Who is this Johnny Monell and where does he fit in San Francisco Giants catching depth chart?
Every spring there is a player who makes an unexpected splash.
So far this spring, that player would be outfielder Francisco Peguero, who is hitting .424 (14 for 33) in 13 games.
But there’s another player trying to get noticed as well — Johnny Monell. Monell went 3 for 4 with two doubles in the 9-5 win over the Reds on Wednesday, raising his spring average to .600 (9 for 15) with eight runs, one homer and five RBI.
Now, where Peguero has a track record among the Giants’ top prospects and even had a brief stint with the big club last season, Monell is not a name many Giants fans are familiar with.
So let’s get caught up with Johnny Monell.
Monell was first drafted by the Giants in the 27th round of the 2005 draft out of Christopher Columbus High School in the Bronx. Monell passed on signing with the Giants and went to play at Seminole Community College in Sanford, Fla.
In the 2006 draft, he was taken in the 49th round by the Mets. Again, he passed and returned to Seminole.
In the 2007 draft, he was drafted in the 30th round by the Giants. This time, he signed.
A left-handed hitting catcher, Monell has spent six seasons in the Giants system, only briefing rising about Double-A during a five-game stint with the Fresno Grizzlies in 2010.
He’s spent the past two seasons at Double-A Richmond, where he hit .249 with 10 HRs and 49 RBI in 119 games in 2011 and .257 with 11 HRs and 50 RBI in 108 games in 2012. He actually shared time at catcher with Richmond with Tommy Joseph in 2012, before Joseph was shipped to Philadelphia in the Hunter Pence trade.
The Giants exposed Monell to the Rule V draft last December, but there were no takers.
Monell, 27, was a non-roster invitee to camp this spring largely because the Giants needed catchers with the bevy of pitchers they invited to camp this spring.
After getting a chance to play in games recently, Monell has hit the ball hard and received some attention.
“He’s doing what you want these young guys to do,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “He’s drawing attention to himself. I’d like to get him behind the plate a little bit more. When you swing the bat the way he’s swinging, you force the issue a little bit. It’s a rare commodity to have a good-hitting left-handed catcher, and he could be coming into his own right now.”
Monell is known as a good defensive catcher with some occasional left-handed pop. He threw out 34 percent of would-be base stealers last year.
So is Monell working his way into the catching conversation for the Giants? I doubt it.
But with Hector Sanchez battling some nagging injuries and Andrew Susac being sent down to minor league camp and the rest of the catchers in camp consisting Guillermo Quiroz? Tyler LaTorre and Jackson Williams, why not give him a look.
At the very least, Monell may have earned himself a ticket from Richmond to Triple-A Fresno this summer.