The Colorado Rockies have a problem: they still have no real idea of what they have when it comes to corner infielder and designated hitter Elehuris Montero. The 24-year old was brought in as part of the Nolan Arenado trade prior to the 2021 season along with Austin Gomber, Tony Locey, Jake Sommers, and Mateo Gil. Now heading into the 2023 season, Montero has had minimal MLB playing time, is out of minor league options, and is fighting for a spot on the 26-man Opening Day roster.
The Rockies are not unfamiliar with using up a prospect’s options before having a concrete plan for said player. Like Raimel Tapia and Yonathan Daza before him, Montero is now out of MiLB options. The St. Louis Cardinals had already used one of his options prior to the trade, and the Rockies used his remaining two in quick fashion after obtaining him. Montero was optioned immediately after the trade, which is fine when you consider he had only played 59 games in Double-A up to that point. However, 2022 was when the real mishandling of him began.
While it’s true that Montero had minimal experience above High-A going into the 2021 season—due both to injuries and the loss of the 2020 minor league season due to COVID—he put doubts to rest in short order. Montero spent most of the 2021 season with the Double-A Hartford Yard Goats, but his strong performance there earned him a late season call-up to the Triple-A Albuquerque Isotopes. Montero ended the year with a weighted slash line of .279/.360/.529 with a 133 wRC+ and was a favorite to break camp for 2022.
Elehuris Montero - Standard Batting After Joining Rockies
After hitting .261/.320/.435 with a home run in spring training, Montero was assigned to Triple-A Albuquerque to start the 2022 campaign. In his first 20 games with the Isotopes he hit four home runs and had an OPS of .806, eventually earning himself his first big league promotion. Montero was called up on April 29th and made his major league debut on May 1st against the Cincinnati Reds.
Elehuris Montero goes up the middle for his first big league hit for the @Rockies. pic.twitter.com/hnBw1eKz19— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) May 1, 2022
His joyous MLB debut unfortunately began a game of back-and-forth as he bounced between the Rockies and the Isotopes for most of the season. When the expanded rosters were reduced back to 26, he was optioned for the first time that season and spent the next 28 games with the Isotopes while hitting .333/.405/.568 with a 141 wRC+.
Montero was called up on June 7th and played in just three games before being optioned again on June 11th. When he was recalled on June 21st we thought he might be here to stay on a scuffling Rockies squad. He stayed with the team for 22 games until July 14th, but only appeared in seven games and had just 22 plate appearances before being optioned again.
Montero was called up for a final time on August 2nd and stayed with the team for the remainder of the year. When all was said and done, he had been optioned and recalled four times each, and the bouncing back and forth with limited playing time prevented him from developing a consistent plate approach against big-league hitting. The final two months of the 2022 season were in effect his first consistent stretch of playing time.
In 2022 at the big league level Elehuris Montero struck out 32.4% of the time, a career high. Across his various call-ups he hit .233/.270/.432 and had a wRC+ of just 79. He hit six home runs with a slugging percentage of .432, but he only drew eight walks to further compound his strikeout issue.
The Rockies have little choice but to have Montero on the Opening Day roster. If they don’t, they risk exposing him to waivers and potentially losing a top prospect... Not to mention they would face backlash from the fans. At minimum they need to be shuffling Montero around to get him playing time whenever possible. However, Montero needs consistency. Ideally the Rockies need to pick a spot for him and stick to it. If that’s a defensive position it should be third base. There’s no room at first for Montero with Cron, Toglia, or Lavigne. If Brendan Rodgers—who injured his left shoulder on Tuesday—isn’t ready to go by Opening Day, Ryan McMahon should be moved to second base, and Montero should be immediately penciled in at third. While his defense isn’t on par with what Rockies fans are used to, he has been working to improve his glove work.
A third option, although unlikely, is that the Rockies trade some of their veterans like Randal Grichuk and CJ Cron to clear out the logjam and make it easier to get Montero consistent playing time.
Montero has been working to cut down on his strikeout rate. After a career high 31.1% strikeout rate when he was with the Cardinals’ Double-A affiliate in 2019, he had cut down his strikeout rate significantly after joining the Rockies organization. In 2021 he had a strikeout rate of 23.7% with Double-A Hartford and just 16.5% with Triple-A Albuquerque. With the Estrellas Orientales of the Dominican Winter League he posted a 22.2% strikeout rate, and in 2022 with Triple-A Albuquerque, his strikeout rate was 21.2. While his first big league season was rough in terms of strikeouts, he has clearly continued to work on his plate discipline. Once again with the Estrellas this offseason, he cut his strikeout rate to just 18.6% and upped his walk rate to 15.7%.
“He showed us some solid at-bats last year, though some at-bats got away from him,” manager Bud Black told the Denver Post. “But he learned a lot, so we’ll see how this spring plays out.”
“We feel like he’s going to be a very credible major league bat. Whether that plays out now or in the future, we’ll see.”
Montero is only 24-years old and is already out of options. What’s worse, the Rockies don’t know what they have in him because they failed to give him regular playing time during a lost season. He has nothing left to prove at the minor-league level and needs consistent at-bats with the Rockies in order to continue developing. Instead, he’s fighting for a roster spot that should already be his.
The Rockies need to figure out what they’re doing with the top prospect from the Nolan Arenado trade and stop mishandling his development.
★ ★ ★
Notes: Trejo in second base mix; Bard exits | MLB.com
With Brendan Rodgers sidelined due to a left shoulder injury, Alan Trejo started at second base for the Rockies yesterday and has his eyes on the Opening Day job. Daniel Bard left Wednesday’s game early after a difficult outing with the team citing a cut on his right thumb. The team isn’t overly concerned. Ryan Feltner looked solid in his first start of the spring as he vies for a spot in the rotation. His fastball touched 98 MPH in his outing.
★ ★ ★
Please keep in mind our Purple Row Community Guidelines when you’re commenting. Thanks!