No, Really: Jesus (Montero) Is Coming

He's almost ready for his close-up. (AP)

Sunday's trade deadline came and went without the Yankees making a move. No Hiroki Kuroda, Erik Bedard or Wandy Rodriguez. No lefty reliever. No bench bat. A whole lot of nothing, not that there's anything wrong with that when you've got a reasonable amount of organizational depth and the refusal to capitulate to demands that you surrender all of your untouchables and more to acquire a pitcher with serious question marks hanging over his head.

It's been reported elsewhere that this was the first time since 1999 that the Yankees stood pat, but that's flat-out wrong; they reacquired Jim Leyritz on July 31 that year, a fact I won't forget because I was at Yankee Stadium to see him homer in the '99 World Series clincher. It was in fact the 1998 Yankees that made no move, in part because they led the AL East by 15 games and were 49 games over .500 at 76-27.

On the heels of Sunday's announcement that Manny Banuelos was being promoted to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, the word from "sources close to the organization" via The Trenton Times is that Dellin Betances and Austin Romine will soon be promoted to Triple-A as well. Furthermore, the same sources say that — wait for it — Jesus Montero will soon be called up by the Yankees, and if that's the case, he figures to play.

Montero's overall .283/.342/.429 line at Scranton is still not terribly impressive, but he finally showed considerable pop in July, batting .271/.346/.514 with four homers, upping his season total to 10. He's drawing his walks, too — eight in 78 plate appearances during the month, the second in a row in which he's taken passes in at least 10 percent of his PA. His defense is still cause for concern, but there are modest signs of improvement; while he's gunning down just 20 percent of would-be base thieves, opponents are running somewhat less often against him this year, and he's cut his rate of passed balls almost in half.

On the other hand, Baseball Prospectus' Kevin Goldstein compared his defense unfavorably to one of the more notorious bat-first backstops of recent memory: "Mike Piazza is a MUCH better defensive catcher than Jesus Montero. We need to get away from that comparison, because it's a bad one." Ouch.

Left unsaid in the report of Montero's near-imminent rise is where he'll be picking up his at-bats. Aside from an early-season power spike, Russell Martin's overall numbers (.225/.326/.366) are no better than in recent years, and since May 1 he's hit just .201/.309/.287, which is basically what one might accomplish by swinging at pitches with a rubber chicken. Francisco Cervelli (.235/.305/.306) is even worse, as usual, and he's thrown out just two out of 24 base thieves. Jorge Posada's hitting .235 /318/.383 overall, and .284/.351/.406 since the Big Sitdown, having gone a whole month without homering; furthermore, he's just 6-for-53 against lefties, with a lone double as his only extra-base hit. Andruw Jones (.227/.315/.445 overall) hit .242/.342/.545 in July, and is up to .268/.348/.524 against lefties; that thin slice may be the most likely segment of these players' time to be preserved.

And so we wait, not only for Montero's arrival, but for the organization's further indication of how they plan to use him.

Meanwhile, the New York Post reports that Banuelos will be groomed to make a contribution out of the bullpen. Quoth Joel Sherman, "Baneulos will make his Triple-A debut as a starter tomorrow, but the plan will be to bring him along quickly in hopes he usurps Boone Logan as the primary bullpen lefty. [Ivan] Nova or [Phil] Hughes will eventually end up in the pen." The 20-year-old lefty's innings level is a factor, as the Post's Tim Bontemps elaborates, "Banuelos has the arsenal of pitches of a frontline starter, which will only be more effective if he's coming in for one inning, or even one batter, at a time. Second, and possibly more importantly going forward, it will allow them to limit Banuelos' innings, something they've been conscious of all season long."As noted before, with 95 innings to date, Banuelos has already surpassed the 89 he threw between the regular season and the Arizona Fall League, and he's never topped 109, so it's a stretch to imagine him being pushed even to 150.

Given the limited role, Timmy Goodtime warns that "fans thinking they are going to be seeing Banuelos make a huge impact in the majors, and soon, would be wise to temper their expectations." Maybe so, but in positioning themselves to rely upon promotions from within as they head down the stretch, I think it's fair to say that the Yankee organization has exceeded the expectations of many observers, our little Pinstriped Bible Study Group included. We'll see how that works out.

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