Entering the start of the 2023 season, the Rockies had to quickly pivot plans at second base in the wake of Brendan Rodgers’s shoulder injury in spring training. Initially, it was a fairly simple plan to move Ryan McMahon back and let Elehuris Montero take over. Unfortunately, Montero’s start to the season was less than ideal on both sides of the ball and the Rockies quickly abandoned that infield arrangement. With McMahon back at the hot corner, that left the Rockies to simply work with the tandem of Alan Trejo and Harold Castro at second base.
Castro and Trejo have done fine in that platoon. There isn’t anything egregious coming from their performances as their defense has been good and they have had their moments at the plate. It’s not the end of the world if they continue to hold down the position for the year (barring any injuries), but that doesn’t mean things couldn’t and shouldn’t potentially improve.
Enter, Coco Montes.
Montes is on a tear down in Triple-A Albuquerque and is practically knocking down the door to demand a spot at the table in the big leagues. Following the growth and success we are seeing from Ezequiel Tovar and Brenton Doyle, it leaves one to wonder what Montes could do if given the opportunity.
Originally drafted in the 15th round in 2018 out of the University of South Florida, Montes has continued to raise his stock through the Rockies’ minor league system and his 2023 season in Albuquerque is becoming one for the ages that the Rockies need to take advantage of while the iron’s hot. In 39 games this season, Montes is batting a stellar .339/.421/.564 with seven home runs and 37 RBI with things getting better from there.
Advanced stats help get a clearer picture of the offensive production Montes is providing. According to FanGraphs he currently has a career-high 140 wRC+, .433 wOBA, .419 BABIP, and .233 ISO while posting an 11.5 weighted Runs Above Average, the highest mark since 2018. Out of the 54 hits Montes has on the season, 21 have gone for extra bases, a stark contrast to the [checks notes] nine total from Trejo and Castro. The guy is an on-base machine.
Montes’ power potential has become an important part of his offensive profile. Since 2019, he has slugged double-digit home runs in every season, including a career-high 20 home runs during the 2022 campaign. A reason his power success comes down to his batted ball profile, specifically his ability to hit line drives.
This season, Montes has a 26.7% line drive a feat that he averaged last year and has contributed to a lot of his success. As a result of the number of line drives he hits, he has managed to keep his groundball rate under 40% for most of his professional career, including the 2023 season. Fly balls are lower than his career norm at the moment, but he has averaged one about 40% of the time. So far, he is averaging 0.86 ground outs to fly outs.
Montes regularly makes solid contact, which has helped Albuquerque produce the type of offense we have seen from them all season. A great indicator of the value Montes’ bat can provide is best demonstrated by his Player of the Week recognition for April 11-16. He helped his club win four of six games on the road from the El Paso Chihuahuas while going 11-for-26 with four doubles, a triple, three homers and nine RBI. He also had five multi-hit contests and drove in multiple runs in four of the six games.
It’s also worth noting that his plate discipline is continually improving, and more importantly, is consistent. This season, Montes has a 23.3% strikeout rate a mark that falls in line with his career numbers. He’s also got a 12.7% walk rate which is quite serviceable. His 44 strikeouts to 24 walks highlight the fact that Montes is aggressive in the count and makes contact early and often. This season he is seeing 3.913 pitches per plate appearance, showing he is improving his plate discipline while also keeping his typical offensive approach.
While this article has mainly focused on his offensive dealings, his defensive capabilities are also noteworthy. I’ve had a couple of opportunities to watch Montes in person down in Albuquerque and whether he is playing second base, shortstop, or third base, Montes brings stellar range, arm strength, and positional awareness to handle each spot with the type of care and precision that we have come to expect from our Rockies infielders.
Like this play.
Yes, the Rockies can continue to send out Castro and Trejo, both of whom have their own strengths and weaknesses, but at some point soon it may be worthwhile to look at what’s coming up behind them and give them a chance to try and carve out a spot in the big leagues and show that they may be an improvement because it’s working for some of the other younger players.
Coco Montes looks ready to take up that challenge and I’m eager for him to get that chance.
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Dan Lovallo, a broadcaster for the Hartford Yard Goats, writes in his newsletter that Ryan Felter’s injury after taking a line drive to the head in his last start should be a wake-up call for MLB to figure out how to help protect pitchers. He expresses that MLB should have the technology in this day and age to figure out some sort of helmet or protective cap that is light enough to not impede a pitcher’s throwing motion.
Justin Lawrence has been a dominant part of a strong Rockies bullpen this season and it’s nice to see him getting more recognition in articles like this one from MLB.com. His sweeper is sweeping the nation and he’s a regular featured pitcher on Pitching Ninja’s account on Twitter. Additionally, old friend Carlos Estevez is also having an incredible breakout season with the Los Angeles Angels.
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On the Farm
The Isotopes pounded out 21 hits to score 17 runs in their victory over Tacoma. Yonathan Daza, Nolan Jones and Elehuris Montero all had three hits, including a home run. Montero drove in four runs as did Aaron Schunk while Connor Kaiser had a three RBI night at the bottom of the lineup. In his rehab appearance, Dinelson Lamet allowed one run on four hits in two innings of work.
It was a rough night for Hartford pitching after they allowed 14 runs on 15 hits including three home runs. On the offensive end of things, the Yard Goats notched eight hits with Bret Boswell and Warming Bernabel accounting for two hits apiece.
Gabriel Hughes was roughed up for six runs on eight hits in three innings of work and took the loss to fall to 2-3 on the year with a 7.16 ERA. Zach Kokoska had the most notable night offensively hitting a pair of doubles.
Ryan Rolison, rehabbing from a shoulder injury, tossed three shutout innings giving up two hits while striking out three and walking one. Ryan Ritter and EJ Andrews Jr. both had three hits and Bryant Betancourt drove in two runs.
★ ★ ★
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