Fantasy Baseball Prospect Watch: New York Yankees' Jesus Montero

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Fantasy Baseball Prospect Watch: New York Yankees' Jesus Montero
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We’ve tried to fill the offseason gap in fantasy baseball with our series of prospect reports, which started with Dustin Ackley back in early-December.

Now on the cusp of Spring Training starting (pitchers and catchers report in less than two weeks), it is time to put a wrap on the prospect series so we can get right into the swing of things prepping for our, and your, fantasy baseball drafts.

We hope you enjoyed the series. Here is the last one, discussing New York Yankees’ catcher of the future, or perhaps DH of the future, Jesus Montero.

When is the best catching prospect in baseball not a catcher? When he’s a guy whose catching skills are a negative and he is better suited to play other positions that won’t hurt his team. Of course, a player this bad defensively, has to be a monster with the bat.

The best bat in the New York Yankees farm system belongs to Jesus Montero. The 20-year-old native of Venezuela is the real deal and will be a fixture in the heart of the Bronx Bombers batting order for the next decade. No one questions how well he’ll hit, they only question what defensive position he will play.

Montero has been a catcher throughout his minor league career, but he has some serious deficiencies at the position. He’s big and slow and can’t throw out base runners.

Of course, the Yankees have employed Jorge Posada at that position for the last 15 years, so they aren’t averse to starting a poor defensive catcher as long as he has a good bat.

It wouldn’t be surprising to see Montero play a few games each week behind the dish while playing DH the rest of the time, but short of significant improvement behind the plate, it is hard to imagine him becoming the everyday catcher.

Montero could also end up playing the outfield in the near future and maybe first base somewhere down the road. At this point however, the Yankees are still working with him as a backstop, even if no one else in the free world sees him as such.

Montero’s bat is the real deal, but the Russell Martin signing and the move to DH for Posada means there’s no place for Montero in the immediate Yankee lineup. If Posada’s knees don’t hold up, Montero could get a call up this season. Otherwise, expect another season in triple-A, where Montero hit .289/21/75 last year.

Montero’s 2010 stats seemed like a setback after a torrid 2009 in high-A and double-A which saw him go .337/17/70. He started off slowly in triple-A, but caught fire in the second half hitting .340/15/43 from July to the end of the season.

Montero checks in at 6’4”, 230 pounds and has some serious power. He has room to pack on some bulk as he continues to physically develop. His bat will still play if he has to DH or play first base.

His OPS as a 20-year-old in triple-A was .870, so he has some ability. His walk rate increased slightly, but his strikeout rate increased significantly, so a little more minor league seasoning won’t hurt him.

A .285 average with a dozen homeruns is likely if given 200+ at bats at the Major League level in 2011. The Yankees won’t call him up to sit him on the bench and only get 5-10 plate appearances per week though. Look for Montero to start the season in triple-A and get a call up in the summer or when Posada gets hurt, whichever comes first.

Montero’s bat is so good that no one will care about his glove in about five years, so it really doesn’t matter where he plays. Of course, fantasy players will appreciate at least 20 games a season at catcher, but he’s a keeper no matter where his glove lands.

He’s likely to see some at bats this season, so a late round pick and a seat on your bench is worth your while. Keeper league players should undoubtedly pounce if he is still available.

Rick Milleman is the head fantasy baseball contributor at DraftBuddy.com. Check his annual player projections included in the Cheatsheet Compiler & Draft Buddy to help draft your championship team.

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