The only knock on Jesus Montero's abilities have been defensive related, but even those are becoming fewer and further between these days. Most reports are claiming improvement for the Yankees top-rated prospect behind the plate, especially in regards to his ability to throw out potential base stealers, a theory that was aided when Montero gunned down two baserunners in a spring training game on Tuesday. And while Montero's arm strength has never been the question, it's his quickness and throwing motion that are reportedly showing improvement.
No one questions Montero's ability to hit, so the only thing holding him from the majors is his defensive preparedness, which makes his progress in that regard a focal point for the 21-year-old this spring, notes Bryan Hoch of MLB.com. The Yankees are naturally enticed to keep Montero on the major league roster if he shows even the slightest defensive capabilities, hoping that he can serve as a backup to Russell Martin, who recently returned from injury, and spell former catcher Jorge Posada at DH. Montero will have to jump Francisco Cervelli on the team's depth chart, but with his far-superior bat, Montero should have no trouble doing so if the team feels he can handle catching one or two days per week. But an argument can be made both for and against the idea of Montero serving in a back-up role in the majors, and Mike Axisa of River Avenue Blues does exactly that.
But others have made the case that, despite improved throwing results in small sample sizes, Montero's defense is still far away from being major league ready. Moshe Mandel of YankeeAnalysts.com has some unflattering numbers regarding the success of Montero's pitchers while catching in Triple-A in 2010, and while pitching statistics for catchers should be taken with a grain of salt, the numbers surrounding Montero do require a further look. Furthermore, his passed ball and while pitch numbers are far from what they need to be and must improve before he's catching in New York.
But for all we know, they have. His showings this spring have been positive thus far, albeit brief. Montero is nonetheless in the running for a roster spot, and any defensive improvements, however slight, may be all the justification the Yankees need to keep his potent bat in the Bronx this April.