'He’s intriguing': Montero swinging for Majors

March 26th, 2022

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Rockies power-hitting corner infield prospect Elehuris Montero has spent his pro career flashing the potential and working through the heartaches that have come with being among the youngest players at each Minor League level. But why should that faze him.

When Montero was 13, he would grab a wood bat, just like older players, and his father, former Phillies organization pitcher Francisco Montero, would take him to a park in Santo Domingo and cut loose with fastballs and breaking balls.

“I hit off him, but he also has gotten me a couple of times,” said Montero, still just 23, with a dad who throws to him in the offseason, and relays helpful observations when he spots the opportunity.

With dad’s training and his own ability to learn and apply, Montero, ranked as the club's No. 4 prospect by MLB Pipeline, is proving a quick study.

After hitting 28 combined homers last year at Double-A Hartford (a club-record 22) and Triple-A Albuquerque, Montero has left an impression by hitting .263 with a homer and a double in seven Cactus League appearances. The Rockies optioned him to Minor League camp on Saturday, but the team expects him to continue playing in big league games this spring.

Montero was part of the Rockies' trade haul for Nolan Arenado before last Spring Training. Saying goodbye to arguably the greatest defensive third baseman of this generation in a deal that also sent cash to the Cardinals was painful. If Montero impacts the Rockies’ offense, fans can look more to the future than the past.

Montero gained prospect cache during his first full Minor League season in the Cardinals’ system in 2018. He posted a combined .875 OPS at the Low- and High-A levels at age 19.

The next season, Montero was one of the youngest players in the Double-A Texas League, and a hamate bone injury didn’t help. He finished with a .194 batting average in 63 Minor League games, then batted .200 in the Arizona Fall League.

Montero was, well, still young when sent to the Rockies, and looked to be pressing last spring, when he was sent to Minor League camp quickly.

But Montero grew quickly at Hartford. He not only posted an .885 OPS in 92 games, with the 22 homers and 69 RBIs, but he showed anticipation and nimbleness for his large frame at third base. First base was, and is, a work in progress. But whatever pressure he may have put on himself in camp faded away.

Montero played freely at Albuquerque, as evidenced by his six homers and .902 OPS in 28 games.

“He’s just a good hitter,” Albuquerque manager Warren Schaeffer said. “He’s strong. He’s more like a .300-type hitter than a power guy, even though that’s there. He never gives an at-bat away. It’s impressive.”

The Rockies are seeing the real Montero this spring.

“[Last year] was a really solid year for him, not only in performance but in growth and maturity,” Colorado manager Bud Black said. “I don’t say coming out of a shell, but when he came over, he was really shy. He didn’t say much -- new team, part of a trade.

“He flourished as each month went on. I think he’s going to hit. He’s intriguing.”

Montero’s time will come sooner than later. He is down to his last season of Minor League options. A natural third baseman, the Rockies are training him at first base to increase his chances to play in the Majors. The designated hitter being now used in the National League is another avenue.

But the last year has the Rockies excited and has boosted Montero’s confidence. If there is temptation to show that he was worth acquiring for Arenado, he wants to make that a benefit.

“Honestly, when you get traded for a superstar like Nolan, you want to be that caliber of player,” Montero said. “You don’t want to be like him, but you want to strive to do the things he’s done.”

After all, he’s young enough to have big dreams.