Jesus Alejandro Montero Lopez
- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Height 6' 4", Weight 225 lb.
Montero was originally signed by scout Ricardo Finol and Latin American scouting director Carlos Rios for the Yankees in October 2006 for a $2 million bonus. The bonus was renegotiated down to $1.65 million for undisclosed reasons. He hit .280/.366/.421 for the 2007 GCL Yankees in his pro debut in 2007. He hit the game-tying homer in game 3 of the Gulf Coast League finals. Baseball America rated him the Yankees' #6 prospect and best power prospect. He was also named the #2 prospect in the GCL by that publication, behind Michael Burgess and just ahead of Ben Revere and Che-Hsuan Lin.
In 2008, Jesus came to major league camp as a non-roster invitee and homered in his only at-bat. He then showed major strides with the Charleston River Dogs, hitting .326/.376/.491 with 34 doubles, 17 homers and 87 RBI. He led Yankee farmhands in average, runs (86), hits (171), total bases (258) and RBI and was named their minor league Player of the Year. He also led the South Atlantic League in hits and catcher fielding percentage (.993) and was second in average, trailing Eric Fryer. He was named the All-Star catcher. Baseball America ranked him as the #7 SAL prospect, right ahead of another Charleston backstop, Andrew Romine and as the #2 Yankee prospect. In the 2008 Futures Game, he replaced Welington Castillo at catcher for the World team. He ground out against Ryan Mattheus and singled off Kevin Pucetas.
Montero continued to shine in 2009, hitting .356/.406/.583 for the Tampa Yankees and .317/.370/.539 for the Trenton Thunder with 70 RBI in 92 games before a fractured middle finger ended his season in ealry August. He had played in the 2009 Futures Game, batting fifth for the World team and catching. Facing Chris Tillman in the first, he ground in Alex Liddi. He later grounded out against Brian Matusz. Carlos Santana replaced him behind the plate. Baseball America rated him as the #2 prospect in the FSL (behind Mike Stanton and ahead of Domonic Brown, Yonder Alonso, Kyle Drabek and Starlin Castro) and #5 in the Eastern League (behind Pedro Alvarez, Madison Bumgarner, Drabek and Carlos Santana).
Baseball America rated the 20-year-old the #5 prospect in all of baseball entering 2010. Starting that year with the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees, he was batting only .247/.314/.411 in his first 73 games at AAA but then got hot, finishing the year at .289/.353/.517 in 123 games. His power output included 34 doubles and 21 homers. He led Yankee farmhands in slugging, though he was over 100 points behind IL leader Dan Johnson. He led IL backstops in putouts (703), assists (76) and passed balls (15). He made both the International League's mid-season and post-season All-Star teams. Baseball America ranked him as the 4th-best IL prospect, after Santana, Jeremy Hellickson and Aroldis Chapman and right ahead of Freddie Freeman.
Entering 2011, his prospect ranking had moved up to #3. There was some speculation in spring training that he could win a job with the Yankees, as it was clear that Jorge Posada's days as the regular catcher were over, but Russell Martin's excellent play put a stop to that and Montero returned to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to start the year. In his second season in AAA, he hit .288/.348/.467 in 109 games, with 19 doubles and 18 homers. He was again a mid-season All-Star. He was called up to New York when rosters expanded on September 1st and made his debut that day in the midst of a crucial series with the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park. He was immediately inserted into the starting line-up as the designated hitter in order to take advantage of his excellent numbers against left-handed pitching as the Yanks' opponent was Jon Lester. He struck out with the bases loaded to end the first inning, and went 0 for 4 overall, but reached base on a hit-by-pitch in the 7th and scored the go-ahead run in his team's 4-2 win. He hit his first two major league homers in the same game, on September 5th. He first connected off Jim Johnson in the 5th inning to break an 8-8 tie, then again off Johnson with a two-run shot in the 7th as the Yankees defeated the Baltimore Orioles, 11-10. He finished the season with a .328 average in 18 games, with 4 doubles and 4 homers. The Yankees put him on their postseason roster and in his only game against the Detroit Tigers in the ALDS, he went 2 for 2 with a run scored and an RBI.
Just when it seemed Montero would settle in as a long-time Yankee, following Jorge Posada's retirement during the off-season, he was traded to the Seattle Mariners along with Hector Noesi in return for pitchers Michael Pineda and Vicente Campos. The trade confirmed that the Yankees did not think Montero could play catcher on a regular basis, and that they would need to use the DH spot for some of the expensive and aging veterans on their roster over the next few years. The trade was finalized on January 23, 2012. The trade would eventually prove to be disastrous for the Mariners as he and Noesi both fizzled quickly. It was not much better for the Yankees at first, either, since Campos did not progress and Pineda missed two full seasons because of injuries, although he began to contribute after that.
Montero had a pretty solid rookie season for the Mariners, playing 135 games with a .260 batting average, 20 doubles, 15 homers and 62 RBI. However, a major area of concern was his OBP, which was only .298. He played 56 games as a catcher, but the bulk of his time - 78 games - was as a DH, meaning that his OPS+ of 95 was not adequate for the position. In 2013, he regressed significantly in the early season, hitting only .208/.264/.327 after 29 games, with 3 homers and 9 RBI. On May 23rd, the Mariners decided to send him back to the minors to regain his stroke. He had played almost exclusively at catcher during that stretch, as the Mariners now had an abundance of DH/1B/corner OF types and could not spare playing time at those positions for him. He was still in the minor leagues when he accepted a 50-game suspension resulting from MLB's investigation of the Biogenesis Laboratories on August 5th.
When Montero rejoined the Mariners at the start of spring training in 2014, there were new plans for him. The team had decided to have him stop worrying about catching and to concentrate on his hitting while playing first base. There was little of chance of starting the year in Seattle, however, with Justin Smoak and off-season acquisition Logan Morrison expected to share first base duties and he fact he was included in the first wave of players send to the minor league camp, on March 14th. He returned to Seattle on June 12th, when Michael Saunders was placed on the disabled list. He was hitting .270 with 15 doubles, 8 homers and 40 RBIs in 59 games with the AAA Tacoma Rainiers at the time. He played only 6 games for the M's, going 4 for 17 (.235), then was sent back to Tacoma. More injury trouble followed, and then a very bizarre situation when he was on a rehabilitation assignment with the Everett AquaSox of the Northwest League on August 28th. He got into an altercation with Mariners scout Butch Baccala, when the latter criticized his lack of hustle while serving as a base coach, and then sent him an ice cream sandwich in the dugout, an apparent jab at Montero's ongoing problems with controling his weight. Montero did not find this humorous at all, and threw the snack back at Baccala; the two exchanged heated profanities and almost came to blows, in full view of the public attending the game in Boise, ID. GM Jack Zduriencik decided that Montero would not play again that season and would need to address various behavioral issues, as this incident was apparently not a first; Baccala was also reprimanded for his part in the fracas. His final batting line at Tacoma was .286/.350/.489 in 97 games, with 24 doubles, 16 homers and 74 RBI, which would have been considered quite positive had his season not ended on such a sour note.