It’s Time To Not Hate Jesus Montero

You know, not everyone used to hate Jesus Montero. There was once a time when we traded Michael Pineda for Jesus Montero and everyone was excited. We had just traded our good prospect for their good prospect, and it was fun. Trades are fun, and blockbuster trades are fun! Montero was ranked the Yankees’ #1 prospect for three straight seasons, as well as high as #3 by Baseball America in 2010. Boy did that go to shit fast.

In the three years Jesus Montero has spent with the team, he hasn’t looked good. He hasn’t looked like a good catcher, and probably more importantly, he hasn’t looked like a good hitter. He’s been a bad baseball player! He’s been such a bad baserunner that he’s gained comparisons to QWOP. Montero has received quite a bit of flack despite just turning 25 years old. And for the most part, he’s deserved it.

Before this season, Jesus Montero showed up to camp somehow 40 pounds overweight. He was quoted as saying (and I’m serious, this is a real quote), “After winter ball, all I did was eat.” Honestly, I don’t know what he could have possibly eaten to gain 40 pounds in that time period. Lard? Whatever. He got big, and it sure didn’t help his cause. He was linked to the Biogenesis scandal, he lost his starting catcher job to Kelly fuckin’ Shoppach, and then he showed up so fat that there was a Deadspin article about him. You would think it all ends there, but then the M’s national cross-checker Butch Baccala yelled to Montero from the stands to hustle off the field, and then ordered him a ice cream sandwich to the dugout. Upon receiving it, Montero threw the ice cream sandwich at Baccala and had to be restrained from entering the stands while angrily wielding a bat. You legitimately could not think of a better story to summarize his career. As a result of all of this, Jack Zduriencik bashed him and said he had no expectations for him. But things are different now… sort of.

The Mariners are currently projected to be one of the best teams in the MLB, and depending on where you look they’re favored to actually be the best team in the American League. They have a roster that is largely complete, so there isn’t time to be waiting around for players to develop if we can avoid it. Well, there is something that Jesus Montero can offer to the team if they feel it is valuable enough to warrant a bench spot. They may want to get him everyday playing time, or they may not feel he brings enough value to warrant that spot. What this ability that Montero possesses is his ability to hit lefties (and quite well, actually).

Over his career, QWOP, er, Montero has slashed .318/.369/.459 against lefties, with a .357 wOBA and 131 wRC+. Surprising, right?  Those are actually very good numbers. Versus righties, it’s another story, but that doesn’t matter! Never mind the baserunning, never mind the fielding, never mind his weight. Jesus Montero does something well! Heck, if you really wanted to you could platoon Logan Morrison and Jesus Montero at first base, although I think Logan Morrison posts good enough splits to where he’s a good everyday player.

Right now, the bench projects to be something like Bloomquist, Jones, Taylor, and Sucre. I would just cut Bloomquist and replace him with Montero, but I’m not Jack Z. The Mariners could keep five bench players and go with a smaller bullpen.

Today, some news started to roll out about the current status of players that have had some injuries, as well as Jesus Montero. Roenis Elias, Danny Hultzen(!!!), and Willie Bloomquist all should be locked and loaded and full go for spring training. Longtime Mariners trainer Rick Griffin said that Jesus Montero is down to his reporting weight of 235. Prospect D.J. Peterson also had this to say about Montero:

 

Holy smokes. If there was a perfect time to finally figure himself out, this is it. Although I am a big proponent (and self-proclaimed fan boy) of Logan Morrison, there have been questions of going into the season with him as the only viable option at first base. I will concede Morrison has had injury issues over his career, that’s fine. It also doesn’t make much sense to not have a backup in place for him. His career splits are rock solid. Last year he ran very weird reverse splits in which he absolutely killed lefty pitching and was about league average against righties, which is strange for someone of his handedness. An increasingly popular market inefficiency to exploit in this scenario would be to platoon Montero and LoMo (similar to Smith and Ruggiano in right field). You can only do this so much on a roster, as you need to leave enough room for backups at other positions, as well as the bullpen. While Willie Bloomquist certainly isn’t the greatest player, his versatility does some to alleviate this issue on the roster.

Using both of their career splits, this is how they’ve performed:

Logan Morrison vs. lefties: .262/.337/.398, .327 wOBA, 105 wRC+, .136 ISO
Jesus Montero vs. lefties: .318/.369/.459, .357 wOBA, 131 wRC+, .140 ISO

Logan Morrison vs. righties: .247/.332/.436, .335 wOBA, 110 wRC+, .188 ISO
Jesus Montero vs. righties: .226/.265/.363, .272 wOBA, 73 wRC+, .137 ISO

In a platoon, this is the player it creates:

Logan Morrison vs. righties: .247/.332/436, .335 wOBA, 110 wRC+, .188 ISO
Jesus Montero vs lefties:  .318/.369/.459, .357 wOBA, 131 wRC+, .140 ISO

That creates a very good player right there. However, there are some problems with the statistics I’ve just shown you. First of all, I pulled their career numbers so I could get a large sample size (especially since Montero hasn’t had much time in the majors, especially as of late). So these numbers may or may not be indicative of the players that they currently are. For example. Logan Morrison just had an anomaly of a year against lefty pitching. Normally, his splits are much more even. Injuries also presumably have inhibited LoMo from posting the statistics that he’s been capable of over his career. Now that he should be exclusively at first base, he should be able to avoid more of those injuries that occurred while he was playing in left and right field. Not only that, but he’s also much less of a defensive liability while stationed at first.

As for Jesus, he’s already proven to some extent that he can hit lefties with the best of them. Against righties, he has been absolutely dreadful. I think everyone has an image of Montero chasing a 0-2 or 1-2 slider down and away for a strikeout and hanging his head as he plodded back to the dugout.

In the case of Justin Ruggiano and Seth Smith, they’re both almost surely done progressing as baseball players. They’re both 32 years of age and are at the tail end of their supposed primes, if not past them. As for LoMo and Jesus Montero, they have yet to enter their primes and their best years of baseball are likely ahead of them. A platoon may not be the greatest things for their development. On the flip side, a first base platoon of the pair may be extremely beneficial for the Mariners.

Where do I stand on this? Honestly, I’m not entirely sure. I think they should both be given a shot to earn playing time at first, but I think Logan Morrison is clearly the preferable candidate. He plays better defense, he’s better on the basepaths, and he has shown more frequently that he can hit pitching regardless of their handedness. At the end of the day, I think Montero should make the roster, and I also believe he will. Jesus Montero is human just like you and me. Let’s give him second fourth chance. All things aside, if the Mariners want to win a World Series in the near future, they need to put players on the field that give them the best chance to win. They may sound like a “duh” statement, but believe it or not, Jesus Montero could be the best option in a couple situations.

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