Mariners Insider

Change is coming: Mariners to send down Jesus Montero to Tacoma, bring up Jesus Sucre

Post by Ryan Divish on May 23, 2013 at 7:47 am with 12 Comments »
May 23, 2013 2:47 pm
AP photo
AP photo

UPDATE: The Mariners announced the roster move of sending Jesus Montero to Tacoma, but did not announce any corresponding roster moves yet. They will do so tomorrow.

On the heels of a six-game losing streak and a 2-7 road trip, the Seattle Mariners will make an expected and needed roster move sometime today.

Catcher Jesus Montero will be sent to Triple-A Tacoma, while catcher Jesus Sucre will be selected from the Rainiers. Double-A back-up catcher Brandon Bantz, who was serving as the starter in Jackson after John Hicks suffered a groin injury and went on the DL, is already headed to Tacoma to serve as Mike Zunino’s backup.

With three catchers in Tacoma, and Zunino garnering the bulk of the playing time, it appears the Mariners may have finally taken a step back from the idea that Montero will be catcher at the big league level.

What position will Montero play in Tacoma? Well, he figures to see plenty of time at designated hitter and some time at first base. Zunino is the catcher of the future, so his playing time should not be affected.

Montero’s demotion to Triple-A seemed to be more likely with each passing day and each failed at-bat. While much of the focus has been on his defense – and his struggles to catch at a serviceable level in the big leagues – it’s Montero’s hitting that has been  his biggest issue.

As one of the top prospects in baseball a few years ago, it was a given that Montero would never be a great defensive catcher. His lack of athleticism, his size and fundamental flaws seemed too much to overcome to become even an above average defensive catcher. But his hitting, in particular his raw power to all fields, was supposed to help offset those defensive shortcomings.

But the Mariners have yet to see that offensive prowess since acquiring him in a trade for Michael Pineda last offseason. A year ago, he showed hints of offensive productivity, hitting .260 with 15 homers and 62 RBI. He struggled for periods and his impatience and the plate and lack of an approach were an issue. He struck out 99 times in and had just 29 walks, posting a .298 on-base percentage to go with a .386 slugging percentage.

This season, Montero seems to have regressed. Named the starting catcher before spring training, he lost the job less than a month into the season, and began splitting time with veteran Kelly Shoppach. Montero struggled badly at the plate, showing even worse of an approach than a year ago. And the numbers reflect it. He is seeing just  3.39 pitches per at-bat. The league average is 3.85.

He is hitting .208 (21-for-101) with just five extra base hits and nine RBI. He has 21 strikeouts out and just eight walks with a .264 on-base percentage and a .327 slugging percentage.

This isn’t likely to be a brief stint in Tripl- A. Barring injury at the big league level, Montero will be there until figure things out offensively – it’s where his value is as a player. Much of the work will need to be with pitch recognition, understanding the strike zone and developing an approach that doesn’t have him swinging at anything and everything. At just 23 years old, there is time.

Defensively, he really is a man without a position. He can try and work at first base, but his lack of foot speed and athleticism will hinder him and it will be a challenge to be  adequate at best. His true position may be DH and once or twice a week catcher.

As for Sucre, he is a defensive first catcher who impressed the Mariners coaching staff this spring. He is hitting .302 but has 59 at-bats on the season. To get Sucre on the roster, the team will have to make room for him on the 40-man roster.

Why Sucre and not Zunino, the Mariners’ catcher of the future? After a torrid start, Zunino has cooled off considerably. Triple-A pitchers have stopped throwing him fastballs in the strike zone. He’s now seeing a steady diet of breaking and offspeed pitches and elevated fastballs with two strikes. He still needs time to mature and play every day. Forcing him into the big leagues before he is ready would likely do more harm than good at this point.

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Leave a comment Comments → 12
  1. JoshSmall24 says:

    Hi Ryan,

    I was just wondering if you’ve read Dave Cameron’s article on USSMariner, and whether or not you feel like another move may be coming shortly. I’m dying to get Ackley/Montero on track, and I think both Triunfel and Franklin could be serviceable replacements during the time he’s down there. Also, which outfielder will be sent down when Guti is ready? Are you thinking it will be Endy? And finally, it’s looking more and more like Maurer needs some AAA time. Do you think there’s a chance we could see Beavan/Noesi or even Carraway?

    Thanks!

    ~Josh

  2. I hope the Montero move isn’t the only move in the works.

    Truinfel/Franklin couldn’t do any worse than Ryan/Andino/Ackley.

    Why should we keep Guti around when he has to sit out 2-3 games a week? It’s time to make a decision with him and maybe cut bait.

  3. Is he the only one?

  4. …..and sometime in the near future Jesus Montero will be an all-star playing for some other team.

  5. dave8557 says:

    Hooray, the M’s have finally made a decision on Montero. Here are some more. Ackley needs to join him. Tired of watching him take strike one down middle, then strike two on the outside corner, then ground out to 2nd base. The Smoak experiment is over. He’s had close to 2,000 at bats and is not a major league hitter. So tired of watching him strike out or walk with RISP. If stats are kept for runners left on by a batter, he would be a top 5 leader. Andino needs to be released. Bring up Franklin. Why are we wasting our time watching this guy take strike one, swing at strike two in the dirt, then take a called strike three? Also, release Harang. I was so disappointed he missed New York. My Yankees could have gotten healthy with him on mound. Why is he on roster? Next, send Luetge down. He had a good 3 month run last year but has been horrendous since.

  6. fansince1983 says:

    I have been reading and hearing sports radio. Seems everyone is so worried making alot of changes…as this is an idication of giving up on the season. Really, it is no different than shifting players around because of an injury…only that we are replace poor performance players.

  7. Ryan, a couple observations and comments:

    Does Andino have any minor league options left? If he is sent down or DFA’d, who do you think would become the utility guy?

    To offer a rebuttal to the comments about Smoak, can you post his stats since May 1st?

    Do you think Ackley could use an extended stint in AAA to get his swing and approach figured out, and possibly rebuild some confidence?

    How far away from being MLB-ready is Brad Miller?

    Many thanks my friend.

  8. Z is so lucky Pineda didn’t become a star.

  9. guidocarmasi says:

    Dave Niehaus must be turning over in his grave. All these men named once traded will become superstars in their own right.

  10. brigadeer says:

    “The Smoak experiment is over………..”

    Well, at least it should be. 2 months into the season he has 8 rbis. 3 came on solo home runs off of mop up pitchers, so with runners on base he has 5 rbis for the season. Pitiful.

  11. jbltzfk says:

    Why did Ackley call off Saunders in the first inning yesterday? The CF is coming in, and has the right of way. That uncaught ball was the key to the inning, then the game; you could see the resignation setting in.
    Ackley needs AAA time to get his head on straight.
    Maauer need some down time to heal; Harang needs his walking papers; I guess Joe Saunders will get one more whipping before shipping. . . .

  12. bbnate420 says:

    Henny penny, the sky is falling.

    Montero has no business being at C more than 20-25 times a year. He hopefully can get his swing turned around when he can focus primarily on it and become this team’s future DH.

    Smoak has a .704 OPS this year. Not great, but hardly terrible. He’s walking at a great rate. His power is starting to come on. He’s hitting .257 in his last 30 days. What better option do they have right now? The same people saying to cut bait with his will be the same people whining if he makes it somewhere else. You can’t have it both ways. I don’t think he’ll ever be a big power hitter, but I think he’s capable of a .800 OPS and playing very good defense at 1st.

    Z’s trade history does look pretty bad right now. Maybe it’s a good thing they couldn’t complete the Upton trade?

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