On Saturday, AC had an amazing summary of the Dodgers minor league middle infielders. Two players that were mentioned that have not drawn a lot of attention are third baseman Brandon Montgomery and shortstop Zach McKinstry. Actually their listed position is in name only as they have played at a number of positions during their minor league careers. These guys are among the many foot soldiers in minor league baseball. They give all they have every time against incredible odds. In my opinion they are the foundation of all baseball, minor league and major league. Without the foot soldiers and only with the high profile minor leaguers, there could be no minor league system.
Montgomery was selected by the Dodgers in the 26th round of the 2016 First-Year Player Draft out of San Jacinto Community College North in the greater Houston area.
Born in Houston, the 6’0”/180-pound right-handed hitter attended Collerville High School in Collierville, Tennessee. Others names we might recognize as alumni of Collierville are Zack Cozart and “Marvelous” Marv Throneberry. Only we older folks will remember Throneberry who played in the fifties and early sixties.
Way back in high school Brandon Montgomery was acknowledged for his defense scoring a seven out of a possible eight in the area of arm strength, glove work, and footwork along with an eight on accuracy.
During the 2016 college season with San Jacinto Montgomery led the Gators in batting average while posting a triple slash of .379/.405/.591. He drove in 40 runs along with 6 home runs and 19 doubles. He also stole 30 bases from the lead off spot in the lineup. Coincidentally he was a teammate, and fellow Dodger draftee, of right-hander Devin Smeltzer who was recently traded to the Minnesota Twins in the Brian Dozier trade.
Montgomery began his professional baseball career with the AZL Dodgers on June 20, 2016 where he posted a triple slash of .348/.398/.461 in 23 games before moving on to the Great Lakes Loons. With the Loons his slash line in 35 games was .329/.377/.636.
He returned to the Loons for 8 games during the 2017 season before being promoted to the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes of the California League. He finished the season with the Quakes hitting .252 along with 45 runs batted in.
The 22-year-old Montgomery again started the 2018 season back with the Loons where he played 92 games before moving up once again to the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes on August 1. His power numbers improved as he hit nine home runs but his OBP slipped to .285 with the Great Lakes squad.
Defensively during his professional career Montgomery has played 101 games at second base, 95 at third base, 27 at shortstop and 26 in the outfield. He is a utility player in a role that is becoming ever more important who now must improve his OBP by producing a better walk-to-strikeout ratio. He will do that.
I have followed McKinstry since he was selected by the Dodgers in the 33rd round of the 2016 MLB First-Year Player Draft out of Central Michigan University in Mount Pleasant, Michigan. I especially took notice when he was advanced to the Loons in 2016 and became an important cog in their championship run by moving to the third base position, a position he had not previously played. The 5’11”/165-pound McKinstry solidified the position and the infield helping out his teenage infield partners, shortstop Brendon Davis and second baseman Omar Estevez.
McKinstry grew up in Fort Wayne, Indiana and attended North Side High School in Fort Wayne. Following his graduation from high school he moved east to Central Michigan University to take up a regular spot as their shortstop.
As a sophomore, he led the Chippewas in several categories in 2016, including batting average (.325), on base percentage (.415), hits (79) and stolen bases (12), earning team Co-MVP honors. He started at shortstop in all 61 games during the 2016 season.
On July 21, 2016 he made his debut with the Loons and on the season he hit .261 in 41 games while playing shortstop, second base and third base.
During the 2017 season he played 17 games with the Loons, 82 with the Quakes and 15 with the Drillers, hitting a combined uncharacteristically low .239 and as with Montgomery seeing his OBP slip below .300 with the Quakes. In the field he split his time equally between second base and third base while also making starts at shortstop.
McKinstry’s problems in 2017 began during the off-season when he sprained his wrist while lifting weights. It wasn’t a serious injury, but it took time away from his off-season work and was reflected in his 2017 campaign.
In a somewhat disappointing fashion for McKinstry he started the 2018 season back with the Great Lakes Loons of the Midwest League. However, amid his disappointment he took a positive out of the setback.
“The good part is that I know my way around here, and I’m familiar with everything,” McKinstry said.
“And I have a lot of friends from around here and in Mount Pleasant. It’s not hard for them to come see me play.”
The better part for McKinstry is that after 18 games in 2018 with the Loons in which he hit .377 he was promoted to the Quakes. The best part is that after 33 games with the Quakes in which he hit .308 with an OBP of .447 he advanced once again to the Drillers. He did miss a full month on the DL in May and June.
To date with the Drillers he is still trying to get his feet under him with seven hits in 34 at bats. He will. During the 2018 season he has played more shortstop and second base with some time at third base and in the outfield. He too is increasing his value by his versatility and one day may well be a MLB team jack-of-all-trades.
Morales is the third”M”, another foot soldier. He is an outfielder and not a utility infielder as are Montgomery and McKinstry. He is also a member of the same drafting class as the two infielders.
A native of Ponce, Puerto Rico, he was selected by the Dodgers in the 15th round of the 2016 First-Year Player Draft out of Hillsborough Community College in Tampa Florida. Although he was born in Puerto Rico, Morales played high school baseball at Haines City High School in central Florida having moved there as a youngster. Haines City is about a half-hour south of Orlando.
Morales who throws left-handed, but hits from the right side of the plate, had hoped to be drafted following his graduation from high school. He described himself as “athletic” and ran the 60-yard dash in 6.5 seconds. He played high school basketball but gave it up to devote his time specifically to baseball and baseball training.
Following his high school graduation, Morales registered at Hillsborough Community College. The 6’1”/170-pound center fielder had a banner year as a sophomore in 2016. He posted a triple slash of .354/.425/.566 with 19 doubles, six triples and three home runs in 47 games along with 24 steals in 32 attempts. That earned him first team All-Conference honors.
He had a pair of 16-game hitting streaks during the 2016 season. His second streak included 11 multi-hit games. During those 16 games, he hit a Ted Williams like .406, along with 14 extra-base hits and 21 runs scored.
At the time of his signing by the Dodgers, Jonathan Mayo indicated the Dodgers signed Morales for $122,500.
He had but eight at bats in the Arizona League in 2016 all coming at the tail end of the schedule in August after Morales came off the 60-day DL.
During the 22017 season he had unsuccessful stints with the Tulsa Drillers and Great Lakes Loons before settling in with the Ogden Raptors where he posted a triple slash of .297/.377/.352 along with 29 stolen bases in 36 attempts.
The 22-year-old outfielder was assigned to the Loons to start the 2018 season. In 86 games he has recorded a slash line of .273/.338/.383 while stealing a league leading 46 bases in 61 attempts. He has primarily played center field and has hit in the lead off spot in 57 of his games played.
On the season Brayan Morales has hit .241 against left-handers and .285 against right-handers while hitting .246 with RISP. In the field, with excellent range, he has made but eight errors in his minor league career in 285 chances.
Morales was most likely due for a promotion to the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes, especially with a number of prospects with the Ogden Raptors ready to move up to the Loons. However, an advancement was not to be.
On July 21 he went on the DL with a hamate bone injury. An injury to the hamate bone usually takes 4-6 weeks to completely heal. The following link gives a more complete picture of the hamate bone injury.
Dodger News byMark Timmons
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