homers and 40 doubles.
Montero turned 26 earlier this month. BaseballCube has him at age 27 (born 1982) but all other sources say age 26 (born 1983) Although he's not a spectacular player, he has developed steadily on offense. My guess is that he'll have a very strong season in 2010, corresponding with typical age 27 peak. How you rate his defense depends on what data you're looking at. He's below average at throwing out runners, but by other measures he's OK with the glove. Basically if he hits he can play, and I think he'll hit very well over the next year or two. I don't know if I buy the idea that he'll age particularly well, though.
Pre-season PECOTA comps: Joe Garagiola (bad comp, Montero is better), Ed Herrmann (can sort of see that), Ron Hodges (bad comp, Montero is better), Eddie Taubensee (I can see that), Joe Ginsberg, Duke Sims (sure), Rick Wilkins, Jerry Willard, Mike Sweeney (???), and Dave Duncan. Mike Macfarlane shows up at number 13. PECOTA looks confused on a few of them, but most of these guys hung around for awhile and were useful players.
Basically, I think Montero will have a very good year in 2010, hit something like .295/.370/.500, then fall back to earth in 2011-2012 and hang around for awhile as a left-handed hitting catcher with some pop and an okay glove.