It was supposed to be a break-in year for Seattle Mariners top prospect Jesus Montero.
That is, until starting catcher Miguel Olivo strained his groin, landing him on the DL. Olivo's going to be out for a while.
As one door closes, another opens, and the 22-year-old Montero finds himself suddenly thrust into that starting position.
For the Mariners, they've already won the blockbuster deal with the New York Yankees. Michael Pineda's out for the season, while Montero is second on the team in batting average and starting pitcher Hector Noesi has had his moments.
It couldn't matter less to the young slugger, who has been pedigreed for greatness in the Majors since he was a 16-year-old kid brought in from Venezuela. This is his first significant opportunity to step in and make a name for himself as one of those greats.
The Mariners would love to see Montero become the everyday catcher, especially with Olivo providing little more than a league-average option at the position. The concerns with overuse and his work-in-progress defense have the Mariners wary of having him catch too often.
Forget about a John Jaso-Montero platoon while we're on the subject. To fully maximize the value of this temporary and somewhat unfortunate vacancy, Montero is going to need to play like an everyday catcher.
That means not babying him along, but having him catch the entire pitching staff. There quite literally will be bumps and bruises along the way, but to young rookies trying to grasp the game, they're battle scars.
Unsurprisingly, Montero does better at the plate when he's behind the plate. It's no coincidence that when he's starting at catcher, he's getting into the flow of the game. He's hitting .542 on games in that role, while it's just a measly .206 at DH.
What all this tells us is that fate has handed the Mariners a golden opportunity to find out what Montero can do in a less restrained capacity.
It's time for the rising talent to lose the training gloves and for Mariners fans to get excited about something in an otherwise meaningless season. The future of the franchise rides on him.
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