Baseball America’s Ben Badler recently penned a brief writeup on some Yankees minor leaguers after watching a spring MiLB game. His words about Jesus Montero’s defense and Kelvin DeLeon’s plate discipline were far from encouraging:
Jesus Montero doesn’t have too many doubters about his abilities at the plate. On Friday Montero showed excellent bat speed that allows him to let balls travel deep into the hitting zone, power to all fields and a knack for putting the barrel to the ball.
While there aren’t too many 19-year-olds who can hit like Montero, the industry consensus is that the young Yankees’ prospect will likely have to move off of catcher down the road. Yesterday Montero showed all the reasons why scouts question Montero’s ability to stick at catcher. His arm strength is just OK, and he’s not especially good at throwing out base stealers.
More problematic was his receiving, as Montero committed three passed balls in one inning. Tall catchers—Montero is 6-foot-4, 225 pounds—can provide a big target, but they sometimes have trouble getting down low enough to block balls in the dirt, which Montero showed on Friday. He’s not particularly agile, which allowed a ball in the dirt just to his right to get by him. The third passed ball was an inside pitch to a righthanded batter that just bounced off his glove…..
It’s easy to see why De Leon commanded a $1.1 million signing bonus because his skill set is ideal for a workout. He takes a good BP, he crushes a fastball with plus power to all fields, his arm strength is plus and he’s a good athlete. De Leon also struck out in more than one quarter of his plate appearances last year in the Rookie-level Dominican Summer League—74 strikeouts in 281 PAs—and he showed why on Friday by looking completely lost against breaking balls.
While I hate to read stuff like this, Badler is just echoing comments that have been made by a multitude of scouts. Montero is unlikely to stick at catcher, and DeLeon is primed to be Wily Mo Pena unless he can learn to deal with the breaking ball. The Yankees really need Kelvin to improve, as he would supplement the team in a department where they are really weak: power hitting outfielders. In regard to Montero, the ideal situation would be for him to improve as a catcher. However, it would not be the worst thing in the world if he ended up in LF or at 1B, as he has the bat to play anywhere. Furthermore, Austin Romine provides the Yankees with an alternative option for the catcher of the future.