For Posada, June, Montero, loom like an ominous cloud

Difficult as it may be for everyone involved, this is a dynamic that’s going to have to come to an end one way or another sooner rather than later. It would be one thing if Posada were a little bit younger and an effective defensive catcher, but he was never really that at any point in his career, let alone now. As someone who doesn’t do anything but DH, and now doesn’t even do that against southpaws, he’s simply not providing any value to the team if he’s not hitting. In fact, he’s actually hurting the team with a -0.6 fWAR through the first 54 games of the season.

Unfortunately, June has historically been Posada’s worst month at the plate. With a .256/.380/.431 line in the month for his career it’s not as though Posada has been downright awful by any means, but it’s easily the worst month for him in terms of batting average and slugging percentage, the two areas of his triple-slash with which he’s struggling so much this year. If you thought things got testy in the middle of last month, you might want to prepare to brace yourselves in a few weeks, because things could get even uglier. And if they do, I suspect everyone won’t be apologizing and chalking it up to emotions the next day.

Also hanging over Posada’s head is the fact that Super Two season is almost upon us, and for the Yankees that means plenty of eyes will be trained on Jesus Montero, especially if Posada continues to struggle at the plate. Montero has had an up and down season at AAA this year and is currently hitting just .302/.337/.429, but he’s still the uber-prospect with the universally praised bat who hit .289/.353/517 as a 20 year old after struggling early then as well. And most people who have watched him, and Keith Law, seem to think Montero’s struggles are more a result of him pressing at the plate after losing out on a big league spot in the Spring, rather than a regression in ability.

Calling Montero up isn’t a slam-dunk move of course, and I’m not even confident the Yankees are going to do that in 2011. For one thing, expecting him to come up and hit like an all-star is unrealistic. He’s still 21 years old and will have to adjust to major league pitching, so there will almost certainly be growing pains. On the other hand, that’s going to be true no matter when he comes up, and oddly, Posada’s struggles might actually mitigate this as a problem, because it’s entirely within the realm of possibility that a struggling Montero would still hit better than Posada has so far.

The other concern would be the affect on his defense behind the plate, and on that point I’m mostly at a loss at this point. The Yankees still seem intent on making him a catcher, and there are some people who are still optimistic about that, but for all of them there’s someone else who’s equally pessimistic about it. What’s more, the sides don’t really seem to be changing much. The bulls still say that he could potentially be an adequate catcher at some point, while the bears say he’s terrible, slow, clumsy behind the plate, etc. Meanwhile, everyone agrees that he can hit.

I don’t watch Montero on a regular basis, so I won’t deign to pass judgment on his defense, but I do think the Yankees should remember that it’s his potential offensive ability that makes Montero an elite prospect, not his status as a catcher. Yes, the ability to catch adds some marginal value to him, but it’s not like anyone thinks he’s going to be a good catcher. Even the most bullish observer of his defense agrees that, at most, Montero will be an adequate catcher at the big league level, which, to me, doesn’t justify holding his bat back to work on.

If Posada continues to struggle in the next few weeks and Montero doesn’t flat-line in Scranton, it’ll be time to pass the torch, even if it means Montero has to be primarily work as a DH. The Yankees need to worry the most about Montero’s development as a hitter, because if he hits like everyone thinks he can he’ll be valuable no matter where he plays, especially since he’ll basically be making the league minimum over his first 3+ years in the majors. And considering the paltry production the Yankees have gotten out of the DH spot this season, there’s no reason this can’t be a win-win move in the short term and the long term.

17 thoughts on “For Posada, June, Montero, loom like an ominous cloud

  1. Brian Paul

    Every* prospect

  2. Matt

    Good article. Great take. Posada has been given a great chance this year–the sample size is no longer small. I think he deserves a couple more weeks, but if he doesn't absolutely crush the ball over those two weeks, it's time for the Jesus. I'd rather be extremely patient with a 21-year old who is developing than a veteran who is probably washed up and not only won't admit it but is demanding special treatment in the lineup.

    Jorge has been a once in a generation type of Catcher. I've got great memories of him and I love him for what he's done for the Yanks. I hope he gets one last chance and goes on an absolute tear. If he doesn't, though . . . Leaving is part of the legacy, too.

  3. BrienJackson

    I don't know that I meant to say *expectations* will be lower. I think there will definitely be people calling Montero an overrated bust if he doesn't hit like Tex right away. But on the other hand, saying "he's still hitting better than Posada was" is sort of a buffer-point defense for him for the rest of this year.

