It’s only a matter of time until the New York Mets start to bring several of their top pitching prospects to the big leagues. If they wanted to, they could bring up Rafael Montero right now, because he’s ready to make his MLB debut.
Montero made 16 starts in triple-A to close out the 2013 season, posting an ERA of 3.05. He has made eight starts at triple-A this season with a 3.67 ERA. He has nearly a full season’s worth of experience in triple-A and has proven that he can handle hitters at that level.
Even if his ERA isn’t ultra impressive, consider that he’s doing it in a hitter-friendly league, and that he’s spent this season fine-tuning things rather than focusing completely on performance. Essentially, he’s treating triple-A games the way major league players treat Spring Training.
His peripheral stats are also in line with what you’d want from a pitcher who’s ready to move up a level, as he’s averaging one strikeout per inning this season and has a WHIP of 1.15. In his most recent outing, Montero carried a no-hitter through 5.1 innings until he was forced to leave because of a strict pitch count, indicating that he’s more than ready for the big leagues.
The Mets’ plan for Montero is to get him experience pitching out of the bullpen in triple-A and then to bring him up to the big leagues as a reliever. But despite a lack of ideal size, Montero has the tools to be a starter in the big leagues in both the short and long term, and it would be more than reasonable to bring him up and put him in the starting rotation right now.
Montero pitched on Friday night, the same night that Jenrry Mejia failed to get out of the fifth inning for the second straight start. The idea of moving Mejia to the bullpen is gaining momentum, and if the Mets wanted to, they could easily bump Mejia from his next scheduled start and insert Montero on regular rest.
The timing of that move would work perfectly, and it may also be what’s best for the Mets and both players. Mejia looks more and more unfit to be a starting pitcher, and a move to the bullpen is inevitable this season anyway in order to curb his innings. Meanwhile, Montero looks more than ready to take over that starting role.