Elehuris Montero, top prospect in Nolan Arenado trade, set to contribute

At one point, Elehuris Montero, signed at age 16 out of Santo Domingo Centro, Dominican Republic, was just another prospect, albeit one of the more highly touted ones in the Cardinals’ system.

But that all changed on Feb. 2, 2021, the day the Cardinals officially traded for Nolan Arenado. Montero came to Colorado as the top-rated positional prospect in the deal. He also happened to play Arenado’s position, third base.

Lofty expectations were set for Montero (and perhaps unfairly so) by a Colorado fanbase angry about what it viewed as a fleecing in the Arenado trade, where the Rockies not only dealt the likely Hall of Fame player but also paid the Cardinals $51 million of Arenado’s salary.

Montero, shy by nature and trying to learn English, was thrust into a tough spot. Add in the fact that he didn’t play in 2020 due to the cancellation of the minor league season and that he was coming off an awful 2019, when he slashed 188/.235/.317 in 59 games across two stints for Double-A Springfield, and Montero had become trade bait.

Montero began his Colorado career with Double-A Hartford in 2021 and played well enough to earn a late-season call-up to Triple-A Albuquerque. He spent most of 2022 with the Isotopes and fared well, slashing .310/.392/.541 with 15 home runs and a career-high .933 OPS.

He still has plenty of room to grow defensively at both third and first (his secondary position). Although it’s unlikely he’ll ever be in the same stratosphere as Arenado defensively, Montero is athletic and has upside at both corner spots. He still has a learning curve to climb, though, especially with his internal clock at the hot corner.

He debuted last year season flashed talent, hitting .233 with six homers in 53 games.

“We feel like he’s going to be a very credible major league bat,” manager Bud Black said this spring. “Whether that plays out now (by him making the opening day roster) or in the future, we’ll see.”

Montero’s Journey to the Bigs

Year signed: 2014 ($300,000 bonus as international free agent, Cardinals)

Lowest moment: Montero’s prospect stock took a hit in 2019, his final season with the Cardinals organization when he flunked his first test in Double-A with a .188 average in 59 games.

Turning point: The day that will live in Colorado sports infamy was also the volta in Montero’s career, when he was one of five players packaged in a trade for Nolan Arenado in February 2021.

2023 outlook: After debuting in 2022, Montero looks to carve out a more regular role this year.

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