January 28, 2013
The Keeper Reaper
Second, Short, and Catcher for 1/28/13
Some players are willing to accept a designated hitter role on a team, yet others see their production suffer (sometimes greatly) when they don't play the field. It's very early in Montero's career, but he appears to be in the latter camp. Montero received 321 plate appearances as a designated hitter and 230 plate appearances as a catcher last year, and the difference in his slash line was staggering. As a designated hitter, Montero hit a paltry .226/.265/.309 with five home runs. Conversely, he crushed the ball as a catcher, hitting .310/.343/.498 with 10 home runs.
Montero isn't long for the catcher position, though; Mike Zunino is the Mariners’ long-term answer at the position and already reached Double-A last year, but by trading John Jaso this offseason the club has opened the door for Montero to catch in the short term. A mediocre 2012 does very little to diminish elite projections on his bat. Montero has a chance to bring a big batting average with plus power to the middle of an order. That has value at any position, but behind the plate it makes him keeper league gold. Montero will head into this season with catcher eligibility, and he'll almost certainly, barring an injury, see enough time behind the plate this year to retain that eligibility in 2014.
When approached about writing for Baseball Prospectus, it was made clear to me that one prerequisite for joining the team was sharing in the unbridled love of Altuve. Okay, so that's not true at all, but I am a fan of the diminutive second baseman. Altuve made strides across the board last year from his 234 plate appearance major league debut in 2011. All three aspects of his slash line improved, as did his walk rate, strikeout rate, isolated slugging, home run rate, stolen base volume, and stolen base success rate. Even his most vocal backers would have been hard-pressed to accurately project his 2012 season.
The biggest surprise in his fantasy stat line was his 33 stolen bases, which came at an efficient 75 percent success rate. He's not a burner, so it's unlikely he'll steal many more bases, and a slight dip wouldn't be shocking. His efficiency and the shortcomings of the Astros lineup, however, should allow him to continue to run. In addition to his stolen base output, Altuve adds a dash of power. He hit seven home runs last year, and he has enough juice in the bat to produce that many home runs again this year, give or take a few.