Rafael Montero, RHP
Weight: 170 lbs.
Rafael Montero was signed a lot later than international prospects usually are. Most are signed when they turn 16 or 17 years old but the Mets signed him out of the Dominican Republic at the age of 20. You could call him a trailblazer because in three seasons he’s progressed through the entire system; a testament to how advanced a pitcher he is for his age. Although he won’t ever have the stuff for the top of the rotation, he shows an incredible feel for his craft, featuring three pitches he can throw with constant precision.
On his 2013 MLB.com scouting report his fastball is graded as above average right now with the potential to be a future plus pitch. I wouldn’t go that far as his fastball sits in the low 90’s with life and occasionally touches 95 mph but it can certainly be an above average pitch at the major league level, especially with the way he commands it. His slider and changeup have the potential to be at least average offerings that will complement his fastball very well.
What makes Montero stand out as a prospect is his impeccable control and command. Watching him pitch, it just seems like he puts the baseball exactly where he wants it. In 16 games in Las Vegas last season, Montero did the unthinkable; put up gaudy numbers in the hitter’s paradise that is Cashman Field. In 88.1 IP, he registered a 3.05 ERA, 1.24 WHIP with a 78:25 K:BB ratio. That just goes to show how good of an actual pitcher he his. He’s a small kid, standing at 6’0” and weighing in at 170 lbs., which might raise some questions about his durability as a starter. However, up to this point, he hasn’t had any injury troubles. He delivery is nice and easy and he uses his core well so his arm looks like it will hold up in a rotation without difficulty. His ceiling isn’t close to that of Syndergaard’s but Montero may be more major league ready at the moment.
Outlook: Montero has the stuff and pitchability to be a very good number 3 or 4 starter. His feel for pitching and pristine command could mean he has the ability to make an impact right away. Most pitcher’s need some time to learn how to work major league hitters but I think Montero’s ability to pitch really stood out in Las Vegas, meaning he could have a very short adjustment period in the majors. If there is an injury to the Mets rotation in the first half of the season, I would bet Montero is called up before Syndergaard. He’s more big league ready and the Mets will want to preserve Syndergaard’s Super Two status over Montero’s.
When next offseason rolls around and the Mets get Harvey back, I could very much see a scenario in which Montero gets moved because, barring any more injuries, the Mets will simply have an excess of pitchers to try and fit into a rotation; a very, very good problem to have. However, Montero might not be the one to be moved. It could be Dillon Gee. It Could be Jon Niese. Hell, it could be Noah Syndergaard or Zack Wheeler. It might even be nobody. Regardless, it will be remarkably interesting to see how Montero’s future and the rest of the Mets rotation plays out in a season or two.
(Photo Credit: John Munson/The Star-Ledger)