MESA, AZ - MARCH 8: Jesus Montero #63 of the Seattle Mariners bats during the game against the Chicago Cubs at HoHoKam Stadium on March 8, 2012 in Mesa, Arizona. (Photo by Rob Tringali/Getty Images)
Prospect of the Day: Jesus Montero, DH-C, Seattle Mariners
Jesus Montero, DH-C, Seattle Mariners
One of the biggest trades this past winter saw the Seattle Mariners ship right-hander Michael Pineda and pitching prospect Jose Campos to the New York Yankees, in exchange for heralded young slugger Jesus Montero. This had the look of a mutually-beneficial transaction: the Mariners were looking to boost their hitting attack, while Yankees needed a starter but didn't have obvious room for Montero. Pineda is on the shelf now with shoulder problems, while the Mariners are looking at Montero as a mainstay of the lineup. Can Montero live up to his press clippings?
The Yankees signed Montero out of Venezuela in 2006, for $2,000,000. He lived up to the glowing scouting reports quickly, reaching Double-A in 2009 (and dominating), then putting in solid Triple-A campaigns in '10 (.289/.353/.517) and '11 (.288/.348/.467). Note that he's been young for his levels and is still just 22 years old. He was extremely effective during a major league trial late last year, hitting .328/.406/.590 in 18 games for the Yankees.
Montero had a good spring training this year, hitting .325/.378/.550 in 12 games, with four walks and eight strikeouts in 40 at-bats for Seattle. Scouts praise his bat speed, and expect him to hit for both average and power. Although he doesn't draw a huge number of walks, he has feel for the strike zone and makes contact more readily than many young sluggers, showing power to all fields.
The only real question for Montero is defense. The Mariners are using him as a DH to begin the season, although club officials indicate that he'll see at least some time behind the plate. He has a decent throwing arm and has worked hard to improve his mobility, however he threw out just 20% of runners in Triple-A last year. While his catching skills are better than they used to be, most observers and scouts say he'll never be more than mediocre with the glove.
If Montero hits as expected, that won't matter: the Mariners will be more than happy with him as their DH. He has nothing left to prove against minor league pitching, so expect him to get plenty of slack in Seattle even if he has a slow start.