22. Daniel Montano (270 points, 26 ballots)
After years of anticipation since he signed for $2 million out of Venezuela in 2015, Daniel Montano finally made his stateside debut after two strong years in the Dominican Summer League. Rockies prospects who have posted two 120+ wRC+ marks in the DSL, especially at age 17 and 18, have tended to do very well when they do come stateside, which is why Montano’s debut was one that was much awaited by PuRPs voters.
After that long wait, Montano’s season with Grand Junction was...okay but underwhelming. The lefty-hitting, righty-throwing outfielder (who played almost exclusively in center) came to the plate 264 times in the Pioneer League against pitchers who were on average 1.6 years older. In those appearances, the 19-year old posted a .279/.338/.443 line with 24 extra base hits (4 homers), striking out 21.6% of the time and walking in 8% of PAs. He struggled against lefties (.618 OPS) and at home (.697) but was better against right-handed pitching (.817 OPS) and on the road (.854). Taken together, Montano produced a 97 wRC+, slightly below league average. That’s decent production for a player that young in the Pioneer League, but honestly I think PuRPs voters and prospect watchers expected more from a player of Montano’s pedigree.
There’s still a dearth of video on Montano, but here’s him hitting a wall-scraping dinger for Grand Junction this past August courtesy of MiLB.com, which is probably better than the same 2015 showcase video I’ve been linking to for a while:
Montano employed an aggressive approach in his pro debut but displayed a more controlled left-handed swing in his second tour of the DSL. He’s an advanced hitter for a teenager with the ability to recognize pitches and manage the strike zone. He uses the entire field and projects to hit for average with some gap power.
Montano spent most of his debut in center field before seeing most of his action in right field last year. He’s a solid runner with decent instincts but could slow down a step as he gets stronger. Because he has fringy arm strength, he ultimately could wind up in left field.
None of Montano’s tools grade plus, but he’s in the 45-55 range for all five of them, including a 50 hit (the most important one, for my money) and 55 run evaluation.
Eric Longenhagen of FanGraphs ranked Montano 22nd in the system with a 40 FV in May:
Montano was a high-profile Latin American signee and hasn’t been seen much because the Rockies don’t have an AZL affiliate. The most looks I’ve had at him have come this spring as he hits leadoff in extended spring training, and there’s a solid all-around skillset here, but no electric tool or superlative skill, nor the kind of physical projection that indicates one is coming. He’ll have to hit a bunch to profile, but he’s a competent teenage hitter and has a fair chance to do so. Realistically, he’s an average everyday player at peak.
John Sickels of Minor League Ball placed Montano 17th as a C+ prospect pre-season 2018:
DSL performance was quite solid although numbers at that level must be dealt with judiciously; that said, scouting reports show above-average speed with a chance for average power; already has good plate discipline; long way off of course but some observers expect a serious breakout once he gets to the United States
Montano’s a player who, though he is still quite far away from the major leagues, has a ticking prospect clock. By my estimation, Montano will be Rule 5 eligible after the 2019 season — a season which might be a jump up to full season ball in Asheville, or perhaps Montano could be held back to short season ball in Boise or Grand Junction. Either way, Montano is far away from contributing in the big leagues, but the Rockies will have to make some decisions about his 40 man roster status far before he’s ready.
I was the high man on Montano for a while, but the electorate caught up to me a bit on his profile and then my evaluation of his ceiling backed up a bit with his stateside debut. I ranked Montano 20th on my personal list with a 40 FV, but I think he’s the first prospect of the PuRPs revealed so far who may profile outside of an emergency, bench, or relief role for the Rockies if things break right.