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Fantasy Baseball 2011: Jesus Montero to Backup Russell Martin in 2011?

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TAMPA FL - FEBRUARY 21: Jesus Montero #83 of the New York Yankees works out during the second day of full teams workouts at Spring Training on February 21 2011 at the George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa Florida.  (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)
TAMPA FL - FEBRUARY 21: Jesus Montero #83 of the New York Yankees works out during the second day of full teams workouts at Spring Training on February 21 2011 at the George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa Florida. (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)
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I wrote about Yankee catching prospect Jesus Montero awhile back in my Top Fantasy Catching Prospects for 2011 post, as well as a post where I questioned whether Montero wouid stay at catcher. Well, it appears that the Yankees may have him backup Russell Martin in 2011.

Yankees catching prospect Jesus Montero will be getting a long look this spring and he could break camp with the team this year. That is what Joe Girardi is hinting at in this article written by Yes Network's Jack Curry:

As Manager Joe Girardi discussed Montero’s future on Wednesday, he offered indications that Montero will be Russell Martin’s backup. Girardi wants to study Montero’s catching abilities across full Spring Training games to see if Montero maintains defensive consistency, but he sounded enthused, not reluctant, about having Montero in the big leagues.

More after the jump:

I think Montero could actually open the season as the Yankees starting catcher, as Martin is recovering from hip surgery last season and offseason knee surgery, and it's possible he could start the season on the DL.

I was listening to Inside Pitch with Casey Stern and Jim Bowden on XM175 last night, and they interviewed Dodgers GM Ned Colletti. When asked about Martin, Colletti said Martin injured the knee after they had non-tendered him, or at least he did not know the details of the injury.

Here is more from Curry on Montero:

Girardi said Montero could benefit playing twice a week with the Yankees because he and Tony Pena, a former Gold Glove catcher, could tutor Montero every day.

The more Girardi discussed Montero, the more he gave subtle signs that he liked the notion of having Montero on the team. The 21-year old is a hitting savant and a catching apprentice, but Girardi sounded amenable to on-the-job training. Girardi said "there could be enough at-bats," for Montero in New York, which means that soon, very soon, Montero might be changing from Minor Leaguer to Major Leaguer.

Makes sense, and as Keith Law mentioned in his chat on Thursday, that the best defensive coaches are with the major league team, and not in the minors. So, there is a chance Montero could actually improve his defensive shortcomings working with Tony Pena and manager Joe Girardi on a daily basis.

It makes sense for the Yankees to start Montero off slow, let him get his feet wet, then if he proves his bat is too valuable to keep out of the lineup, and his catching is passable, he could earn himself the starting catchers job. I could see a scenario where he catches 5 days a week by mid-season, with Martin or Francisco Cervelli as late inning replacements.

Even still, Montero's bat could be enticing enough to push Martin to the bench. Martin hasn't hit higher than .250 since 2008, and his power has dropped since 2007. Here are his SLG% over the last 4 years-.469 in 2007, .396 in 2008, .329 in 2009 and .332 in 2010. And his ISO has gone from .176 in 2007 to .085 in 2010. He's gone from being an All-Star catcher who turned down an opportunity to a long-term deal to being non-tendered in 2+ seasons. And you don't have to look past the three straight seasons from 2007-2009 where he played 145, 149 and 137 games behind the plate.

If Montero does break camp with the Yankees, I wouldn't bump him into the Top 10 AL-only catchers if he only plays 2 days a week, but he will be a top 5 catcher if he plays everyday.