Projecting Montero, "blended" stats & trad approach


Q.  Suppose that I do want to use minor-league K%, and BB%, and ISO rates to develop comps lists.  Where am I then?

A.  You are still a couple tacos short of a family pack, if your destination is "Correct Projection City."

Look, supposing that you did have four guys with exactly the same stats, same time, same place.  It is still the GM's prerogative to point his finger, and say "THAT one."  It is not only his prerogative, it is his job.

How about the 2003 draft, when Jack Zduriencik had his choice of infielders - Ian Stewart or Rickie Weeks?  Is that all there is to baseball scouting, "Ahhhh, these ten guys have pretty much the same stats.  Pick one, because any differences are just going to be random variation."

No, Jack Zduriencik has a track record here.  He liked Dustin Ackley; he didn't like Anthony Rendon.  He liked Steve Braun; he didn't like Chris Lubanski.

We just don't get to say, "Tim Linececum had results kind of like these 30 players; ergo, his correct projection is the midline of these 30 players."  Um, no.  A GM has got to apply some judgment and he's got to get his calls (mostly) right.  If he doesn't, out he goes and the next guy takes his chair. 


Q.  Leaving us where?

A.  Leaving us with what scouts are telling us.  That Jesus Montero can get to pitches, and can whale on pitches, that other premium hitting prospects cannot.

Jack Zduriencik has his strengths and his weaknesses.  Evaluating 19-22 year old ballplayers is a strength of his, I would think.  If he's telling us that we just got the next Albert Pujols, I would suggest that we might want to listen to him.


We can develop comps lists for Montero, can grab 20-year-old cleanup hitters from AAA and can even adjust 1-2 years for playing catcher.  At the end of the day, what scouts are seeing are those ML-caliber pitches that Montero is getting to, and what he is doing with them.

Not every article has to demonstrate, over and over, how coolly detached we are, gentlemen.  You ain't writin' politics, and you never will be.  Out of 10,000-odd regulars in the M's blog-o-sphere, all 10,000 and I mean all 10,000! are aware of the fact that Montero hasn't done nothin' yet.  You ain't breaking a news story by saying that.  We get it.

But what all 10,000 do not get, is that Jack Zduriencik is thinking Albert Pujols.  That part, only a lucky few get.  


Dr D



Great evaluation, Doc.
Which points, I think, to why we just acquired a 1B/DH and not a catcher.
If Montero is THAT leave him alone and let him hit. Runs are the name of the game.  Let him create runs.  Let Jaso catch.
Hey, you don't expect Dion Sanders to play run support, do you?
He was one of the great cover guys/blanket-your-best wideout ever.  let him do that...and return punts.  But don't ask him to fly up and take out the pulling guard.  He's too valuable in the other stuff he does.
George Gervin scored 32 a night.  Don't bitch at him about his defense.
John Riggins couldn't run to the sideline to save his life. Couldn't catch a cold if you threw it to him! Let him run the Counter-Trey and smile at every 6 yard run.
Gretzky?  He was the greatest point scoring machine in the history of sports (perhaps minus Wilt).  Would you ever complain that he wasn't body-checking enough guys?
Greatness is greatness.  If Montero has it...let it explode.  Find a meat to catch and sit back and dig the .300-.380-.500+ that you get from your 1B every year.
If Andy Etchebarren hit like Frank Robinson, would Earl let him catch?


They would have if playing CF or SS had a large negative effect on their offensive production ove a number of years.  If they caught, how liekly is it that they would remain productive at the plate WAY into their 30's. 
Johnny Bench was the best catcher ever.  BR has him as the 39th best hitter of all times.  I can almost (almost!) understand the Red's catching him forever, because his defensive value was so terrific.  He may have been the best defensive catcher ever.  Pudge and a few others were in that clas.
Piazza is listed as the 47th best hitter ever.  His defensive value was nil. He should have been a 1B.
Griffey was a GG CF.  As good as it got for a while.  ARod has been a fine SS and 3B.  They hit AND fielded.  And they played a position(s) that don't seem to cream offensive output.
Over any one year, catching may not have a demonstratable effect.  Over any 3 or 4 will.  We've invested in a terrific bat...will have him for 6 years, at least.
Take care of the investment.


It's 3 wins. If the M's had a good alternative at catcher, then sure, move Montero. But when Olivo and Jaso are the other options, and you are trying to get Prince Fielder while Smoak is still on the team, then leave him at catcher for now. If the M's develop or trade for a good, cheap backstop, they can always make the move then. But for now, Jesus behind the plate is best for the team.


