Recently I’ve been inundated with questions (on Twitter) basically asking the same thing: why isn’t Jesus Montero in the majors?
While I certainly don’t have the answer to that question, I think the subject deserves some discussion.
To review the back story, Montero was a top prospect when the Mariners acquired him from the Yankees prior to the 2012 season. Seattle played him nearly every day in his rookie year of 2012, and he hit .260 with 15 home runs, 20 doubles, and had an OPS of .684. Then he put on weight, moved off catcher, got suspended, something about an ice cream sandwich.
He re-dedicated himself to baseball this winter, working out every day in Arizona. He lost 45 pounds, improved his speed and agility, and worked hard to become an adequate first baseman.
The hard work is paying off in results: Montero is hitting .332 with 15 home runs and 68 RBI in the PCL. In 84 games and 340 at-bats he’s drawn 21 walks and has struck out 65 times. He’s set a career high with five triples; he even has three stolen bases.
Montero leads the PCL in hits (115), runs batted in (68), runs scored (57), games (84), at-bats (340), and total bases (180). He’s third in the league in batting average (.332).
He’s been voted the starting first baseman for the PCL All-Star Team, and he’s set to participate in the league’s home run derby on Monday.
Normally a player with these types of numbers would have been called up by now, but there are always questions surrounding Montero. Here are a few that frequently come up:
The PCL is a great hitter’s league. He’s probably loading up in launching pads like Reno and Albuquerque and Las Vegas.
This is false. Montero is hitting .314 with eight homers and an .860 OPS at Cheney Stadium (a pitcher’s park), and he’s a little better on the road. He’s hitting .348 with seven HRs and a .933 OPS on the road – and the team hasn’t even played a series at Las Vegas yet.
He can only hit lefties. Major league right-handers will chew him up by just throwing sliders in the dirt.
He definitely destroys left-handed pitching, no doubt about it. This year he’s hitting .362 against southpaws, with nine of his 15 homers coming against them. His OPS against lefties is 1.072.
Against right-handers he’s hitting .317 with an .809 OPS. He certainly has more trouble with them, and there are times when he does indeed chase breaking pitches in the dirt. There are other times when he lays off of them.
It’s all about adjustments, and the ebbs and flows of the season. If you are a scout and you saw Tacoma for five days, June 21-26, you would have seen Montero go 3-for-24 with 10 strikeouts, swinging and missing at pitches low-and-away from right-handers. If you saw Montero this past week, you would have seen him lay off those pitches and get ahead in the count.
The answer to this question is “we don’t know.” We won’t know if Montero can hit major league right-handed pitching until he gets a chance to play every day in the big leagues.
What is his position? Can he even play first base?
He’s getting better and better at the position, and he works very hard at it, but he’s still below-average on defense by major league standards. Sometimes he’ll stun you, like the other day in Fresno when he made a diving stop to his right then threw to second from his knees to get a force out. But there are still plays he doesn’t make that a good major league first baseman would make.
Call him up and get rid of (insert name of any currently struggling Mariners hitter)!
The biggest thing that has kept Montero in Triple-A until today is the Mariners roster construction: Montero can only play first base and designated hitter. Logan Morrison is the first baseman and he’s having a decent season (by current Mariners standards). Nelson Cruz gets a lot of starts at designated hitter, he’s an all-star. To call up Montero and play him regularly you would have to make Cruz a full-time outfielder.
Montero is in an option year and he can be moved back-and-forth between Seattle and Tacoma. Perhaps the best thing to do is to pick your spots: call him up when you are going to face a string of left-handed pitchers (like this weekend), then send him down to play regularly when Seattle is facing a bunch of right-handers. But it’s hard to find the matching other piece of the roster to do this swap.
At any rate, it’s been a great human redemption tale. The Montero story is far from over and we have no idea how it’s going to end. Quality major league player? Triple-A masher? Star in Japan? Fat guy on a sofa? Maybe in five years he’ll be running triathalons.
However it develops, it will be fascinating.
Yesterday: Stefen Romero broke open a close game with a three-run homer in the sixth inning, helping Tacoma beat Reno, 9-3. Jordan Pries pitched into the seventh inning and allowed three runs on four hits to earn the win. Tacoma is over .500 for the first time since the team was 2-1 three games into the season.
Today: Tacoma (44-43) at Reno (40-47), 7:05.
Opponent Affiliation: Arizona Diamondbacks.
Season Series: Tacoma leads, 4-3.
Starting Pitchers: RHP Stephen Landazuri (1-3, 8.18) at RHP Gabriel Arias (4-2, 4.86)
Hot Rainiers: Steve Baron had two more hits, extending his hitting streak to six games. He’s batting .365 in 18 games since being promoted from Double-A Jackson. Zach Shank has also hit safely in six straight games.
Look Out For: Nick Evans is 7-for-12 in his last four games. Jamie Romak went 0-for-5 in yesterday’s doubleheader, but he’s always trouble. Reno has lost five of the last eight games.
Broadcast: The pregame show starts at 6:50 (Pacific) on South Sound Sports 850 AM. The broadcast also streams online via the TuneIn app – just click here.
PCL Scoreboard: Follow all Pacific Coast League games in real-time with links to Gameday screens right here.
- The Rainiers game story from The News Tribune was web-only because the game ended at midnight.
- The Mariners went 0-for-14 with runners in scoring position in a 5-4 loss to Detroit.
- John McGrath has a column on Jesus Sucre and bunting.
- The San Francisco paper has a story on PCL broadcasters Johnny Doskow (Sacramento) and Doug Greenwald (Fresno).
- In the PCL, Mark Appel had his first good Triple-A start, tossing 6.2 scoreless innings in Fresno’s 4-1 win at Sacramento. Tacoma is still six games out of first.
- Albuquerque’s Eddie Butler had a solid outing in a 6-4 win at El Paso.
- Las Vegas had production up-and-down the lineup in a 10-5 win over Salt Lake.
- Brett Eibner drove in five runs as Omaha downed Iowa, 7-2.
- Round Rock picked up its 50th win as Chi Chi Gonzalez had a successful outing in a 6-0 win over New Orleans.
- In a late game, Colorado Springs walked-off Oklahoma City, 8-7. The Sky Sox have a petroleum engineer in the bullpen.
That was a long one. We’ve got more rain in Reno – another delayed start tonight is possible.