2020 Preseason Dirty Thirty-Five: Prospect #7

PROSPECT PREFACE

I present to you my list of the top 35 prospects within the Cardinals organization!! The list is both exhausting and ever-evolving.

I am aggressive with who I deem to be a "Graduate." You can read the post that I wrote on The Graduates by following this link. As a heads up, you won't find Lane Thomas, Ryan Helsley, Genesis Cabrera, Andrew Knizner, Rangel Ravelo, or Edmundo Sosa on The Dirty Thirty-Five (R.I.Cardinals Prospect.P to Tampa Bay Ray Randy Arozarena and Texas Ranger Adolis "JAG" Garcia).

There is also another group of about 15 prospects that I could have written about. They are on the outside looking in, currently. I did write in-depth about five of them, and I presented those fellas in this article. I also briefly touch on a bunch of other prospects in that article.

Finally, I totally cheated and basically just copied and pasted the individual write-ups from the "Position Rankings" articles that I wrote after Black Friday. I hadn't realized how thorough those write-ups were until I started to redoing the D35. Those write-ups are the shells for these posts. I have added additional gifs and thoughts to each and I've done some MAJOR editing within each write-up, as well.


Please enjoy! Please have fun! Please tell me what you think!


Third Baseman Elehuris Montero

Age 21

Springfield

International Signing, 2014




LOST.

The word that best describes Montero's 2019 season is "LOST." First, after getting off to a rough start, just as he was starting to put it together a little bit, Montero suffered a strain in his wrist area that put him on the IL. Then, shortly after coming back from that IL stint, Montero was sent back to the IL with a broken hamate bone.

Then, two months later, when Montero finally made his way back into the Springfield lineup, he almost always looked lost and over-aggressive at the plate. Even when he wasn't over-aggressive, he was clearly frustrated. The hitter that impressed me so much as a 19-year-old in the Midwest League was a complete shell of himself, even when he was healthy, during the 2019 season.


One thing that I really came to appreciate about the 2018 version of Montero was that he took a good at-bat. It wasn't just that he was slugging the ball and putting up a wRC+ of 157 in a league that he was 2.4 years younger than, on average. It was that he was hunting for his pitch, without over-expanding the zone until he needed to. Even when he needed to expand the zone back then, he was still capable of doing damage because of the amount of the plate that he covered and the speed of his bat. That's why he seemed like he was on the cusp of a top 100 prospects birth entering 2019.

Montero from 2018

This is what I came to love about this young man in 2018. He had an approach well beyond his years. He definitely files into the category of players that the ball sounds different off of their bat, too. While he isn't the fastest, he always knew how and when to run. He's always been tremendously dedicated to his craft, and that was part of the reason why he was capable of breaking out in such a big way during the 2018 season. His instincts and his baseball IQ, along with his work ethic, are all off of the charts. There are few players in Cardinals' system that are as good as he is at making adjustments on the fly.


There are a lot of things about Montero's 2019 that you could highlight as bad. I mean, nearly all of it, really. However, his defense was one thing that definitely took a step forward. Entering the season, I felt confident that Montero could spend a couple of seasons as an OK defensive third baseman before he'd have to eventually switch positions. As I've said many times, his third base defense entering 2019 reminded me a lot of Albert Pujols' third base defense.


I was surprised to see him take such big steps forward defensively from the end of the 2018 season. The kid never takes a play off over there, and his arm is the strongest on the infield within the organization. He's a big boy, and he might not have the athletic agility of Nolan Gorman, but he makes up for it by doing everything that he can to make a play on a ball hit in his direction. I was actually very impressed with Montero as a third baseman in 2019. He's definitely played beyond the "third baseman Albert Pujols" comparison that I've played up to this point. If he's capable of keeping his body like it currently is, then he has more than just a couple of years at third base in his future.


As you can see in all of the gifs in this article, Montero has one of those body-types that make you worry about the amount and type of weight he's going to put on moving forward. Right now, you might look at his body and think that he is a little too thick. I get that. However, if you are going to be thick, then this is the way that you want to be thick. It might not look like it, but there isn't much wasted weight on his body. The kid is STRONG, and his workout regimen is tailored to utilize every ounce of his frame's makeup. I definitely think that you could make an argument that it would do him well to tone up. Especially when you refer back to the gif of him in 2018 and see that he was definitely a little more trim in his upper body. I understand why people would want that from him, or to see that from him. My thought is, for him only, if he's capable of playing third the way that he played it in 2019, and if he's capable of rediscovering his 2018 magic, then he doesn't need to change a thing.


The sample was small, but Montero was somewhat productive in limited duties during the Arizona Fall League. In 50 at-bats, Montero hit 200/333/300. He had three doubles and one triple. Montero did this while walking nine times. Worth alarm, he did strike out 17 times in those 50 at-bats.

Gif courtesty of @Cardinalsgifs

Now, I would also like to say that I have some serious concerns about what I've seen out of Montero so far in spring training. He made an error in the field while throwing off-balance, but I was fine with that. My concern is in both his lower half at the plate, and in his approach. Now, he could very well just be trying too hard to make an impression, similar to how he was pressing in 2019 at Springfield.

Gif courtesy of @Cardinalsgifs

As you can see in both of the gifs above from this spring training that the extremely talented @Cardinalsgifs provided this article, Montero's front foot timing mechanism is a little off. That's causing his hips to fly wide open before his hands are getting around. This doesn't hurt him all that much when he shortens up and pushes the ball to the opposite field, but it does hurt him when he is in a position to slug the ball early in counts. This wasn't the case in 2018, and it's something that he is going to have to rediscover. This is part of the reason why Montero appears to be way out ahead of breaking pitches, and why he is on top of everything that he is making contact with that isn't a short poke to the opposite field. It's rare that I get down on a prospect, or any player, during spring training, but I'm definitely more concerned about Montero than I otherwise would have been had I not seen him in the early stages of spring training. Even with these concerns, I still see the foundation for offensive dominance in Montero's game.




THE DEAL


There are many reasons to be down on Montero, but I'm not going to fall into that line of thinking just yet. The player that Montero was during the 2018 season was too good and too advanced to have regressed permanently into the 2019 version. Montero possesses power to all-fields when he is "on," and he has it while displaying a keen ability to adjust on the fly, in-game. He's a smart baseball player, and he took the next step in his development at third base following the 2018 season.


There are still some obstacles in the way of Montero's success. He's going to have to calm down at the plate, as his approach right now is too aggressive and contrary to the hitter that we saw in 2018. I truly believe that Montero will have a season closer to his 2018 season if he can come back healthy in 2020. It'll just come down to how relaxed he can get at the plate, while continuing to work on the lower-half issue that I highlighted at the end of this post.



The biggest of shout outs should be given to @Cardinalsgifs, FanGraphs, Twitter, and MiLB. TV for all of the work that they do that eventually gets put into these articles.

Look at that beautiful pic by @Cardinalsgifs. He was also kind enough to provide the gifs of Montero from this spring training at the end of this article.


Thanks For Reading!!

Kyle Reis