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A Minor League Tidbit

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Last week, Baseball America ran a quick ranking of minor league catcher's Caught Stealing %, along with some profiles of notable prospects.

The River Dogs (A) catching tandem Jesus Montero and Austin Romine ranked 48th and 52nd respectively.  Austin threw out 20 of 98 thieves, while Jesus was only slightly better 26 of 105.

Montero also warranted this quick hit:

Scouts who saw Montero as an amateur in Venezuela in 2006 were skeptical about Montero’s chances to stick behind the plate. Scouts are still skeptical, but Montero has made significant defensive improvement since signing, showing an above-average arm and good athleticism for his size (6-foot-4, 225 pounds). Montero does not have a quick release, which enabled SAL base stealers to have success against Montero despite his arm strength. Like Sandoval, Montero’s size is a concern going forward for scouts, but his offensive game is strong enough to profile at any position. If he can stay behind the plate, he could be a monster.

Not really any fresh information there, but I'm always encouraged by signs of improvement.

This week, BA looked at passed balls (Montero 35th, Romine 53rd).  Montero averaged 19 PB per 120 games, dead-on average for High-A, while Romine averaged 43(!) PB per 120.  They gave Romine the quick hit:

While Romine has an excellent arm, he is not a good receiver—at least not yet. He’s athletic, but his footwork is a work in progress. Romine’s sample size of 450 innings as a 19-year-old is small because he split time behind the plate at low Class A Charleston with Montero. Ideally, Montero and Romine would be split up next year so each player could maximize his games behind the plate, but that scenario might not be possible.

If the teenage progress of Austin Jackson and Jose Tabata gives any hint to the Yanks' philosophy with their minor league bats, I expect Romine and Montero (Romine just turned 20 at the end of November, Montero turned 19 a week later) to start next year either back in Charleston or maybe in Tampa.

I don't think either will hit Trenton unless he has a phenomenal season, and then only for a game or two, just like Austin Jackson got 1 game with Scranton in 2007.

While the BA writers suggest splitting up the catching duo, I think the Yanks are better served keeping them together.  They need the same sort of instruction, it saves wear and tear in the long run, and it gives us an excuse to try them at other positions (1st, 3rd, LF, wherever).  Then there will be less consternation over "can he make the switch?"