When I was a younger man, newly enthused by the idea of scouting and analyzing prospects, I loved few things more than player comparisons.
It’s a trap that many of us – even the most seasoned pundits – fall into on occasion, and you read about them all the time. Byron Buxton is the next Andrew McCutchen. Jose Iglesias is the new Rey Ordonez. Any catcher who can’t really catch but can hit is Mike Napoli. Anyone with plus-plus control is Greg Maddux.
I think comparisons deserve a bit more leniency when it comes to Fantasy prospect talk, since what we’re really talking about is just an end stat line. So maybe Miguel Sano is nothing like Giancarlo Stanton, but if the numbers look the same at season’s end, the comp is a good one. Robbie Erlin isn’t going to be as good as Mark Buehrle, but if his stats play up in Petco and the numbers match up, you’re justified in invoking the name.
But there is one link between player and prospect I made several years ago that I had hoped would stay hidden in dark corners of the Internet forever. One so glaringly foolish that I am cringing a bit as I write this now. Yet the only way to improve oneself is through self-reflection and honesty, and so I shall share my secret with the TDG family now.
I compared Jesus Montero to Frank Thomas.
And that comparison wasn’t “Jesus Montero won’t be as good as Frank Thomas.” No, I pushed all my chips in the middle on this one, and it looks like I’m walking away empty-handed.
Through north of 700 plate appearances in the major leagues, Montero has been worth 0.0 fWAR. His wRC+ is 94. His line sits at .250/.304/.420. And he’s a liability defensively behind the plate. Here’s a handy chart showing his wOBA compared to league average.
Through 92 PA this season Montero is suffering through a BABIP of .215, and there’s almost no way it stays that low. Yet even if that metrics returns to 2012 levels – a reasonable .292 – it makes Montero a below average hitter devoid of positional value playing half his games in a poor hitter’s ballpark surrounded by a crappy offense. He swings and misses at more pitches than the average hitter. He makes contact less frequently than the average hitter. He swings more often than the average hitter. These are not good things.
We should also address something that’s difficult to quantify, but I think is worth mentioning: the Mariners suck at developing high-profile offensive prospects. Dustin Ackley is worse now than he was in college and Justin Smoak has flamed out spectacularly. Their biggest success stories are Kyle Seager and Michael Saunders: nice players, but Role 5 guys who can’t carry a team offensively. Can I say with certainty that the M’s are what screwed up Montero? No. But I can observe that he’s certainly not alone in his inability to progress in Seattle’s organization.
I drafted Montero as my primary catcher in a few leagues this season, as I truly believed he’s post an above-average line for a backstop, if nothing else. I’m giving him about two more weeks to figure it out, or I’ll be slumming by on the A.J. Ellis-es of the world until a more lucrative option appears.
Montero is not out of chances in Seattle yet. I’d bet on the M’s dumping Smoak before they dump Jesus, moving the latter to DH while Kendry Morales mans first and Mike Zunino comes up to catch. But even a team like Seattle won’t give Montero endless opportunity to prove he can hit, and we might only be a few weeks away from a return trip to Triple-A.
If you love prospects, you have to let them go. Montero is not the same man he was two years ago, and until we see some evidence that he can drive balls selectively the way he used to, we can’t bank on him as a future Fantasy stud.