Last year’s stint in Double-A was cut short by a finger injury, but the Yankees believe Jesus Montero is ready to open next season in Triple-A.
Vice president of baseball operations Mark Newman said this afternoon that the Yankees plan to have Montero open the season as the regular catcher with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Austin Romine, the team’s No. 2 prospect according to Baseball America, will open in Trenton.
Newman said Gary Sanchez and J.R. Murphy — the other catchers who rank among Baseball America’s top 10 Yankees prospects — will likely open in extended spring training and play short-season ball. Kyle Higashioka is slated to open in Low-A Charleston. High-A Tampa doesn’t have a set catcher now that Chase Weems has been traded.
The Yankees have been encouraged by Montero’s improved footwork behind the plate. He threw out 31.8 percent of base runners in Trenton, which is pretty solid and much better than the 12.5 percent he threw out in the first half of the season in Tampa. Actually, Montero’s caught stealing percentage in Trenton was better than Romine’s season percentage in Tampa (though I don’t think anyone would suggest Montero is at Romine’s level in that regard). Newman said some of the improvement came because Montero adjusted his footwork so that he pivots on his right foot rather than taking a step or a slide.
“That seems to work for him,” Newman said. “It’s an older school approach.”
Newman stressed — as he’s done pretty much every time I’ve mentioned Montero’s name the past few years — that the Yankees still see their top prospect as a catcher. With Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, though, there’s a chance Montero will get some time at first base, at least during drills. It’s something all catchers in the Yankees system do. I’ve seen Francisco Cervelli, Chris Stewart and Kevin Cash take ground balls at third base. P.J. Pilittere has gotten a bit of playing time at first.
“He’ll get that as a matter of course,” Newman said. “But all of our guys do. It won’t be anything special for him.”