Jesus Montero's stats, upon first glance, are a barren wasteland of unfulfilled potential. Was he really that bad last year? Were we too harsh on him? The answer is met with a resounding yes and a no to follow, and the offensive stats only serve to remind of the mind-numbing defensive mistakes Montero committed in his final days as a catcher. Then, the lies. The suspension. The weight. The perceived lack of caring about just about anything but himself. Justified or not, Montero is not well-liked, or well-respected, by many people anymore.
But when you click on the minors tab of his player page on Baseball Reference, you're met with this.
One of the most highly-regarded prospects the Mariners have ever had within their organization. Not just by a few sources, by everyone. 24 years old. I'm all aboard the Jabari Blash train, and he's 4 months older than Montero, yet to advance past AA. Many players, including ones who turn out to be stars, don't even get a call until they're 24. Montero is that age, and has been up and down -- mostly down -- so much that it feels like his career is over before it even began.
It's an emotional response, and an irrational one too. But it doesn't mean that it's wrong. Everything we've seen from Montero throughout his career indicates that he is a player with tremendous potential that is very unlikely to be tapped. Up until this year, Montero had earned his praise for being very good, but not great, at levels where he was very young. His early struggles in the big leagues resulted in the same disclaimer. Maturity was also something that would grow. It never did, and his arrival at
fat camp made expectations hit rock bottom.
Perhaps that was a good thing, stripping away any remaining sense of optimism. Montero was ticketed for Tacoma, playing first base, comically out of shape and no longer aided with assistance from his friends at Biogenesis.
Now, Jesus Montero is doing things.
After a slow start, Montero has clubbed four homers in his last five games. The most recent of which was a monster jam, according to Mike Curto.
Jesus Montero with a long 3-run homer to left, giving Tacoma a 5-3 lead. This was a @RyanDivish "baseball destroyed" shot.— Mike Curto (@CurtoWorld) April 27, 2014
The power is no surprise, as we all remember Montero absolute bomb a while back in Houston. Montero is up to six homers, but that comes along with four walks and 17 strikeouts. His splits against younger vs. older pitchers raises an eyebrow as well, as he's carrying a 1.875 OPS against the kids and just a .749 OPS against veterans, tracked by Baseball-Reference. This is a split I'll be keeping an eye on, as even older pitchers with lesser stuff seem to know how to exploit aggressive hitters like Montero as long as they can locate.
It's only been 17 games, 10 of them at first base, where his defensive prowess is still, understandably, a work in progress, and will likely remain so for a long time.
We're a ways away from really paying attention to Montero as a member of the Mariners again, but it's time to start keeping an eye on what he's doing in Tacoma. While the K/BB ratio remains a large red flag, Montero is finally dominating a minor league level, something he never did in his rapid ascent to the bigs. As it always was and still is, Montero's ability to make it at the big league level will depend solely on his bat, and it's not as if the Mariners have any long-term solutions at first base or designated hitter. The job is still wide open if somebody takes it.
Montero will most likely have to sustain his success for a lot longer than most would, considering his lack of trust within the organization and the disappointing and disparaging comments from Jack Zduriencik early this spring. I don't expect him to get a call any time soon, even though he's hitting almost as well as Cole Gillespie, currently performing his audition with the Mariners.
Still, the Mariners love to tease, only to ultimately disappoint, time and time again. There's a chance that Jesus Montero might be the next player to spin us around for a bit only to let go, sending us spiraling down a never-ending arc of familiarity. I'm unconvinced, but alert. If there's a part of you that still believes, just watch the stat line and dream the same dream you've dreamed before. After all, he's only 24.