He’s out hitting former major leaguer Wily Mo Pena and top prospect Mike Moustakas. He’s driving in over a run per game and is second in the Pacific Coast League in RBIs. He’s hitting .600 off left handed pitching. At one time he was the best prospect in the Cubs farm system, but now he’s 29 years old and may never see an at bat for the Cubs. What do you do with a guy who has been primarily in the minors for ten years, but is putting up video game numbers in AAA? When he goes on a six game road trip and totals 12 hits in 26 at bats with 1 home run, 7 RBIs, and a stolen base, you give him the Cubbies Crib Minor League Line of the Week.
As you’ve no doubt guessed, I’m talking about Lou Montanez. He was featured a bit in the Iowa Cubs section of Monday’s Minor League Report, but there is no doubt he deserves this honor as well. For the season, he is hitting .393 and slugging .640. His strikeout to walk numbers are right about where we want them, and his splits are fantastic. He’s hitting .472 with runners in scoring position, has on OPS over 1.500 when he’s ahead in the count, and as I mentioned earlier he is crushing left handed pitching. Combine those number with his team leading 28 RBIs in 24 games, and you have to wonder what he could do in Chicago.
The Cubs have problems driving in runs. If their win/loss record was not enough to indicate that, realizing that light hitting Darwin Barney is second on the team in RBIs should drive the point home. In a related problem, the Cubs have no three hitter. Granted, Castro could one day be a fixture in that position, but right now the Cubs need him leading off. Some of Colvin’s numbers, even as he struggles, indicate he could do well in that roll, but the Cubs don’t seem willing to find him any consistent at bats. The Cubs have a number of potential three hitters in the minors, guys like Vitters, LeMahieu, Flaherty, Ha, LePage, Silva, and more. None of those guys are ready to come up this month and most won’t be ready until late this year or sometime next year. Meanwhile, the NL Central is there to be taken this season. If the Cubs could find a three hitter, their odds of making a run would go up dramatically.
Could Montanez be that guy? I’m not sure. Some of his numbers, especially his performance with runners on base and when ahead in the count, make me think he might be a patient enough hitter to thrive on the bench and as a regular against left handed pitching…sort of a Jeff Baker of the outfield. If he can handle right field for the Cubs, a lineup that features Montanez playing outfield and batting third with Baker playing first and batting fifth could be potent against left handed pitching. As a pinch hitter for Byrd, Fukudome or the pitcher’s spot late in games, he might be the impact bat off the bench the Cubs haven’t had in a few seasons. Or he might prove that he just isn’t a major league player. With a 29 year old career minor leaguer, it is just hard to say.
But today he is in Iowa, and last week he had a fantastic road trip. For the numbers he put up all last week and because he is right now one of the most consistent hitters in all Triple A, Lou Montanez picks up a Line of the Week.