Luis Montanez Q&A

Luis Montanez has been the third overall pick in the draft, a top prospect, and a minor league free agent. Inside The Warehouse caught up with Montanez to discuss his future in Baltimore and much more.

One of the newest Oriole farmhands is Luis Montanez, former shortstop and first round draft pick of the Chicago Cubs. Montanez signed a minor league deal with the Orioles earlier this week and reportedly chose the Birds over as many as fourteen other major league teams which were interested in his services.

Montanez was the third player taken in the 2000 draft. A highly regarded prep shortstop out of Coral Park High School in Miami, he reminded some scouts of Alex Gonzalez. He was well regarded for his soft hands and good range. Although he did not possess great speed, he had very good first step quickness which allowed him to get good jumps on the ball. Montanez signed quickly for a $2.7 million bonus.

After reporting to the Cubs Arizona Rookie League team in Mesa, Montanez flashed signs of his baseball prowess, batting .344 and making several Top Prospect lists. Still, he struck out an 42 times in 192 at bats. After moving to the Cubs Midwest affiliate, he hit a mere .138 in eight games, striking out six times in 29 at bats.

In six more minor league seasons, Montanez was slow to develop. He showed some signs of putting it together at Boise in 2004, where he played as a 22 year old and hit .297 with eight home runs, but he still struck out 53 times in 266 at bats. In 2005, the Cubs felt he was struggling in the infield and it was affecting his approach at the plate, so he was moved to the outfield. He responded by hitting .305 with a .905 OPS in 82 games at HiA Peoria, but struggled when promoted to AA West Tennessee. Though his results were mixed, his strikeout rate declined substantially.

Once again in AA to start 2006, Montanez batted .369/.438/.489 in 141 at bats before a deserved promotion. In AAA Iowa, Montanez struggled, hitting .224/.281/.371 in 245 at bats.

Inside The Warehouse was recently able to catch up to Luis Montanez. He was very cordial, bright, and excited about coming to Baltimore. A transcript of our exchange follows:

ITW: How many other clubs offered you a contract?

Luis Montanez: There was a lot of interest early on. The first day I became a free agent, a lot of teams called, but we were kind of picky with who we wanted to go with. Baltimore was one of the teams and they gave me a good deal.

ITW: What, in particular, was appealing about Baltimore?

Luis Montanez: The opportunity to go to big league camp. Also, the fact that their spring training in Ft. Lauderdale is right next to my hometown of Miami. So, it‘s just a short drive up and I‘m there with them.

ITW: Do you know anybody in the Baltimore system?

Luis Montanez: I think they signed two former Cubs; Brandon Sing and Jon Leicester. So there are guys coming over from the Cubs organization that I know.

ITW: [2005-6 Ottawa Lynx Manager] Dave Trembley was your manager in 2002...

Luis Montanez: Yeah! I was asking people about Trembley because he used to manage me back when I used to play shortstop. I haven't stayed in touch with him over the years, but I know he'll recognize me when he sees me. Maybe not in the outfield, though {laughs}.

ITW: Speaking of your defensive conversion, how do you like playing in the outfield?

Luis Montanez: Oh, I love it. It fits my personality. It's more laid back and relaxed and I have a good time out there. I think I‘ve adapted to it pretty well.

ITW: Well I know one thing the Orioles could use is a right-handed hitting outfielder. Do you feel you have an advantage hitting against left-handers?

Luis Montanez: Yeah, absolutely. And I did see on their 40-man roster where most of their outfielders are left-handed. And that ballpark is more built for right-handers, so it does make it more convenient for me.

ITW: This past season, you were off to a terrific start in AA but struggled when promoted to AAA. What do you attribute that to?

Luis Montanez: I was in a groove in AA and everything was going well. When I got promoted to AAA, I started off well but then I was platooning with another guy. That might be a normal thing in AAA, but it was the first time I was ever coming off the bench and I didn't get used to it as quick as I should have. Splitting time with another guy was tough. It was tough to not play a game and it was all a bit difficult for me.

ITW: Well what kind of adjustments do you feel you'll need to make in order to contribute to the Orioles next season?

Luis Montanez: More versatility in my game, you know, maybe steal some bases, maybe play some other positions. Maybe I need to play second base. I play all the outfield positions. And I need to be more consistent. If I play more consistent, like I did at the beginning of the year, they'll find a place for me to play.

ITW: Do you have any specific goals in mind for 2007?

Luis Montanez: I just want to make a good showing at Baltimore and show them they made a good investment. And I hope they consider me one of their next prospects.

ITW: Any final words for Orioles fans?

Luis Montanez: Yeah, I just want to be another former Cubs success story. I know it worked out for Corey Patterson and I just want to be the next one in line.

*Michael Hollman and John Kazlo contributed to this story.

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