ST. LOUIS -- Standing on the Busch Stadium field in mid-August, Cardinals chairman Bill DeWitt Jr. had just spent several minutes evaluating the job of new manager Mike Shildt when the conversation took an unexpected tangent. He wanted to talk about Elehuris Montero.
The 20-year-old prospect had just become the first Peoria player to win Midwest League MVP honors since Jose Pujols in 2000, and DeWitt was among those most interested and impressed by the third baseman's standout season.
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The recognition continues for Montero, who has also been chosen by the MLB Pipeline staff as the Cardinals' Hitting Prospect of the Year. Daniel Poncedeleon, a key contributor at the big-league level in the second half, was named the organization's Pitching Prospect of the Year.
To receive consideration, players must have spent at least half the year in the Minors and appear on the team's Top 30 Prospects list. Montero ranks seventh in the Cardinals' prospect rankings, while Poncedeleon slots in at No. 29.
Montero had not played for a full-season affiliate until this year, when he opened with Class A Peoria. In 103 games with the Chiefs, Montero slashed .322/.381/.529 with a .910 OPS. At the time he was promoted to Class A Advanced Palm Beach on Aug. 7, Montero was leading the Midwest League with 201 total bases, 123 hits, 46 extra-base hits and 28 doubles.
Montero's 69 RBIs were the most by a Peoria player since Jacob Wilson drove in 72 in 2013, and Montero was the first teenager in franchise history to ever hit 15 home runs. He finished the season with Class A Advanced Palm Beach, where Montero hit .286/.330/.408.
Left off the Cardinals' Top 30 prospect list entering 2018, Poncedeleon completed an incredible comeback from brain surgery by rising all the way to St. Louis. But before he began his Major League career with seven no-hit innings on July 23, Poncedeleon ranked among the Pacific Coast League leaders with his 2.15 ERA and .198 opponents' batting average in 18 starts.
One year after taking a line drive off his skull, Poncedeleon finished the year with 19 appearances (18 starts) for Memphis. He led all Memphis starters with a 2.24 ERA and posted a 1.24 WHIP while striking out 141 over 129 1/3 innings.