His Defense Must Be Terrible
Johnny Monell, a catcher for the AAA Fresno Grizzlies, is currently batting .317 with a.986 OPS. In his last ten games, he’s batting .405 with a 1.186 OPS.
It’s not a fluke. Monell has hit well for years in the Giants’ minor league system. He has a career .816 minor league OPS in almost 2,200 minor league plate appearances, more than half at the AA level or above, which is exceptional for a minor league catcher. Yet, he’s never played in the majors, and he isn’t currently on the Giants’ 40-man roster.
Monell is a former 30th round draft pick, which means he isn’t going to get a single break he doesn’t earn and then some. Even so, his record of thumping the baseball with the bat is starting to get to get redundant.
The only logical explanation is that his defense is terrible. He’s thrown out 29% of base stealers in his minor league career, which isn’t very good, but it isn’t terrible either. My guess is that he doesn’t otherwise field his position well, and he doesn’t handle pitchers or frame pitches well.
Even so, as a guy who can back-up at catcher and hits like he does, it’s amazing he’s never been on the Giants’ radar. You never here reports on Monell from main-stream sports writers — the only place you hear anything about him is on blogs like this by people willing to delve into the minutia of a team’s minor league statistics and who proudly don’t know what they don’t know — i.e., who don’t know exactly why the parent team doesn’t think the player is any kind of a prospect.
The problem for Monell is that he’s already 27 years old this season. If he isn’t any kind of a major league catcher on defense, he’s getting old to be a hitting prospect at some other position. Even so, back-up catchers who hit like Monell are a rarity, but even this is a knock on Monell, since most teams, assuming they have a starter who can hit, prefer to carry a glove-man as a the back-up catcher.
Monell is a little like Brock Bond, a 2Bman who has put up some terrific minor league numbers but has never been called up by the Giants, except that Bond has found a way to get hurt at the most inopportune times. Monell has been remarkably healthy for a catcher.
If we can take any lessons from the Johnny Monells and the Brock Bonds of the baseball world, it’s probably the following: (1) good hitting isn’t enough — a player at a key defensive position has to be at least adequate to make the majors unless he hits like the second coming of Josh Gibson; and (2) college players drafted after the 20th round are an after-thought unless and until they play so well that the parent club is forced to take notice.