A bad catcher still has enormous defensive value even if he is below average relative to other catchers. Plus, Piazza would have been a bad 1st baseman because he wasn't an athlete, just a hitter. Most catchers would perform even worse at other positions because they are specialists whose skills don't apply readily to anywhere else on the diamond. The same applies to Montero to a large degree.


He won't be doing it here.  I'm not moving him off of catcher so that he can be a better hitter at age 32.  At age 32 he'll be on the Yankees again.  Age 32 is not my problem.
Now maybe he'd be a 140 OPS+ bat at 1B and only 120 as a C.  That's possible.  But I don't think anybody's talking about having him catch 140 games a year for us.  It'll be a time share behind the plate.  If Montero catches for 80 games and DHs for 70, and Carp plays LF for 70 games and DHs for 60 and plays 1B for 20, and Smoak plays 130 games at 1B and 20 at DH...
I don't see the problem with having rotational spots in the lineup.  If Montero isn't hitting like you expect you can bump him to DH in a year or two, no harm, no foul without much more "wear" than he's already got.  We're not likely to win a WS next year anyway.
Piazza should have been a 1B?  You know who had more WAR at C than he did?  Bench, Fisk, Carter, Berra, Pudge.  That's it.  Derek Jeter shouldn't have played SS either, but he's a HOF SS and I would have kept him out there at short too.  If Montero sucks as hard behind the plate as Piazza did for as long as he did while hitting like him too?  I would be thrilled.
Piazza behind the dish allowed the Mets to have John Olerud play 1B.  I can see what a horrible idea that was.
And BTW, playing CF on astroturf did destroy Griffey, and his body broke down from the abuse and some dives in the OF.  IMO he would have been a far better player in his 30s if he'd been DHing instead of playing the OF at that time.  While you're at it, take Mickey Mantle out of CF before he embarrasses himself and beats up his knees any more.  Those 12 WAR seasons at a glove position are over-rated.
The idea of giving up on someone who might be the best-hitting catcher of his generation before he even swings a bat for us and moving him to either a blocked position or a non-glove position entirely boggles my mind.
If he can't play C then yes, let him DH and teach him to play a bit at 1B.  But for Pete's sake let him TRY to catch for a couple of years first.  If  Bryce Harper COULD catch, would you let him?  The Nats decided not to let him try.  Montero has caught almost every game of his minor-league career.
If both guys have similar hitting potential then we'll see which is the smarter tack to take, I guess.  Konerko and Delgado showed that moving off C can make for a wonderful long-term career at 1B.  Bryce looks to have an excellent future in the OF.
Piazza went the other way and will go into the HOF as a C, while Mauer is well on his way even if he doesn't catch another day in his life.
I'd try the Piazza/Mauer way first.  You can move a guy off of C, but you can't move him back.  Montero's my back stop for half-a-season of games, no matter what, for at least 2 seasons.


Now, I don't think Montero is a bad athlete, but Piazza wasn't gonna be plus with a glove anywhere.  Is it better to be a bad-gloving 1B than a bad-gloving C?  I don't think so.  There's only so bad you can be on defense (and be allowed to play a glove position).  
Like you said, positional value is huge, and Montero gives away a lot if he goes to DH or 1B.  If he has to, fine, but does he have to?
I don't see any way Montero can lose so much defensive value (assuming he can call a reasonable game, throw out 20-25% of base stealers, block the plate, etc...which he already does) that he can't dwarf that loss with offensive value.  Positional adjustment alone is enormous and then what Jesus can do with that sweet, sweet swing on top of that?  Priceless.
Maybe he's below the threshold, and simply CANNOT play the position.  I haven't seen that yet.
Show me.  That's all.  I'd be happy with 100% DH Montero, but 50% C / 50% DH Montero is worth a couple of extra wins easily, and we need to squeeze all the wins out of this roster that we can.

Taro's picture

Moving Montero off of C really caps his potential. He really would have to turn into a monster hitter to be an impact player.
Even playing Montero at C for 55-65% of the season would add around 1.5 Ws per season to his value.
I don't really see the Pujols comp (elite eye and contact), but Piazza was pretty similar in his development as a minor leaguer. He was around 19 K% in the minors and improved to a little over 16% as an MLBer. One difference is that he peaked as he moved up in the minors whereas Montero regressed a bit, but the comp works in several ways.
CT, BB are core skills. C full-time may or may not hurt offensive potential by 5-10 runs a season, but that would likely show off as BABIP, LD, power type mild adjustment. Playing a significant amount of time at DH may nullify any kind of adjustment regardless.


