Can Rafael Montero Help New York Mets Rotation

By Bryan Zarpentine
Brad Barr-USA TODAY Sports

New York Mets pitching prospect Rafael Montero made his first appearance in triple-A yesterday, making a start for the Mets’ minor league affiliate in Las Vegas. With Montero having a great season in double-A and now making an appearance in triple-A, there a chance that he could help out the Mets rotation, which is in dire need of some assistance.

In his start yesterday, Montero threw six shutout innings before being charged with two runs in the seventh inning and taking the loss, striking out five and walking just one. Montero’s start was reportedly just a spot start, but based on how well it went, keeping him in triple-A would be justified.

Before getting the call up to triple-A, Montero was 4-3 with a 3.47 ERA, although his ERA was inflated by one bad outing in which he gave up 10 runs. In six of his eight starts, he allowed two runs or less. Montero has pitched 46 innings at double-A, with 54 strikeouts and just six walks. He became a top-pitching prospect last year with a great season in Class-A, and Montero has followed that up nicely with a great 2013 season.

But even with a great start to this season, there are still concerns about whether or not Montero is ready to help the Mets in the majors. Since he has ascended through the Mets farm system so quickly, he is just 22 years old and just barely a quarter of the way towards the 200 innings major league teams want prospects to have in the upper levels of the minor leagues before coming to the big leagues.

A year ago, Montero was pitching in the South Atlantic League, the lowest level of the minors that plays a full season, so he doesn’t have as much professional experience as most rookies in the big leagues.

Montero’s biggest asset, his control, may also be a problem if he starts facing the best hitters in the world in MLB. Montero pounds the strike zone and doesn’t give up a lot of walks, which the Mets organization likes in a pitcher. However, throwing too many strikes could get him in trouble against more advanced hitters as his fastball has nothing more than average velocity, which is hittable when major league batters know it’s going to be in the strike zone.

Montero may have to learn how to use his command to pitch out of the strike zone in order to get hitters out, something he’s better off learning before he gets to the big leagues.

Even though Montero has risen quickly through the farm system and has now reached the highest level of the minor leagues, he’s still a ways away from helping the Mets rotation, no matter how desperate they are for some assistance. If Montero makes it to the big leaguers this season, it’ll be later rather than sooner. For now, he needs to gain more experience and learn how to pitch against more advanced hitters.

His numbers have been great, but don’t let that fool you. His stuff is barely above average, and so he needs as much experience as he can get before the Mets send him out to pitch on a big league mound. A major league call-up sometime in 2013 shouldn’t be ruled out, but don’t expect him at Citi Field too soon.

Bryan Zarpentine is a New York Mets writer at  Follow him on twitter @BZarp and add him on Google+.

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