The Trade Deadline has come and gone and as the dust settles, one significant move for the Colorado Rockies was their decision to trade C.J. Cron and Randal Grichuk to the Los Angeles Angels. In doing so they netted a pair of pitching prospects, but almost as important was the fact that it cleared space for younger players like Elehuris Montero to get a longer look to see if he can make a significant impact.
After cracking the Opening Day roster as the starting third baseman in the wake of Brendan Rodgers's injury to begin the year which moved Ryan McMahon to second. However, poor defense at the hot corner mixed in with an overabundance of strikeouts and absent power led to his demotion to Triple-A Albuquerque on April 24 and an abandonment of the position. He was then recalled at the end of May and played all of June before an injury sidelined him for a bit and he was later optioned on July 10 but was quickly recalled on July 25. Now, he has a chance for a regular spot and has to prove that he is more than a Triple-A slugger.
Minor League Monty
Speaking of Triple-A, let’s take a look at his stats with Albuquerque this season. Montero has played 35 games with the Isotopes this season, batting .359/.411/.718 with 15 home runs and 48 RBI. His home run total trails only Michael Toglia who lead the Isotopes this season, and both are with the big league club now, yet Toglia has played 73 games in Triple-A this season.
Despite playing nearly half the amount of games as the current regular Triple-A squad, Montero proved he’s a force to be reckoned with at the plate. He punishes bad pitches and has seen an average of 3.9 pitches per plate appearance. That indication has shown an ability to draw walks and even out of the strikeouts. This season alone, he has 28 strikeouts to 14 walks in Triple-A. In 2022 he also showed hints of better plate discipline with 63 strikeouts and 27 walks in 65 games played with Albuquerque.
Montero’s power and batted ball skills are what is so intriguing when he is playing in the minors and what proves he can be a productive slugger. This season in Triple-A he has a .346 BABIP, .359 ISO, .460 wOBA, and a 156 wRC+, all while averaging a fly ball 42.2% of the time. He pulls the ball with authority 51.3% of the time while limiting his ground balls to a 32% rate. Everything has worked together to decimate opposing pitching and show he has nothing left to prove offensively in the minors.
Major League Monty
Unfortunately, that success in Triple-A hasn’t exactly translated to the Majors at all. In just 92 games as a big leaguer between 2022 and 2023, Montero is batting .228/.261/.405 with nine home runs and 26 RBI. The smoking gun for most of these offensive struggles has come from his plate discipline and batted-ball profile.
As a member of the Rockies, Montero has a 35.2% career strikeout rate to just a 3.9% walk rate. In 2023 alone he has struck out 49 times to just four walks, which is in line with the 60 strikeouts and eight walks he had in 2022. His plate discipline has especially been rough this season. In the big leagues this season, Montero has swung at 45% of pitches outside of the strike zone. He makes contact 46% of the time but that often doesn’t result in much success. He makes about 80% of the time on pitches inside the zone, but he has only seen 35.6% of pitches in the zone. As a result, he has a 19.9% swinging strike rate this season which isn’t great.
When Montero does make contact it has been a ground ball 47.9% of the time this season and he has a career-low 33.8% fly ball rate. Sure, he does have a 40.8% hard-hit rate this season but his xwOBA is still .203 while his xBA is .177 despite the fact that he does a .338 BABIP. However, his BABIP is fairly empty because his power is so absent with a .144 ISO and a 46 wRC+. He is off to a good start offensively since getting recalled on July 25, but there is plenty of more work to do for Montero to adjust to big-league pitching.
As I mentioned, his plate discipline needs to drastically improve. One can get by being fairly aggressive in Triple-A where the pitching isn’t as good, but that can’t fly at the next level. I’m sure teams are quite knowledgeable about Montero’s power potential, so they have pitched him accordingly which means a lot of breaking balls out of the zone that he is whiffing on or rolling over.
Perhaps it’s an over-eagerness at the big league level to try and prove himself that is causing him to abandon his plate approach in Triple-A, but he must learn to apply that approach to increase his walks tenfold and force pitchers to throw him balls that he can punish once again, once he does that he can finally achieve the offensive potential the Rockies see in him.
The Full Monty
An area of credit that we must acknowledge for Montero is that he has been working to improve defensively at first base. His work ethic has never been in question and after the hours he has put in working on being a good first baseman, we are starting to see results. In 2023 alone he has played errorless defense at first and posted a 7.2 UZR/150, started a couple of double plays, and has a couple of scoops.
It’s only been 18 games at the position this season, but he looks much more comfortable working around the bag and receiving throws from his stellar infield defenders now. Now that the defense is getting squared away, he can start to focus more on improving the offense.
The rest of this season will be of the utmost importance for Montero and the Rockies. By allowing him to play and try to figure things out, it helps mold the future of the team as they try to retool and rebuild into another window of contention somehow. Montero has the potential and now he has the chance to prove he’s worthy of more playing time.
The Rockies made a pair of deals leading up to the Trade Deadline on Tuesday, sending Brad Hand to the Braves for a minor-league prospect. They also acquired Justin Bruihl from the Dodgers for cash. Check out our news articles for more info on the new moves.
Patrick Saunders was able to catch up with general manager Bill Schmidt who expressed that their goal was to get pitching, while opening room for their current young players to get playing time they need, much like Elehuris Montero.
On the Farm
Despite a decent night for the bullpen, the Isotopes couldn’t overcome a five-run 1 2⁄3 inning performance by Phillips Valdez to start the game. The Isotopes scored four runs on five hits, including a 2-for-3 performance by Hunter Stovall and a double from Willie MacIver.
Nick Garcia also had a rough start for Hartford, surrendering eight runs in 3 1⁄3 innings, giving them a deficit they could not overcome. Kyle Datres did hit his 11th home run of the season while Hunter Goodman extended his Yard Goats home run franchise record with his 25th while also setting a single-season franchise record with 78 RBIs.
Spokane starter Cullen Kafka coughed up five runs in 3 2⁄3 innings in his start, but thanks to a strong offense and stellar bullpen work, the Indians came away with the victory. Braiden Ward turned in three hits at the top of the order while Nic Kent had two hits, including a home run.
The Grizzlies were outhit 4-3, but they made their hits count to take home a 2-1 victory. The true highlight was the pitching as Michael Prosecky tossed six shutout innings, allowing just two hits and striking out 11, and surrendering two walks to notch his ninth win of the season.
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