Updated: May 2, 2019
THIS IS A COUNTDOWN!!!!! Over the next forty-something days, starting on February 12th and ending on March 28th, I will be rolling out my Top 35 prospects in the Cardinals organization. We call it "The Dirty Thirty-Five" because it's marketable, I think. Also, we call it that because my write-ups and evaluations are a little different. I’m kind of a quirky and goofy guy, and the evaluations fit that personality. I've already written about the four players that graduated off the list. I've also written about the guys that just missed the list. You should check those out because you're going to have questions about my sanity afterwards. The article about the guys that didn’t make the D35 is really freaking good. This list is my own. It's terrible. I'm fine with it. Remember, have fun with these lists. Ranking prospects is a joke, but it's fun so treat all of the prospect ranking accordingly.
Elehuris Montero - Third Baseman
Signed during the 2014 International signing period for $300,000
STATS AS OF 5-1-2019
This is the story of how hype dilutes perception.
This is the story of how an international signing can bust on to the scene. It's also the story of how the amount of bonus money spent on an International teenager means, what the British call, "F*** All."
This is the story of how one man was head-and-shoulders above any other hitter in the organization during the 2018 season, all while playing against advanced talent.
This is the story of a top 100 prospects in baseball that doesn't seem to be recognized as a top 100 prospect in baseball.
This is the story of Elehuris (pronounced "uh-JESUS" I think) Montero.
I bring up hype because, had the Cardinals drafted a then-19-year-old "Uh-leer-us" Montero with their first round selection instead of Nolan Gorman, then he would be the best prospect in the organization nationally, without a doubt.
However, since he's been in the organization for four seasons, and he's come up through the minors all of the way from the Dominican Summer League, he doesn't get the hype that others get. he also doesn't get the hype that Gorman gets, and that's because he wasn't a shiny new toy for both the organization and the fans to rally around in-season. There wasn't a fancy show on MLB Network to cover his signing or ascent. He. Just. Did. IT.
Let's put it a different way.
If Nolan Gorman happened to be a more well-rounded hitter that played a more consistent third base, that'd be the only way that he'd be a more complete prospect, at this point, than Montero. That's not to say that Gorman isn't a great prospect. He's an elite prospect. One of the few that the Cardinals have had in years, from the National hive-mind standpoint. Rather, it's to show you that Montero is also an elite prospect. He isn't much older than Gorman, yet he's better at nearly every facet of the game, with the exception of in-game power. The league that Gorman struggled at to end the 2018 season? Well, Montero was the MVP of that League.
What really impressed me about Montero throughout the season was how he evolved as a hitter. He was impressive early on, but he wasn't complete. As the season progressed, his K rate went down and his walk rate went up. If I knew how to embed (or even look for) rolling graphs, I'd put one here. That graph that may or may not exist would show you that as this mostly 19-year-old faced this tough and advanced league, he adapted and learned from it extremely well. He showed very little power at the beginning, but he was mashing by the Midwest League All-Star break.
He even improved defensively. Montero went from a questionable-at-best defensive third baseman to (what I believe to be) an average third baseman with more to show in the tank. He's extremely good at coming in on the baseball, and he has a very good arm on top of that.
Basically, Montero went from being a baby rhino at third at the start of the 2018 season, to being something that resembles the third base version of Albert Pujols that we saw 75 yeas or so ago. That's all to say, he's "average" at third, right now. You'll notice in these defensive gif's that he's agile and reactionary enough to stay at the position, as long as his body holds up. Obviously, these are just highlight .gifs, but trust me when I tell you that his body confuses people into thinking that he's boxier than he actually is. Unathletic third basemen can't make this kind of play, even with luck on their side:
I guess that the next place to take this is to focus on his body. This next statement needs a little preface so here it is: I MEAN THIS NEXT COMP ONLY IN THE PHYSICALLY AND MECHANICALLY WAY, AND NOT IN A 'This guys is going to be this player" KIND OF WAY.
