Miguel Montero: A Look at the 2009 Savior

Eric StashinSenior Writer ISeptember 11, 2009

PHOENIX - AUGUST 10:  Catcher Miguel Montero #26 of the Arizona Diamondbacks in action during the major league baseball game against the New York Mets at Chase Field on August 10, 2009 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Diamondbacks defeated the Mets 7-4.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Over the past few weeks, we’ve talked a lot about the emergence of Miguel Montero. 

We’ve talked about how he’s helped to save many fantasy owners, especially those in two catcher formats, as top level catchers have either missed time or fallen flat in 2009.  What we haven’t done is dig into his success and determine if he has a chance to repeat it for the final few weeks of this season and into 2010.

First, let’s take a look at his line so far:

358 At-Bats
.304 Batting Average (109 Hits)
14 Home Runs
53 RBI
50 Runs
1 Stolen Base
.367 On-Base Percentage
.503 Slugging Percentage
.338 Batting Average on Balls in Play

He took advantage when Chris Snyder was forced onto the disabled list and has never looked back. First, let’s look at the power, which is more than believable.

So far this season, he’s posted a HR/FB of 13.0 percent. If he had enough ABs to qualify, that number would place him well outside of the top-50 in the league. 

Furthermore, his fly ball rate is actually lower than it has been in abbreviated seasons the previous three years:

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  • 2006 - 46.2 percent (16 AB)
  • 2007 - 47.0 percent (214 AB)
  • 2008 - 41.5 percent (207 AB)

While none of those seasons bring any significant at-bats, when you add them together it is a big enough sample size to go by. 

It shows he has the potential to hit even more balls in the air, which means that if he can just maintain his current HR/FB rate, his home run total will improve.

Now, factor in that he is just 26-years-old and has 29 doubles this season. 

It’s way too early to discuss 2010 predictions, but he certainly has the potential to be a solid power source as a catcher, potentially bringing 25+ HR totals for a full season. 

For the remainder of 2009, I’d say you should expect more of the same.

As for his average, that could be a little bit more questionable. He has shown an ability to make contact, posting a strikeout rate of 17.6 percent and a walk rate of 8.7 percent. Those numbers are very comparable to his minor league numbers (1,669 AB):

  • Strikeout Rate: 15.64 percent
  • Walk Rate: 8.4 percent

Don't worry about it. It’s the BABIP that could be a problem. It’s not that a .338 mark is extremely out of line, but the only catcher with enough AB to qualify who boasts a mark above .308 is Joe Mauer, who is in a class by himself.

If we widen our search, looking at catchers with at least 300 plate appearances, it opens it up a bit more, but there are only four catchers with a mark above .330. Joining Mauer and Montero are John Baker (.338) and Jorge Posada (.330).

It’s extremely difficult to hit .300 as a catcher. Considering he hit just .291 in the minor leagues, it just doesn’t seem likely that he’ll be able to maintain this in the major leagues.

He’s benefited from a BABIP of .476 in September, leading to a .407 average. It’s tough to imagine that continuing, so look for a potential slump over the final few weeks. Obviously, it’s not enough to deter you from using him, because the power is still going to be there. It's just something to be aware of.

We’ll really dig into him in the offseason when it comes time to project out his statistics and rank him among catchers. For the final few weeks of the season, it will be easy to see his average falling a bit (though not off the table), but the power is extremely realistic and should continue to be there.

He’s been a savior already and obviously should continue to be in your starting lineup in all formats.

What are your thoughts on Montero? What are his prospects for the remainder of the 2009 season? How about in 2010?