Jesus Montero: Is He the New York Yankees' Catcher of the Future?
The Yankees have a problem that many teams would love to have: Three possibilities to man one position for the next decade or so.
Of course, I'm referring to the triumvirate of catchers currently in the Yankees' minor league system: Jesus Montero, Austin Romine and Gary Sanchez.
Jesus Montero was thought to be Jorge Posada's heir, but his performance during this spring showed he wasn't quite ready yet; his great bat wasn't there and his defense wasn't acceptable yet.
Austine Romine is considered by many to be a better overall catcher than Montero, but his bat isn't as good. Major League teams will gladly take a great bat over defense, so that has kept Romine behind Montero.
Gary Sanchez, as Matt Strobl talks about in his article ranking the American League East prospects, is still a couple of years away from making the team, but may just be better than Montero and Romine.
So, who is the Yankees catcher of the future?
In this Yankees fan opinion and based on what my gut tells me, it's not Montero.
I firmly believe Jesus is a designated hitter or first basemen in training. However, for the Yankees, those two positions are locked up for the next decade or so with ARod, Jeter and Teixeira all set to fill those two slots.
If the Yankees don't package Montero for someone like King Felix or Chris Carpenter this summer, he just might end up being converted to a right fielder (meaning the Yankees could trade Nick Swisher this summer or just let him go as a free agent after 2011).
He has the arm strength and bat to be a productive corner outfielder and the Yankees may not want to let him walk like they did a certain first basemen in the 1980s (see next paragraph to find out who this player was).
This leaves Romine and Sanchez.
My opinion is that Sanchez will be in the same boat Fred McGriff was with the Yankees in the early 1980s. McGriff was drafted by the Yankees in 1981 and traded to the Blue Jays in 1982.
Why? Well, the Yankees had a young first baseman called Don Mattingly, so they knew McGriff would never be a first baseman for the Yankees, so they traded him away. Romine is a year or two away from being ready for the jump from AAA, while Sanchez will be ready a couple of years after that.
If Romine is the next catcher after Russell Martin (as I believe he will be), then Sanchez may just be out of luck. If Romine can be the stud he's projected to be, no matter how good Sanchez is, it will be really hard for the Yankees to replace him with an unproven player.
I would not be surprised to see Sanchez traded away in the next couple of years (if not sooner), especially if they keep Montero and Romine.
Montero may surprise us all and develop defensive skills and become the next Yankee catcher or Romine can falter and never make it above AAA or Sanchez can develop quicker than expected.
Nothing can be discounted, but my gut is telling me that Austin Romine is the Yankees' catcher of the future.
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