What Can We Learn From Jesus Montero's September?

NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 05: Jesus Montero #63 of the New York Yankees follows through on a fifth inning home run against the Baltimore Orioles on September 5, 2011 at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx borough of New York City. The blast was the first in the major leagues for Montero. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

The Yankees' "catcher (or DH) of the future," Jesus Montero, finally got his first ML action in September. He tore the cover off the ball to a .328/.406/.590 batting line over 69 PA. I wondered how that compared to previous hitters of similar ages in their rookie seasons. In short, there's a lot to be excited about.

Not a single previous Yankee, aged 21 or younger in his rookie season, ever had an OPS+ higher than 150 (with at least 60 PA). Montero was at 159 this year.

The list of any MLers who qualified for that criteria is short: nine since 1901. But it's a damn good list. Three of the players are in, or locks for, the Hall of Fame (Ted Williams, Willie McCovey and Albert Pujols), two are very promising youngsters (Ryan Zimmerman and Brett Lawrie), while one is a relative nobody (Billy Conigliaro, Tony's brother). The remaining two are Daric Barton and Jimmy Sebring, who have/had incomplete careers.

If we expand the criteria to include non-rookie seasons, it looks even better. Again, it's not long (30 seasons), but it includes many historic names: Ruth, Foxx, Cobb, Hornsby, Crawford, Ott, Kaline, Mantle, A-Rod, Griffey, Jr., Speaker and Musial. Wow.*

What about his peripherals? Save for strikeouts, they were all above average. He K'ed at an elevated rate (25%), but he also walked more, had more extra-base hits, more fly balls, and more line drives than the ML average.

Because management was terrified of actually putting Montero behind the plate, he caught only 22 innings. If he's truly a part of the future, he has to be given more opportunities back there.

* Disclaimer: Of course this doesn't mean Montero will be as good as those players - it's only 69 PA - but it's exciting and promising. May he get 600 PA next season.

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