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April 16, 2012 at 11:34 AM

Jesus Montero being broken in much slower by Mariners than other young catching prospects

The Mariners keep insisting there is nothing wrong with Jesus Montero as a catcher. But up to this point, they are using him far less than other teams have broken in supposed catchers of the future. Montero is still young at age 22. And yet, Ivan Rodriguez was only 19 his rookie season and appeared in 88 games behind the dish — 81 of them as a starter.
So far, Montero has started two of 11 games. At this rate, he’ll appear in roughly 30-35 games. Which, mind you, would not be a surprise, given that John Jaso is also here. If the two of them appear in 60 games between them at catcher and Miguel Olivo at 100 or so, I don’t think too many would have been surprised at that total when spring training opened.
The surprise so far is that Jaso has yet to appear in any games as a catcher. Meanwhile, Montero is still on pace for about 30 and Olivo the same 130 or so he appeared in last year. Again, it’s real early and we should not be reading too much into statistics at this point.
But if the Mariners want to keep insisting that Montero can catch regularly in the majors, it will be interesting to see when they opt to have him do things that regular catchers do — like appear in consecutive games behind the plate.
Besides Rodriguez, here are some other catchers and how often they got to play the position their first full MLB seasons:
Joe Mauer (2005) — 116 games; 110 started…age 22
Brian McCann (2005) — 124 games; 118 started…age 22
Matt Wieters (2009) — 86 games; 81 started…age 23
Mike Napoli (2006) — 94 games; 77 started…age 24
Ryan Doumit (2005) — 50 games; 48 started…age 24
Buster Posey (2010) — 76 games; 75 started…age 22
Wilson Ramos (2011) — 108 games; 106 started…age 23
Chris Iannetta (2007) — 60 games; 54 started…age 24
Nick Hundley (2008) — 59 games; 55 started…age 24
Alex Avila (2010) — 98 games; 84 started…age 23
Miguel Montero (2007) — 73 games; 57 started…age 23
Yorvit Torrealba (2002) — 53 games; 40 started…age 23
Jeff Mathis (2007) — 57 games; 52 started…age 24
Miguel Olivo (2003) — 113 games; 98 started…age 24
So, there you go. That’s enough for a cross-section of guys. I’m not going to look at every catcher in baseball over the last five years.
Photo Credit: AP

Looking down the list, it becomes apparent that Montero is starting at the lower end of that common age 22-24 spectrum.
Another thing that jumped out at me is that with another game or two per week, Montero wouldn’t be that far off of guys like Doumit, Torrealba, Hundley and Mathis and the number of games they caught in their first seasons consisting of something other than September call-up status. That’s why I caution into reading too much into things this early.
On the other hand, the fact is that Montero is well on his way to playing far more games as a DH than any of the guys on the list did. Those guys either mostly caught or were on the bench. They were not used as DH or at other positions all that frequently.
And I suspect that’s where a lot of the “Montero can’t catch” stuff comes from, both here in Seattle and for years prior in the Yankees system. He appeared in 17 games last fall and 14 of them were as a DH. So far, in his career, 22 of his 27 games have been as a DH.
So, if the M’s want to help this guy shed his reputation as a DH, what’s it going to take? Probably to stop using him as a DH some 85 percent of the time.
Not being flippant, just stating a fact.
One more thing to consider, though. There was one guy I left off my list, but I’ll put him on here to make a point.
Victor Martinez. First appeared in the majors in 2002, but it wasn’t until 2004 that he had more than 200 plate appearances.
In 2002, he played nine games at catcher, starting in eight.
In 2003, he played 40 games at catcher and started 35.
Then, in 2004, at age 25, he finally appeared in 132 games as a catcher and started in 124.
His manager? Eric Wedge.
Martinez turned out OK. Didn’t DH nearly as much as Montero early on, but the catching regimen was similar to what Wedge is now putting Montero through. Just thought it was worth noting as we continue to debate the whys and why nots of Montero’s early career.

Comments | Topics: Jesus Montero


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