Why Miguel Montero Is Arizona Diamondbacks' Biggest X-Factor

Trey Warren@treydwarrenContributor IIIMarch 6, 2014

LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 12:  Miguel Montero #26 of the Arizona Diamondbacks hits an RBI single to tie the score in the seventh inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium on June 12, 2013 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

The Arizona Diamondbacks are looking for their catcher Miguel Montero to bounce back this season.

Montero had one of the worst years of his career in 2013, hitting .230 and posting a career-low .344 slugging percentage. He also struck out 110 times, climbing over the century mark for the second straight season.

His WAR plummeted from 3.9 in 2012 to just 0.1.

A lower back strain limited him to just 116 games, the fewest he has played since 2010 (85). That includes missing 23 games in the month of August during the division race with the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Diamondbacks dropped to 9.5 games back in the division in Montero’s absence.

“Miggy” will be looking for redemption in 2014. That is why he is the biggest x-factor for the D'Backs this season.

LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 10:  Miguel Montero #26 of the Arizona Diamondbacks makes a throwing error to second after fielding a bunt from Edinson Volquez #30 of the Los Angeles Dodgers allowing Juan Uribe #5 to score for a 1-0 lead during the second inn
Harry How/Getty Images

Montero rightfully earned the $60 million extension he received back in 2012. From 2011-12, he played in at least 140 games, had at least a .282 batting average, 15 homers and 86 RBI. He had a career-high .391 OBP in 2012.

The 30-year-old is also one of best defensive backstops in baseball. He threw out 40 percent of base stealers in 2011, which led the National League. He is also No. 14 career-wise among active catchers in the category.

Going back to the offensive side, Montero has a new benefit this season. Arizona acquired Mark Trumbo from the Los Angeles Angels, and Trumbo will most likely bat fifth to split himself and fellow right-handed hitter Paul Goldschmidt.

Miguel Montero from various spots in lineup
Batting 4th.2551590.715
Batting 5th.29428111.860
Batting 6th.2572088.753

That means the left-handed Montero will most likely bat in the cleanup spot. He has been more successful batting fifth but is capable of hitting fourth, too. Hitting between Trumbo and Goldschmidt will allow him to be more selective and see better pitches.

Montero has been a menace to pitch against on counts with one strike. He has a career .322 batting average when ahead in the count versus a .219 average when behind. He is hitting .265 when the count is even.

Another benefit to Montero in the cleanup spot is his ability to hit with runners on. He has a lifetime .276 average, and 37 of his 84 homers have come with men on base. He also has more doubles (79) with men on than he has with the bases empty (70).

Moreover, Montero is successful when the team is winning. His batting average is .311 with 52 homers and 249 RBI in 351 Arizona victories. In losses, the catcher is hitting .224 with 32 homers and 127 RBI in 419 games.

The correlation is hard to ignore. 

The options at catcher are slim if Montero is unable to play at any point in the season. Wil Nieves was a solid backup last season but was picked up by the Philadelphia Phillies this offseason.  And after a lifetime in the minors, Tuffy Gosewisch struggled during his first and only 14 games in the big leagues.

Montero is capable of putting up good numbers. With the addition of Trumbo and the emergence of Goldschmidt, he could post the numbers he put up during his All-Star season in 2011. That was also the last year the club won the NL West. 

The D’Backs will need him to be an All-Star if they want to bring the crown back to Phoenix.

All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com

You can follow Trey on Twitter @ treydwarren


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