21. Daniel Montano (337 points, 31 ballots)
Coming into 2016, people knew Daniel Montano for one reason: he received the biggest Latin America free agent signing bonus from the Rockies, $2 million, in 2015 at age 16, after he was rated the 12th best international prospect in that class by MLB.com. Since the now 17-year-old lefty batting outfielder didn't make his professional debut until this year for Colorado's Dominican Summer League team, he was a little off the radar. He’s more on the radar now, but until he comes stateside, he’s not a player that will get widespread recognition.
In his first professional season, Montano hit .228/.325/.427 with nine homers and 28 extra base hits in 280 plate appearances. That might not sound like much, but in a tough DSL offensive environment against pitchers that on average were over a year older than him, that hitting line equates to a 121 wRC+ and a tie for second place in homers. Rockies prospects who have posted those kinds of lines in the DSL, especially at that age, have tended to do very well when they do come stateside.
Eric Longenhagen of FanGraphs ranked Montano 21st in the system recently:
Montano got $2 million from Colorado in 2015 as a bat-first center fielder with a short but wide-shouldered frame. Montano has feel for airborne contact and his in-game hitters timing is advanced for his age. He hit well in the DSL this year and has begun to grow into some power while presently retaining enough speed to continue giving things a try in center field. If he fills outs and has to move to a corner it will likely be left field, as his arm is currently below average.
Longenhagen points toward Montano’s run (55) and raw power (55) as the top future tools, with a 50 hit and field rating as well.
In addition, here was the blurb provided by MLB.com before the 2015 international signing period:
He's lean -- some evaluators even describe him as lanky -- and he is athletic, with room to grow. On defense, some scouts view him as the ideal center fielder because of his ability to read balls off the bat and his defensive instincts. He has also impressed evaluators with his reactions to balls hit into the gaps.
In the batter's box, Montano is a natural left-handed hitter with a fluid stroke and a good approach in games. He has also shown some power.
Montano's arm is best described as playable, and he has enough arm strength to play his primary position in center field. He does have some experience playing in the infield, particularly at second base, but his future will be in the outfield as long as he continues to develop.
Montano is a player who is so far away from the major leagues that providing a concrete timeline would be foolhardy, but a major league debut is at least four more seasons away for Montano. He's a very projectable outfield prospect (another left-handed one, I'm afraid) whose carrying tool may be his power once he grows into his frame.
That's a profile I can and did dream on, ranking Montano 14th on my personal list. Montano is the first prospect of the PuRPs revealed so far that I think could deliver league average or better production to the Rockies at the big league level. Montano’s stateside debut is by far the one I’m anticipating most. Though he is very far away, the high signing bonus and initial reports led me to put a 45+ Future Value on Montano, a rating that could move significantly either way depending on his development once he gets stateside.