Craig Biggio came up as a catcher.  After a 50 game audition in 1988, he played three full seasons behind the plate, posting 114, 93, 113 OPS+ scores.  At age 26, they converted him to a 2B, where he stayed through age 36 (2002).  His .702 catcher OPS turned into an .837 OPS over the next 11 seasons at second.  They tried him as an OF for a couple of years and then sent him back to second for his final three seasons.
The point here is that an assignment to catcher TODAY does not preclude him becoming a 1B/DH (or 2B or 3B or RF) tomorrow.  However, a conversion to 1B/DH today *DOES* preclude him from becoming a catcher tomorrow. 
The fact of the matter is the Mariners, this instant, are clearly and desperately in need of improvement at catcher.  They know exactly how good their current catching talent is and it doesn't have any upside at all.  It is MUCH less clear how desperate they are for improvement at 1B or DH.  Smoak and Carp may fail.  But, they may both succeed.  The jury is still out on them.  It isn't on Olivo.
But, the only time the Ms will *EVER* get a chance to even contemplate adding Mike Piazza to the lineup for the next 10 years is right now, this instant.  Jesus Monterro could be Mike Piazza.  He could be Craig Biggio.  But, if you remove him from catching immediately, the "chance" for Mike Piazza is gone forever.  Because he is not going to spend a year away from catching and then be asked to go back. 
Dale Murphy actually came up as a catcher.  But Biff Pocoroba came up just before Murph did.  Biff wasn't a great hitter and only a so-so catcher.  But, the Braves had a hole at 1B, so for a season Murphy played 1B and backed up Biff.  By his third season, Murphy was a CF and never looked back.  Lost to history is the fact Murphy caught about 20 games a season his first 4 years in the majors.  He was moved by a combination of his bat was too good to stay on the bench, and his glove wasn't good enough to stay behind the plate.  But, part of the reason he moved was that the club needed him elsewhere.  Murphy was an athletic catcher.
Edgar started as a 3B.  Heck, PUJOLS as a rookie played 78 games in the OF, 55 at third and 42 at first, (yes, that's more than 162, since he played more than one position in a number of games). 
The simple reality of the current Ms is this.  The only possible way the Ms aren't going to stink at catcher (both offensively and defensively) is if Monterro turns out to be an adequate defensive catcher and the big bat that most everyone expects.  If he doesn't cut it behind the plate, you can move him to 1B/DH, (unless you've added Fielder and the DH/1B slots are both taken).
I have said it before and I'll say it again.  Order matters.  If the Ms are going to build a winning club they cannot pretend it doesn't.  And I believe Jack is aware that order matters.  Giving Monterro a solid shot at catching does not lock him out of moving to 1B or DH.  Moving him to 1B or DH today does lock him out of ever becoming an MLB catcher.


Why not compromise and move Montero to third? He wouldn't take quite as big a hit as moving to DH, the position isn't as physical as C, and he certainly looks like a historical 3B.
I understand he wouldn't have the greatest range out there, but he certainly has the arm for the position.


