This prospect draws hefty comps to an AL West rival

January 19th, 2024

This story was excerpted from Daniel Kramer’s Mariners Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

SEATTLE -- The comparisons have been there since  signed with the Mariners as a 17-year-old international free agent out of Cuba two years ago. Yet he doesn’t shy from them; in fact, quite the opposite.

When asked late last season who he models himself after, eyeing a big leap forward in 2024 as he continues to climb the MLB Pipeline ranks, Montes responded with zero hesitation: “Yordan Alvarez.”

And it’s clear to see why. The resemblance is uncanny. The Mariners earlier this week added a pair of promising prospects as part of their 2024 international signing class, but it’s Montes, a signee in 2022, who might be Seattle’s most intriguing Minor Leaguer to follow this season. 

Montes, who turned 19 in October, is listed at 6-foot-3, 210 pounds and continuing to grow. Alvarez, who has emerged as one of the game’s best power hitters -- as the Mariners have come to know all too well -- is 6-foot-5, 225 pounds. 

Both are from Cuba. Both swing from the left side. Both have trained with respected Cuban hitting instructor Aldo Marrero. Both could be staples in the American League West for a long time.

“We've contacted once,” Montes said through an interpreter. “Unfortunately, that's been it. But hopefully here in the near future I can be able to stay in more contact with him.”

Asked what he loves most about Alvarez’s powerful, left-handed swing, Montes took a long pause then said: “Todo. Everything. ... A lot of times when I'm in my swing and something's off, I watch his videos to be able to start over.”

Montes is ranked the Mariners’ No. 12 prospect by MLB Pipeline, though he’s expected to climb significantly when the 2024 list is revealed ahead of Opening Day. He’s coming off a year in which he migrated Stateside, was promoted from the Arizona Complex League to Single-A Modesto and helped the Nuts win their first California League title since 2017.

In that stretch, Montes hit an impressive .321/.430/.565 (.994 OPS) with seven homers, nine doubles, one triple and 30 RBIs in 156 plate appearances over 33 games at Modesto. In a Sept. 12 playoff game against San Jose, Montes crushed a game-tying homer in the bottom of the ninth then recorded a key assist in the 10th inning to help Modesto keep the game tied.

“It was a very fun experience,” Montes said. “Just watching what we went through, and then having the guys that we just drafted come in and be able to get incorporated into what we were doing, it was just a very fun season.”

Perhaps as telling, Montes -- who spent most of his time in right field -- cut his strikeout from a sky-high 33.2% during his time in the Dominican Summer League to 25% at Modesto, underscoring the steps he’s taken to subside swing-and-miss. He’s consistently crushed balls beyond 110 mph, but one notable hole in his swing is against pitches up in the zone. 

“That's very important for me to work on,” Montes said. “It's one of the things that I kept working on, some of the practices. That was a very important aspect of my game.”

During Modesto’s title run, Montes played alongside new 2023 Draft picks Tai Peete, Jonny Farmelo and first-rounder Colt Emerson, who had four hits and four RBIs in the clinching game and will enter 2024 among MLB Pipeline’s Top 100 overall prospects

Montes said that the experience allowed him to dare to dream for what Seattle’s young core could accomplish throughout their development and into the Majors.

“I love it because you see them and you see the talent that's there,” Montes said. “But you see that they come in and they play with the love for the game, and that's very emotional for me to see.”

But he’s also not getting too ahead of himself. Montes should see action in big league camp this spring, but not much. A realistic goal for the season would be to climb to High-A Everett and potentially Double-A Arkansas.

“Just trust the process, try not to rush too much,” Montes said. “And just try to enjoy the time that I have and take every step forward before I get here.”

Montes was in Seattle during the final weekend of the season to celebrate Modesto’s title and also receive recognition as the club’s Ken Griffey Jr. Co-Hitter of the Year among Minor Leaguers. It was an experience that many of Seattle’s recent homegrown players have experienced, such as Julio Rodríguez, Logan Gilbert and more.

And he already feels at home at T-Mobile Park.

“I see this as like my house,” Montes said. “It's my house, and it's just like an experience I can't really describe.”