After Jesus Montero‘s Spring Training debut behind the plate yesterday, many Yankees fans were cautiously optimistic about his defensive performance. Although he was not tested much, he did not seem as awkward back there as he has been advertised to be, and looked like he could handle the position at the Major League level. However, while most of us have watched plenty of baseball, few of us have scouting experience and therefore do not know exactly what to look for when evaluating a catcher’s defense. SG over at RLYW provided a link to a post from August, written by Kyle, which presented some sobering numbers regarding Montero’s defense:
To state the obvious, Montero does an awful job blocking balls in the dirt. His PB rate is nearly three times that of his teammates, and Scranton pitchers are charged with more WP when he’s the catcher, too. Over 130 games, Montero would be expected to give up 14 PB and 28 more WP than his teammates, which would be about 11 runs (7.5 runs below IL average rates).
Montero’s arm, however, has not been quite as poor as expected/advertised. His CS% is a bit below average, but far better than his teammates’ – runners have also run more often on his teammates, though they do run against Montero at a rate far higher than the league average. I don’t doubt that he has a poor arm, but I suspect Scranton pitchers aren’t doing a very good job with baserunners either.
I think I could live with the passed balls and stolen bases assuming Montero improves even a tiny bit, but the biggest concern I have after collecting this data is Montero’s receiving. Pitchers simply don’t throw as many strikes with him catching, and their BB/9 is 0.94 higher while their SO/9 is 0.56 lower. Scranton pitchers have an ERA over half a run worse with Montero behind the dish (and the FIP difference is 0.40 runs, or about 52 runs over 130 games). However bad Montero may be, I don’t believe he’s truly responsible for the whole difference, but the difference is far greater than I expected when I started the process.
While some of this might be explained away using sample size caveats and other explanations, the fact that the statistics conform entirely to the negative scouting reports on Jesus’ defense suggests that they are at least somewhat accurate. This paints a very poor picture of his receiving skills, and again raises the issue of Montero’s bat dragging his glove to the majors before he is ready to defend in the big leagues. Jesus can certainly improve and may yet turn into a suitable major league catcher, but we should not let one seemingly solid Spring Training performance fool us into believing that he is already adequate behind the plate.
Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images, via daylife.com