  4. JayJay

    As others have pointed out, the Yankees are probably waiting for Jeter to get No. 3,000 before rocking the boat regarding either Jeter or Posada. So this could be pretty soon

  5. David

    Honestly, I'd also like Posada to turn it around. "Fiery Latin" personality, aside at times, was what made him hella-fun to watch (2003 ALCS, I'm looking at you) and his contributions can really be extracted from what Jeter, Pettitte and Mo also contributed. I think without any one of them, we may not have seen the success we had. And I'd love for him to go out on top.

    OTOH, the sheet amount of Jesus-jokes and possible-apoplexy from too-far-right religious people makes me absolutely giddy with anticipation, on top of actually getting to see him crush the ball.

  6. jay_robertson

    I should remember – it wasn't THAT long ago – wasn't Bernie hitting better than Jorge when he got his walking papers? If I remember correctly, Williams didn't even want Jorge or Jeter money to come back – and while I know Bernie's last year wasn't that good, shoot – he got a hit every week or so at least.

    Shoot – give BERNIE a mil to put his guitar down and DH the last few months. I bet he'd jump at it – and that way we could preserve our "core" of antiquated players. While possibly improving the team BA.

  7. not Montero's dad

    1) Struggling Montero >>> Posada
    2) 2011 Yankees offense can carry a struggling Montero (if he struggles), the way it has been carrying a nonexistent Posada. It's the perfect cover, and as low pressure as it will get. (Imagine Montero coming up in 2012, when Jeter is even worse, Granderson and Matrin regress a little to the mean, A-Rod and Tex continue their slow decline…ther pressure for Montero, or anyone, to produce will be even greater.
    3) If Montero doesn't come up in 2011, then we may not see him until June 2012, to play the Super 2 game again (provided that this is not taked out of the CBA). That;'s just silly. Bring him up now.

  8. While we can all agree that it's high unlikely that Jesus will come up and hit like Roy Hobbs, I think the fact that it's also very likely that he won't come up and be WORSE than Jorge is what makes this a no-brainer from every way you look at the situation.

    Jesus producing at a better rate than Jorge is acceptable to all of us who understand the game and the "at least he's better than Jorge" point should help to silence the potential squawking from anybody who wants to raise a stink should Jesus come up and not light the world on fire.

    There's no pressure on Jesus to come up and be the next Miguel Cabrera immediately because even at replacement level, he's an upgrade over what the Yankees have at DH in Posada and the overall lineup improves as a result. And if they find time to work him in at catcher, that's icing on the cake. Jesus gets to come up and be put into a low-leverage situation because of the low bar Jorge has set for him and get valuable ABs and experience to build on for 2012. How have the Yankees not made this move yet???

    • David

      Super-2 is why not yet, at the very least. As the website says: IATMS.

  9. DPR

    Despite Montero's rotting corpse on my fantasy baseball bench (in a non related note, along with Moustakas' disintegrating flesh), I just have a gut feeling that Jorge will bounce back in some way. He is too proud to have his career end this way. Even though my head is saying otherwise, my heart tells me that if, only IF Jorge still has somewhat of a regular spot in the lineup past the all star break, he will be hitting after the break.

    • not Montero's dad

      Jorge may be too proud to have his career end this way, but Jorge's pride can't drive the ball to the gaps or over the wall.

      • DPR

        But his pride could be a driving force to help him regain his stroke, even for a little while. The determination to prove people wrong is pretty sturdy after all.

  10. Elwood Larf

    Montero should be used the way Detroit uses victor Martinez, primarily at DH with occasional time in relief at 1B and catcher–about 1 game a week at each position.

    • Allen

      If he comes up as a DH, he won't be able to catch just 1 day a week. He just won't have the skills or comfort behind the plate, ever. The only way he can turn into a DH/catcher/1B is if he catches regularly for the early part of his career in the majors.

  11. I hate that this is even a conversation, though it's not wrong to have the conversation. I'm such a Posada fan that this decline just saddens me.

    My guys, the guys I really came of age with, are winding up their careers. I'm getting old. Sucks.

    • Bill

      I hear ya, Jason. I'm going to be very depressed when the last Ranger from the 1994 Stanley Cup team retires from the game. Its a sign that I'm getting old(er)…

  12. Tom

    I think Jeter's 3000 chase is what is really looming for Posada…. Posada's staying in the lineup during Jeter's chase. And if Jeter is within reach Posada may even play against lefty pitchers.

    I think the Yankees would be worried about the mess they would create with Jeter if they made a move with Posada while his 3000 hit chase kicks into high gear (not to mention it takes some of the press away from his chase). While it doesn't make baseball sense, they need to handle it tactfully, because they are going to have similar issues with Jeter over the next few years (where does he bat in the order, how much does he play in the field, do they start sitting him more against righties, etc)

    The rubber hits the road after Jeter gets to 3000 . That's when I think we'll know if the Yankees are riding out Posada's final year or if they're throwing in the towel on Posada.

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