Jesus Montero: Is It Time For Top Yankees' Prospect To Be ln The Majors?

-- See Pinstripe Alley for complete discussion of the Yankees

Jesus Montero, the highly-acclaimed crown jewel of the New York Yankees farm system, has "got work to do" before he is ready to be a full-time big-league catcher, according to Yankees Senior Vice President Mark Newman, boss of the minor-league system.

He's got work to do. He could go to the big leagues and play, but he's got work to do before he's truly ready," Newman told NoMaas. "I have every confidence that he will be, but he's got work to do."

Newman's protests aside, it's time that the Yankees began allowing the 21-year-old slugger to do that work at the big-league level.

Why? Well, let's look at the catching situation in the Bronx.

Russell Martin might well start for the American League in the All-Star Game. That, however, mostly means his name is the one people recognize most often when they vote -- it doesn't mean he is having a great year. Martin is a good catcher, a defensive improvement over the aging and defensively inadequate Jorge Posada. He is, however, hitting just .229 after back-to-back seasons of hitting .250 and .248 with the Los Angeles Dodgers. He has thrown out just 28 percent of runners attempting to steal.

Martin is on a one-year contract. If Montero is the catcher of the future, and Martin is basically holding down the fort until he is ready to take over full-time, shouldn't the Yankees get Montero to the big leagues and find out how he stacks up at that level?

Obviously, Martin is not having a great year with the bat. The other part of the equation is that it's not like the Yankees have a great backup catcher, either.

Francisco Cervelli is a popular and hard-working player. He is, however, a slap-hitting catcher with a poor .197 batting average and a pitiful .279 slugging percentage in 22 games and 61 at-bats. The other problem is that defensively the reality is that Cervelli is not that good. He has five errors and has thrown out just 10 percent of runners trying to steal against him in just 18 starts this season. He seems to think he is aiming for center fielder Curtis Granderson when runners try to steal second base, because it seems like the ball consistently ends up in Granderson's glove. This is really not an aberration with Cervelli. In 80 starts a season ago he made 13 errors and threw out just 14 percent of would-be base stealers.

The biggest question about Montero, and the biggest argument for keeping him at AAA Scranton Wilkes-Barre, has been that his defense is not fully developed yet. Really, though, how much worse can he play behind the plate than Cervelli has? If he is worse than that, he needs to switch positions. In 320 minor-league games Montero has committed just 15 errors and has thrown out 21 percent of potential base stealers.

I understand that you like to bring young players to the big leagues and have them play every day, and that right now there isn't an every day spot for Montero, who is hitting .283 with five home runs and 26 RBI at AAA amidst reports that he is playing as if he is bored with being stuck in the minors. I generally agree with that.

But, if Montero is their future behind the plate the Yankees can't find that out while he is playing at AAA. Get him to the big leagues, let him catch a couple of games each week, maybe let him DH once a week against lefties. It's not like Andruw Jones and his .211 average, four home runs and 12 RBI, or Posada and his .122 average hitting right-handed would be missed.

I think it's time for Montero to be in the Bronx. How about you?

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