Going into 2019 Elehuris Montero was considered a top-five prospect for the St. Louis Cardinals. However, after an injury-filled year, and the rise of Tommy Edman, should the Cardinals use the third base prospect as trade bait at the Winter Meetings?
The St. Louis Cardinals are considered to be deep in their minor league system at the outfield position, but also, at third base. Going into 2019, the Cardinals were keeping a close eye on third-base prospects, Nolan Gorman, Elehuris Montero, and Malcom Nunez. Gorman started 2019 as the top prospect in the Cardinal system, while Montero was in the top five in most prospect listing and Nunez was considered to be a top 20 prospect.
Now, with the rise of Tommy Edman, some think the organization should consider trading at least one of their third base prospects to address other needs. Recently a post at MLB.com by Jim Callis, Mike Rosenbaum, and Jonathan Mayo, called for the Cardinals to consider moving Elehuris Montero.
According to the post, “With Tommy Edman plenty capable of handling third base duties in the big leagues and 2018 first rounder Nolan Gorman representing the club’s future at the position, Montero is perhaps the Cardinals’ best off-season trade bait.”
There are certainly pros and cons to consider for moving the 21-year old Dominican native. But first, let’s look at Montero’s skills and what would make him an attractive trade piece for the Cardinals.
A skill set hard to duplicate
According to MLB.com’s Prospect Watch, Elehuris Montero, “has all the qualities teams look for when projecting a future impact hitter in the big leagues.” This would include raw power, speed, and a strong arm.
The 6-3 215 pound right-hander has a compact swing which allows him to stay inside the ball and make a ton of contact. He has raw power to his pull side and is aggressive at the plate. However, Montero isn’t afraid to draw walks and is expected to hit for a solid middle-of-the-lineup average.
At this point in his young career, Montero’s best defensive tool is considered to be his arm, but he also has good hands. The Cardinals think if Montero can improve his footwork, he could project long-term at third base.
Nevertheless, the key to Elehuris Montero’s success will eventually be the development of his offensive skill set. The Cardinals see him profiling at either infield corner spot with his middle of the order power.
The primary reason to move Elehuris Montero, as stated in the MLB.com post, is the unexpected rise of Tommy Edman. The 24-year old switch hitter came up from Memphis on June 8th and in 92 games hit a slash line of .304/.350/.850. Edman, who tops out at 5-10 and 180lbs, also hit 11 homers and drove in 36 runs.
It appears Edman could be a staple at third base with Matt Carpenter while the Cardinals wait on their wunderkind-third-baseman-of-the-future, Nolan Gorman, to reach St. Louis. The 19-year old Gorman advanced to High-A Palm Beach last season. Additionally, the Cardinals have another promising third base prospect, Malcom Nunez, who advanced to Peoria A-ball last season.
Moreover, Elehuris Montero’s 2019 season was a set back for him, primarily due to a broken hamate bone which cost him two months. At AA Springfield, Montero hit a slash line of .188/.235/.552 with 7 homers and 18 RBIs in 59 games.
One disappointing injury-plagued minor league season shouldn’t be the primary reason to move a young promising prospect such as Elehuris Montero. After all, Montero had been moving steadily up the Cardinals’ minor league system until he was injured in Springfield last year.
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Also, Nolan Gorman’s star could flame out before he reaches St. Louis. The Cardinals have only two seasons of seeing Gorman’s left-handed bat in action, where they have been watching Montero since 2015 when he played in the Dominican Summer League.
To add, who’s to say Tommy Edman is the Cardinals final answer at third base? He doesn’t fit the profile of a classic corner infielder. Montero and Gorman have natural power which fits the profile the Cardinals, and other MLB teams like at the position.
Finally, one outstanding rookie year is not a guarantee of continued success at the major league level. Edman could have a disappointing sophomore season like other young players who have a promising rookie year. Don’t forget Aledmys Diaz.
So, should Elehuris Montero become trade bait?
If the St. Louis Cardinals can make a deal that would significantly improve the roster in 2020, the answer is yes. Packaging Montero in a multiplayer trade package which added another power bat to the lineup, or added strength to the rotation, then why not?
Very few prospects in the Cardinals’ system should have the no-trade sign attached to them. Especially, if that young prospect could make a difference in the Cardinals getting the treasured 12th World Championship.
Short of a big game-changing trade, I would like to see Ehehuris Montero in Springfield Cardinal uniform next year to see if he can rebound from his 2019 season. After all, if Montero can bounce back, he would be worth more in a trade deal in 2020 than now.