Jesus Montero is one of the most valuable players in the Seattle Mariners organization, but he has a ways to go and grow before he's recognized as one of the most valuable players in the entire league.
The M's paid a lot to get him, giving up Michael Pineda, the flamethrowing Dominican, and Jose Campos, a younger pitcher with high potential, but they also received right-handed starting pitcher Hector Noesi.
At this point, the Mariners appear to be the big winners, with Campos still in the minors, Pineda on the disabled list and Noesi and Montero combining on April 14th for a nice Seattle win (Noesi went eight innings, allowing no runs on five hits, and Montero batted in three of the team's four runs.)
While Montero has looked pretty nice at the plate thus far, he hasn't seen a lot of time behind the plate, which is where he can impact his full, intended effect.
So, what's it going to take for him to become the next MLB superstar? Here are five things he needs to work on if he wants to reach stardom.
One thing we can thank Miguel Olivo for is his defensive finesse as a catcher. Just kidding.
Playing backstop is something Jesus Montero is still working on but that he has to develop if he wants to at least be one of the top catchers in the game. The best way for a catcher to accrue wide recognition is to combine defense and offense (Johnny Bench.)
The best way for Montero to work on this is game play, which he isn't currently getting a lot of as catcher. It seems like manager Eric Wedge's strategy is to start Montero off slow and ease him into a regular regimen.
It's an unusual strategy compared to other current starting catchers who play the majority of their first full seasons at catcher, but Wedge did the same thing with Victor Martinez back from 2002-2004, and that seems to have worked out OK.
In any case, this skill will develop with time since Montero is set up to be the team's starting catcher in the near future, but it's a necessary one.
A catcher with the ability to throw runners out is significantly more valuable than a catcher who essentially invites baserunners to steal on him.
For at least the next couple of seasons, the Mariners will likely be locked into way too many one-run ball games as a result of great pitching and developing hitting. That means a lot of games will be decided by small ball, and allowing a runner to advance from first to second can be the deciding factor in a game.
Montero is 0-for-2 this year in catching runners stealing, and was 1-for-4 last year.
Again, the best way for him to improve that percentage is practice, and real-game scenarios are the best way to practice.
If Montero earns a reputation as the catcher who, say, Michael Bourn, is scared to steal off, he'll be on the right track to superstardom.
So far this year, Montero has struck out six times and drawn no walks. He does have a respectable .286 batting average, but the best hitters in the game walk more often than they strike out.
Part of the reason they walk more is because pitchers are less inclined to give great hitters good pitches; however, the more directly responsible reason is a keen batter's eye.
Major league pitchers are a big step up from Double-A pitchers, not necessarily because of better pitches (Seattle has Danny Hultzen, James Paxton, Andrew Carraway and Taijuan Walker in the minors), but because of their ability to place pitches.
For Montero to become one of the best hitters in baseball, he needs to catch on to major league pitchers, which will come with experience. It'll also be useful to become familiar with individual pitchers who he faces often, like starters from other teams in the AL West.
Presence entails a few things. For these purposes, I'll split it into two parts plate presence and one part personal presence.
For part one of plate presence, we don't want Montero swinging for the fences on every good pitch, even though we've seen how hard he can hit the ball. He likely won't displace Justin Smoak as the clean-up hitter, so fans don't want him hitting like one.
The fact that eventually Montero will move to a more central spot in the batting order is the other part of plate presence. The hitters around him will be even better, so people will say he's better ''protected,'' and pitchers will be more intimidated, which is definitely part of becoming a star hitter.
The personal presence is how Montero conducts himself in public appearances like interviews, press conferences, etc. Alex Rodriguez is an example of what we don't want to see—think more along the lines of Derek Jeter.
As is true with any new player, Jesus Montero came to Seattle as an outsider. Heading into spring training, he didn't know anyone of his coaches, teammates or even fellow catchers.
The ubiquity of friendliness in the Mariners organization has inevitably made it an easy transfer from the New York Yankees to the Mariners, though, and veteran catcher Miguel Olivo has likely been an invaluable mentor.
The most important relationships Montero will develop on the team, however, are the ones with the pitching staff.
The catcher feeds the pitcher signs and locations and often takes on the role of calming the pitcher down in a high pressure situation. In order for Montero to best fulfill those duties, he needs to be aware of his pitchers' tendencies and idiosyncrasies.
Montero has the prerequisite raw talent to achieve these things, he just needs to put in the work and effort. With the help of the Mariners' excellent coaching staff, he'll be winning MVP votes in no time.