Last season for another website, I produced a piece on what looked like an exciting new double-play combination for the Cubs, Carlos Sepulveda and Andruw Monasterio. While Sepulveda opened the season with Advanced-A Myrtle Beach, he has been out since early May with an injury.
Only 20 years old, Monasterio was held back in extended spring training this year, joining Myrtle Beach shortly after Sepulveda was placed on the disabled list. Although nearly three years younger than the league average, Monasterio held his own in the Carolina League. In 26 games, Monasterio batted .241 with four doubles, five RBI, and a stolen base. “Advanced-A is a hard league” according to Monasterio, “but it helps you become a better ballplayer”.
In 2014, a then 17 year old Monasterio came to the Cubs’ Venezuelan Academy for a try-out, and was signed immediately. About one and a half years younger than the league average, the right-handed hitter nevertheless batted .292 in 36 games. But instead of progressing to the Dominican Academy the next season, the Cubs brought the 18 year old Monasterio stateside to play in the Arizona rookie league in 2015.
After participating in training camp in 2016, Monasterio stayed on in extended spring training while waiting for an assignment to Short Season-A Eugene. The Cubs’ brass took note of Monaterio play while still in Arizona, so when Monasterio hit .324 in 17 games and was named the Northwest League Player of the Week, they did not hesitate in promoting him to Low-A South Bend. However, the adjustments in both playing time and level of competition caught up with him, as Monasterio batted only .216 in 48 games.
Monasterio’s downturn at South Bend did not concern Myrtle Beach Coach Guillermo Martinez. Martinez said that Monasterio is “not scared. He is very composed and has a great deal of maturity for his age”. Martinez also praised Monasterio for his awareness on the field and his work ethic.
Returning to South Bend, it was a surprise to see the once shy Monasterio not only eager to be interviewed, but insisting on trying to get through the questions without an interpreter to further improve his English. “I liked it in Myrtle Beach, the manager was very helpful” said Monsaterio. “(Buddy Bailey) will tell you in the moment about your mistakes. It is all about getting better.”
With 18 year old shortstop Isaac Paredes, hot hitting veteran Vimael Machin, and mercurial 2017 draft choice Austin Upshaw in S-Cubs’ infield, Monasterio has found playing time hard to come by when he arrived back in South Bend. But that has improved since Machin has been promoted to Myrtle Beach. Taking over at third base and installed as the team’s lead-off man, Monasterio has raised his average to .275 with a .372 on-base percentage, four RBI and three stolen bases in 20 games. Monasterio was also able to post an 19 game on-base streak. “I’m hoping to get a chance to play more every day and learning” intimated Monasterio.
Part of that learning is versatility. A shortstop throughout his career, Monasterio had only three games of experience at second base before returning to South Bend. According to play-by-play man Darin Pritchett, expanding his defense might be the key for Monasterio’s future. “If he becomes more versatile, Monasterio will get more chances to play had develop his offense more” said Pritchett. Since he has come back to the Midwest League, Monasterio has started nine games at second base and eight at third while playing another five games at shortstop.
Although the fantastic start to the 2016 season now seems a long time ago, what has passed since then has not appeared to dampen Monasterio’s enthusiasm. “I love playing baseball, and try to enjoy every moment” said Monasterio. “My goal is to finish this season strong, and one day make it to the big leagues”.