The Comp: Miguel Montero Vs. Jeff Clement





See also: Last week's The Comp compared Jacoby Ellsbury and Trevor Crowe

With the only two things in common being that they're both lefthanded hitters and both make their money behind the plate for a living, there aren't many similarities between Miguel Montero and Jeff Clement.

Montero is from Venezuela, while Clement hails from Southern Cal (via Marshalltown, Iowa, where he was born). Montero is listed at 5-11, 195 pounds. Clement, on the other hand, is 6-1, 210.

But both are impressing scouts around their respective leagues, for both what they're doing at the plate and behind it.

Montero is coming off a huge year at high Class A Lancaster where he put up huge power numbers, hitting .349/.311/.625 with 24 homers in 355 at-bats. But there was a storm of criticism surrounding him coming into this season, questioning the validity of his true power potential--that his numbers were seriously inflated because of playing in one of the premiere hitter's parks in a premiere hitter's league.

"A lot of people doubted he'd continue to hit for power," an American League scout said. "And I think there was some truth in that. Playing basically a whole season in the Cal League is going to amp up a lot of people's numbers. I mean, look at Brandon Wood."

But no one really doubted Wood that much--and not nearly as much as Montero, who finished last year at Double-A Tennessee with two homers in 108 at-bats.

But like Wood, he is putting the doubters of his power to rest in Double-A early this season, slugging .672 with five bombs in 61 at-bats with the Smokies. (Wood also has five in 78 at-bats at Double-A Arkansas).

"What he's come out and done is kind of play with a little chip on his shoulder," the scout said. "He's undersized, but his swing is level and it stays in the zone for a long time. I don't care how many people look at his size and question his ability--not only to hit for power, but be an effective catcher--I don't care how tall or how small he is. He can play and for me, he's one of the best catching prospects in the game."

And that's not really even touching on Montero's defense. He was personally upset when managers around the Cal League named Rockies catcher Chris Ianetta the best defensive catcher on the circuit last year. But that just seems like something Montero is used to.

"Being snubbed, being overlooked, being underrated--whatever you want to call it, that's him," the scout said. "He's ahead of most catchers in Double-A in terms of his game-calling ability. He blocks balls well and is very agile--the athleticism is definitely there. He has an average arm, but it will play."

While Montero has plenty of experience under his belt, then there is Clement--who had just 113 career at-bats at low Class A Wisconsin last season.

But the Mariners' first-round pick (third overall) is roundly considered the better long term catching prospect--regardless of the lack of experience, or the fact that Montero is ahead of him defensively.

That reputation starts with the huge raw power in Clement's bat and ends with his aptitude and willingness to learn the nuances of the position.

"There aren't many lefthanded bats as catchers who you'd like better than Clement," a scout from a National League club said. "I know Montero has shown a lot over the last couple years and really has come a long way, but this guy has ridiculous power and the athleticism and intelligence level that you just don't see very often.

"Not saying that Montero doesn't have that intelligence or he doesn't have the ability to make strides to improve more defensively. I just think that when you look at the big picture, Clement is beyond him with the bat--the bat is more of a sure thing for me--and has the ability to be a better catcher, even though Montero might be ahead of him right now.

"It's interesting, because when you think of top catchers, everyone looks at (Braves catcher Jarrod) Saltalamacchia. And who wouldn't want a switch-hitting catcher with power from both sides and has the athleticism behind the plate? But these two guys we're talking about are right there with him. If I had to rank the three today, it'd be Clement, Saltalamacchia and then Montero."

Advantage: Clement.