Since being recalled on June 21, Elehuris Montero has appeared in five of the Rockies’ 13 games.
Participating in just 38% of a team’s contests is new territory for the coveted infield prospect. Call it a rite-of-passage or standard progression, but rhythm came standard in the minors.
Triple-A teams play weekly six-game series; Montero has played at least five games in every series he has spent with the Albuquerque Isotopes this year, excluding a late-April set with Sacramento when he was first called up to the big leagues. After playing in more than 80% of available games in Triple-A, does that make the MLB bench role a more daunting obstacle than awaiting the call-up itself?
With C.J. Cron and Ryan McMahon covering most of Colorado’s corner-infield innings, there is little room for Montero to break through. Since Montero’s latest recall (June 21), McMahon has posted a .244/.326/.415 slash. Cron has posted a dominant .294/.368/.529.
Montero’s slash has been a .214/.267/.286 in that same timeframe — but if Cron or McMahon saw the infrequent playing time, is it crazy to presume their batting slashes could be similar?
Cron and McMahon have earned it, yes. Montero is in pursuit to do the same, but breaking in isn’t easy with the contracts and performances committed ahead of him.
Being used as a big-league bench option is perhaps expected when a player first makes it to the Show: not everybody is a Spencer Torkelson or Julio Rodríguez with a starting spot all but secured upon arrival. This bench-role discussion is not exclusive to Montero, but it certainly doesn’t negate the challenges in each individual case.
A Different, Individual Case
In the absence of Tyler Kinley, likely out for the year (elbow), the Rockies have needed a reliever like Lucas Gilbreath to fill a vacancy that
likely won’t be filled at the trade deadline. A huge opportunity presented itself, Gilbreath has delivered, and arms like Justin Lawrence have been left on the outside looking in.
Gilbreath has not allowed an earned run in his last 12 appearances (12 IP). He has struck out 15 in that time with a 1.25 WHIP, and while his 3.38 ERA in 2021 was no joke either, it appears the summer of 2022 is pushing him into a more comfortable position.
A sufficient bullpen requires far more depth than a sufficient corner infield, however. The opportunities for Gilbreath were far more easily provided than those of Montero.
Is it better to keep a position player in Triple-A altogether until they can expect a similar workload in the big leagues, or is a bench role the necessary step to becoming an everyday big-league player? (Would skipping the bench role require the Rockies to make Montero a full-time designated hitter?)
Gilbreath also saw 42 2⁄3 innings in year one. It was far from the 70 1⁄3 innings that Kinley saw in 2021 (the most in the Rockies bullpen), but it was still more than the at-bat equivalent that Montero is on pace to see this year. At the rate of Montero’s action from June 21-July 3, the corner-infield prospect would expect to see 174 at-bats in a 162-game season.
By comparison, Cron has already eclipsed 300 at-bats this season and the All-Star Break is yet to come.
A team can risk irreconcilable damage by giving too much responsibility to a player too soon (which is part of why veteran José Ureña is slated for a start with the Rockies this week), but is there a point where damage can also ensue by holding somebody on the bench for too long?
Finding The Comfort
A limited, 14-at-bat sample is not fair to evaluate Montero on, but his future productivity through patience is something that can show significant maturity.
At the very least, Montero is currently collecting a big-league paycheck — and that portion of comfort is at least worth something in his pursuit of playing time.
★ ★ ★
Patrick Saunders gives us a comprehensive roundup on just how well Gilbreath has been pitching. For prospects of similar caliber (and similar performances), the first year for a homegrown Rockie seems to be mixed with several call-ups and options. Breakthroughs could be reserved for year two, which could be the case for Montero.
With the recent option of Ashton Goudeau, the Rockies have instead paved the way for José Ureña to make a start on Wednesday in place of the injured Antonio Senzatela.
Ureña, an eight-year MLB veteran, is perhaps most remembered for his six seasons with the Marlins dating back to 2015. He also made four appearances this year with the Brewers, but was designated for assignment on May 2. Ureña has posted a 7.71 ERA in 21 innings with Triple-A Albuquerque since then.
Notes for the current COL/LAD series: Dodgers closer Craig Kimbrel was drilled in the back by a comebacker on Sunday but a trip to the injured list does not appear necessary. He might be out for the duration of this current set with the Rockies, however.
★ ★ ★
On the Farm
Old friend Jesús Tinoco picked up a save for the opposing Round Rock Express on Monday afternoon. Albuquerque’s Carlos Pérez went 2-for-4 with a first-inning home run, while D.J. Peterson also had a multi-hit afternoon, going 2-for-3 with a double and run scored.
Albuquerque also ran into starting pitcher Cole Winn, an arm Rockies fans may remember as the starting pitcher for the AL in the 2021 Futures Game at Coors Field. Winn tossed five innings and allowed three runs on six hits.
A 10-run outburst by the Yard Goats was fueled by three-hit games by Hunter Stovall and Brenton Doyle, combining for three runs scored and three RBI. Six innings of two-run work by starter Mitchell Kilkenny held off the Fisher Cats, but a three-run eighth lifted reliever Riley Pint’s ERA to a 5.61.
Walk-off! Julio Carreras blasted a three-run shot to break a 5-7 deficit, capping off a 3-for-5 performance with five RBI. Spokane starter Andrew Quezada (4 IP, 6 H, 3 R) saw his ERA climb to a 4.26, but the Spokane offense showed some fight with multiple hits by five different players. Eddy Diaz blasted a homer in the first.
Catcher Braxton Fulford had himself a nice multi-hit evening on Monday (2-3, RBI), but the offense by San Jose was far more potent. The Giants left 15 runners on (to Fresno’s eight), so this score could have shifted far heavier. Grizzlies starter Jarrod Cande (5 IP, 6 H, 3 R/2 ER) struck out seven but pushed his season ERA to a 2.93.
Arizona Complex League: ACL Rockies 3, ACL Dodgers 1 (F/7)
Seven innings with an 11:00 a.m. first pitch in toasty Phoenix! The ACL Rockies had a great day on the mound, allowing six hits in the abbreviated contest. Gabriel Barbosa tossed the first four innings, allowing two hits and striking out six in his third ACL start. (He now has a combined 10 IP, 0 R). Nate Hadley lowered his ERA to a 2.08 with two innings of two-hit, scoreless work.
★ ★ ★
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