Saturday, August 2, 2008

Luis Montanez Hits for the Cycle

Luis Montanez, left fielder for the Bowie Baysox, hit for the cycle last night. I haven't written about Montanez yet, mostly because he's a 26-year old in AA for the fourth consecutive season. However, he is having a fantastic season for the Baysox: .332/.383/.595 with 25 homers and 94 RBI in 440 at-bats over 113 games; he's also a former first-round pick (in 2000, by the Chicago Cubs). After getting off to a fast start in rookie ball, Montanez didn't hit much until he was 22 and playing in the Northwest League, his fourth straight year in Single-A ball. Since then, he's thrived in situations where he repeats a level and struggles when advancing. In two stints at AAA, he's hit .224/.281/.371 and .259/.332/.410. He has no big league experience, and 2008 is the first year that he's hit more than 14 home runs.

Montanez has clearly lost his "prospect" status, not only because he hasn't hit, but also because he has been forced from the middle infield to a corner outfield position. Were he able to play shortstop defensively, his season at the plate would likely have earned him a trip to Baltimore this season. Instead, he plays a position that is expected to provide significant offensive punch, and nothing in his track record suggests he will be able to do that. Still, 25 home runs can't just be written off, even if they are by a 26-year old who has never shown any power in the past. While there are pros and cons to a September call-up for Matt Wieters, Montanez should receive a September call-up and given an opportunity to hit against Major League pitching. After this season, I'm assuming he will need to be on the 40-man roster or he will be exposed to the Rule 5 draft. An organization with holes in the outfield may be willing to take a $50,000 chance that 2008's leap forward is real. At 26 and with nine professional seasons, its sink or swim time for Montanez; he'll likely get his chance this September.

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