Montero or Lawrie?

Jeff Blair of the Globe and Mail had an interesting note in his column today, noting that there’s speculation in Toronto that the Mariners offered Michael Pineda to the Blue Jays in exchange for Brett Lawrie. They passed, and as we all know, the Mariners shipped Pineda to New York for Jesus Montero instead.

So, this brings up an interesting question – who is the more valuable player going forward, Lawrie or Montero? A year ago, Marc Hulet ranked Montero as the fifth best prospect in the game, while Lawrie came in at #35. Baseball America concurred, putting Montero at #3 and Lawrie at #40. Lawrie had a fantastic 2011 season, capped off with a monstrous performance in the Majors, but Montero hit well in his late season call-up as well. His minor league performance wasn’t as impressive, but you have to adjust for the difference in league/park and note that catching generally diminishes offensive numbers, so the gap might not be as large as it might seem on the surface.

Of course, Lawrie looks like he could be a quality defensive third baseman, while Montero offers little in the way of defensive value. Scouts seem to be a bit more sold on Montero’s bat, though, and prior year minor league performances all favor Montero. They’re essentially the same age, and both will be counted on as building blocks of their respective team’s offenses for years to come.

So, that brings up the question – who would you rather have going forward, Lawrie or Montero?

Poll after the jump.





Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.

151 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
guilhem
11 years ago

Lawrie and it’s not close.

CircleChange11
11 years ago
Reply to  Dave Cameron

That’s a very good point.

If Montero starts out with a hot April and Lawrie doesn’t, the same question then could result in a completely different answer.

FWIW, for me, it’s Lawrie, although admittingly I’ve never been much of a Jesus Montero fan. I can’t keep myself from thinking that it’s a hype machine … even if that would require “everyone being in on it”, which I know is unlikely.

In this case, I simply figured both are good hitters. One plays the field, the other doesn’t, and the positional adjustment for DH is really high … and well, 3B is kind of a down position in MLB, so having a really good, young 3B is a big plus for any team.

Dandy Salderson
11 years ago
Reply to  Dave Cameron

Lawrie had a pretty damn good year.

Brett Lawrie
11 years ago
Reply to  Dave Cameron

You’re way off, Cameron. Go eat something.

gabriel
11 years ago
Reply to  Dave Cameron

A year can and should shift our expectations significantly in some circumstances.

The margin of error for Montero has always been extremely slim as a questionable-defence catcher prospect – and he just had a year where an inchoate consensus that he won’t be able to catch in the majors solidified. And as a DH/1B prospect, the margin of error for his bat isn’t particularly large, and he had a year which saw a significant increase in his K% without improvements in other areas.

Lawrie, on the other hand, entered the year with good scouting reports on his bat, but underwhelming results; no clear position and major worries about his defence; unimpressive plate discipline, and concerns about his makeup. He had a year where he improved his plated discipline hugely, found a defensive home and erased concerns among many (though not all) about his defence, and hit about as well as is possible, all the while getting positive reviews from his teammates and coaches.

Mark
11 years ago
Reply to  Dave Cameron

Part of the reason was Lawrie’s uncertainty. Pretty much everybody accepted Montero would be moved to 1B or DH, but Lawrie might be a 3B, a corner OF, or who knows what. Additionally Montero had been the better hitter (at least by RC+) and was already in AAA whereas Lawrie had a good but not elite season in AA.

In 2011 Lawrie broke out, partly due to the hitting in Vegas but also due to some improvements. He cut down on the K rate, showed better power, and even improved the BB rate in the majors. More importantly, he showed that not only could he handle 3B, but he could play it pretty darn well. That’s huge, given how shallow 3B is in the majors and the fact his bat wouldn’t need to be as strong at third to make up the difference compared to if he had been in the OF.

On the other hand we’ve got Montero repeating AAA, and for whatever reason his BB rate dropped, the strikeouts increased, and the power decreased. Again, I didn’t follow him closely, I don’t know if he was injured or whatever, but that’s never a good sign for a guy repeating a level.

Both were pretty impressive at the majors, obviously. But with Montero basically limited to DH/1B duty and Lawrie pretty much guaranteed to continue playing at third, I think we can understand why it changed.

Admittedly I’m a Jays fan, and I wouldn’t argue if you told me Montero was a better hitter going forward (adjusting for park, of course). But the position adjustments alone pretty much make Lawrie the better guy.

baty
11 years ago
Reply to  Dave Cameron

let’s do an Alonso/Cashner/Rizzo based poll to set up the results for next January’s discussion…

Visine
11 years ago
Reply to  Dave Cameron

Have you blinked yet?

unamuno
11 years ago
Reply to  Dave Cameron

Inchoate! In a fantasy baseball post!

RobM
11 years ago
Reply to  Dave Cameron

Face it, Toronto fans are voting for Lawrie, Yankee fans no longer care about Montero, while Mariners fans don’t know him yet.

Oliver
11 years ago
Reply to  guilhem

A year ago people thought Montero might still be a catcher.

Leo
11 years ago
Reply to  Oliver

Not anybody who was realistic.

Slartibartfast
11 years ago
Reply to  Oliver

This, exactly. The biggest difference between this year and last year is that, we are more sure now that Montero just isn’t going to cut it at C. That makes all the difference.

RobM
11 years ago
Reply to  Oliver

Yet, oddly, there’s a better chance he will be a catcher now than before. The Mariners plan to catch him. Why not? It’s not like they’re contending.