For over a year now, I've been comparing Montero's physique and mechanics to Albert Pujols. That's because Montero has this way of appearing to be thicker than he actually is, and because he does such an amazing job of doing what Mr. Pujols used to call "staying inside of the ball." With the thickness aspect of this, yes, Montero is a big boy. He isn't chunky, though, even if he looks that way. It was also that way with the 20 through 25-year-old Albert Pujols, as well. Montero is powerful and strong, and there isn't much in the way of wasted mass on his frame. But it also goes to show you just how important it's going to be for Mr. Montero to keep his body in line. If he let's it slip then he might be, what the "cool" old guys at my full-time job, call "cruisin' for a bruisin'." If he is going to stay at third long-term, he's going to have to work for it.
Montero's 2018 season also taught us that it takes him a little time to get his power into the groove of a new league. Over the first two months of the season at Peoria, Montero hit an impressive 328/371/497/868 in 197 plate appearances. However, he only hit five home runs and twelve doubles in those 197 plate appearances.
Then, in his next 228 plate appearances at that level, before being promoted to Palm Beach, Montero hit ten home runs and sixteen doubles. He slashed 317/390/558 over this stretch.
To end the season, Montero was promoted to Palm Beach. In 104 Florida State League plate appearances, Montero hit 286/330/408 with one home run and nine doubles. As I'm sure you know by now, the Florida State League is rude to hitters, so it wasn't a surprise that he never fully put it together over those first 104 plate appearances.
I definitely would have liked to have seen him put up some power numbers, but it's not something that I'm worried about just yet. I don't know where Montero is going to start this coming season, but I know that he's going to be impressive, even if it comes after a relatively slow start.
At this point in his career, and without being able to go back and access the MiLBTV archives, I can't articulate where I think the hole in his swing is. You'll notice in some of the .gif's above that he doesn't have a problem turning on a pitch on the inside fourth of the plate. You'll also notice that it doesn't matter if he is getting a fastball or a breaking pitch. He's capable of making contact with nearly anything thrown his way. What you might not notice is that Montero has a great understanding of how he is going to be attacked, and in which counts he can unload on a pitch. I LOVE How aggressive he is in 0-0 counts. The old school mentality tells us to take the first pitch, but if you throw an 0-0 fastball to Montero, he is going to murder it.
If you are really paying attention to all of the .gif's in this post, you'll notice that Montero just has "it" in the box. "It's" just there.
He has a quick swing, an appropriate load, tremendous balance, good plate coverage, solid pitch recognition, and a powerful swing to all fields. Aside from the over the fence power that Gorman has to the oppo-gap, along with Knizner's and Hurst's ability to take an outside pitch in any count to the oppo gap for a hit, Montero is the best option of the players on The Dirty Thirty-Five to put the ball in the oppo-gap. He has as much of a "professional hitter's approach" as I've seen out of a teenager in my time covering the organization. If Carlson hit for this type of power, it'd be him. But Montero can get on base and hit for power, without sacrificing the ability to drive the ball. Don't lose track of the fact that Carlson is only three months younger than Montero, as well.
As of right now, this Midwest League MVP possesses all of the trappings of a major league contributor. I'm very excited to see if he stays on this course. I already regret not sticking with my initial thought and ranking him #1 overall on The Dirty Thirty-Five.
THE BOTTOM LINE
It's hard to believe that a player as good as Montero can be under-appreciated as a prospect, but that's exactly what we have here. Montero is better than anyone but those that saw him and covered him know. He's a better infielder than you've been led to believe, as well. He's also a better pure hitter than you've been told. Sure, there is work to do, and he's going to need to be aggressive in keeping his body in his sweet-spot, but the foundation and the first floor have already been built for an Elehuris Montero national breakout. I'm not sure if he'll start the season in Springfield, but he'll be there by the end of the year. You're going to want to get your tickets as soon as possible. In the past, I've compared Andrew Knizner's ceiling to the 2013 version of Allen Craig. Montero's ceiling is 2012 Allen Craig. With ranking him second, I'm banking on something close to this.
MAY 1st UPDATE
It's been a somewhat tough start to the 2019 season at AA for Montero, but he's starting to show signs of busting out of an early funk. I did seriously consider flipping him with Gorman, but it's too early in the season for that. I'm ansious to see what the month of May is going to look like for Montero.
Thanks, once again, to FanGraphs for providing such excellent and essential stats.
Thanks For Reading!! Kyle Reis