Rafael Montero (RHP) is one of the New York Mets most highly touted prospects. Baseball America lists Montero as the third best Mets prospect behind No. 2 Travis d’Arnaud and No. 1 Noah Syndergaard.
Montero is being groomed as a starting pitcher. Of the 64 games he’s appeared in at the minor league level, Montero has started 59. This doesn’t necessarily mean he won’t find his way into the bullpen, but the Mets envision Montero as an eventual member of their rotation.
At a generous listing of 6-foot-0, 170 pounds Montero isn’t the biggest bull in the barn, but he can still generate good heat on his fastball. Montero has consistently thrown in the low 90s and occasionally mid 90s with his four-seamer, and his two-seamer is generally in the high 80s/ low 90s.
Montero’s biggest asset is his control. In 348.1 innings in the minors Montero has issued only 67 walks, which works out to just 1.7 walks per nine innings. He also strikes out a fair amount of hitters, averaging 8.4 Ks per 9 IP.
Another bonus for Montero is his ability to keep ball in the ballpark. In 2013 Montero split 155.1 IP between the Binghamton Mets (AA) and the Las Vegas 51s (AAA) and allowed only six HR. This surely has the Mets’ front office salivating. Even more impressive is the fact that Cashman Field in Las Vegas is an overwhelmingly hitter-friendly park. While Montero’s era did elevate to 3.05 after his promotion to AAA, in 16 starts with the Area 51s, he still only allowed four HR.
Will Montero make the team out of spring training? It’s doubtful. Daisuke Matsuzaka, John Lannan and Jenrry Mejia will all be competing for the fifth spot in the rotation this spring. Matsuzaka and Lannan are both veterans and Mejia has experience pitching at the major league level, so look for one of those three to capture the fifth and final spot. Starting the season in the bullpen also appears unlikely. Jack Leathersich and Jeff Walters are both gunning for bullpen spots so there may not be any openings.
The Mets want Montero to improve on his secondary pitches. While both of his fastballs are effective and thrown with exceptional control, Montero’s slider is barely mediocre and his change-up is considered average.
Extra seasoning in the minors will help Montero make progress with his secondary pitches and perhaps develop a major league-level out pitch. If all goes according to plan there’s a good chance Montero is a mid season call-up.
The Mets really like Montero and he’s going to be a fun player to watch over the coming years. At 23 years of age he still needs seasoning, but the tools are certainly there for him to succeed in the major leagues for a long time.