The real question with any "borderline" defensive talent is when to give up.  Most pro athletes are first and foremost athletes.  In high school they literally could play any position out there better than anyone else on their team in most cases, (taking body type limits into account).  But, when you're attempting to play at the highest level, the minimum entry requirements ARE severe.
Montero has been good enough so far that he has continued to play catcher for 346 games in the minors, including 88 (of 109) in AAA in 2011.  His defensive stats aren't great, but they aren't as miserable as B.J. Upton's error totals were when the Rays were trying to teach him to play SS.  But Montero (apparently) likes playing catcher, and if you've got a shot at the next Mike Piazza, it's worth taking.
Honestly, if Montero doesn't pan out at catcher, I could see him possibly learning to play third.  He's a good enough athlete that this isn't out of the question.  But Seattle has more near ready potential MLB 3Bs already in the pipeline, (Seager, Liddi, Mangini), than guys at any other position.  You don't want to block the guys already slated for a shot at third with a kid who has never played the spot at all.  The BIG win scenario is Montero sticks at catcher and Seager/Liddi stick at third. 
The more likely scenario, (if Montero doesn't work out as a catcher), is that in 2013 he starts learning to play RF.  But, regardless of which position you want him to learn to play, it takes *TIME* and hard work to get a sense of where he'll end up. 
Many thought Jack was crazy to move Ackley to second.  Today, it's almost forgotten how much angst that move induced.  It could have failed.  If so, however, Ackley moves back to the OF, (where he had plenty of experience), and you move on.  As it stands, instead of a 'decent' hitting OF, the club has what could turn out to be an exceptional hitting talent at second. 
Good hitting catchers are rare.  If you get one, then you gain a substantial edge over every team that doesn't have one.  But, with any rookie, you are only guessing at BOTH how good their offense and how good their defense will be in the majors.  *IF* Montero turns out to have a thousand OPS bat, then maybe you seriously consider moving him somewhere that you can get 155 games out of him instead of 120, plus DH.  If he ends up as an adequate catcher and hits .830, then you're likely better off leaving him at catcher/DH. 
But, Seager and Liddi and Trayvon aren't going to be learning the catcher slot.  And the only remaining catcher prospect in the fold at this point is Moore.  Given *ALL* the organizational variables, giving Montero at least a full season to show what he can do as a catcher/DH is absolutely the right path to take. 
I suspect that if his bat pans out as well as hoped, he actually won't become Piazza.  I suspect once Jack lands another young catcher, they'll migrate Montero to the OF.  But that might be in 3 or 4 years.  Alfonso Soriano got to play 2B for a number of years before getting transitioned to the OF.  Montero may end up at third or in the OF or as just a DH.  The real problem the Ms have at the moment is that they don't have a bead on how *ANY* of these prospects are going to turn out.  With uncertain production at almost every position, you want to maintain as much positional flexibility as possible.  That's why Montero must start his path at catcher.  His final fate will depend not only on how he does as a catcher and hitter, but how well all those other prospects do at their current positions.


Mangini was cut, and signed with the Rays.
Catricala will be given a shot to stick at 3b, and I think his minor-league track record with the bat is better than anyone in the org except Ackley, Smoak and Montero.  He's a defensive question mark, but don't write him out of the equation.


So says Vinnie himself:
SC: So do you consider yourself a left fielder now?
VC: (laughs) You know what? I just consider myself a baseball player. When Rich Poythress went down I played first. When Martinez gets a day off I play third. When I come to the park I'm prepared for whatever the challenge is that day. Like, look at the lineup card, OK, I'm in left field. Let's go to work. Get my BP in and play the game.
SC: Have you been given any indication from the Mariners what their plans for you defensively going forward are?
VC: I think they look at me as a corner outfielder. Maybe occasionally an emergency infielder if they need me. Defense was my strong point growing up in high school. It kind of got away from me in college as my game shifted to the offensive side. Not that I don't work at it--I work my tail off at it. The game just changes as you move up the levels.
SC: How would you rate yourself defensively as an outfielder?
VC: You know what, actually considering how little game time, practice time and instruction I've actually had, I'm...I'm not bad. Not trying to be cocky, but whatever I may lack in speed and experience I think make up for in arm and instincts.

I would LOVE for him to stick at 3B, but he's been really bad there.  And from the sounds of it the Ms are moving him off of the hot corner, so let's just see his bat blossom and find a place for it.  Looking forward to Spring Training and finding out where he is - and how he looks, because he's been a beast with a bat for a season and a half now, totally in the groove.


I agree that Vinnie's BABIP was extraordinarily high.  A large reason for that was that he squared up every ball that came over the plate, though, and has for that whole season and a half.  Why?
Here's what Vinnie says.
SC: This season has been an impressive one for you, particularly in the batter’s box. What would you say is the biggest difference in you as a hitter this year compared to years past?
VC: I'd say number one is just consistency. I think after the All-Star break in Clinton last year, it kinda clicked with me with what I needed to do to get in my perfect hitting position. I had a great run that month, and I have a little journal that I write down when I have any special note or idea. Just knowing what I need to do, and then the consistency that comes from that, from being comfortable and being able to trust it even after an O-fer.

He figured out why he was being so successful and has duplicated that hitting position and ability to get short to the ball and then long with power ever since.
I don't expect him to fall out of that position, so I still have high hopes that he can keep up his blistering run with the bat.  Looking forward to finding out.


It was Jack himself who said he wanted to give Vinnie a shot at 3b, much to the surprise of Drayer and the radio crew.  So we'll see.  They may have him working on things during the offseason.
I agree with you he'll probably end up as a corner OF guy, and I agree with him that he ought to be fine there.
Good find, G.

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