2. Rafael Montero, RHP
DOB: 10/17/1990 (Age: 23)
Fastball: 60/60 Changeup: 50/55 Slider: 45/50 Command: 65/70
Montero entered 2013 coming off an impressive 2012 season in which he posted a 2.36 ERA across two levels of A-ball. That was good enough for the Mets brass to assign the 22-year old Dominican to Double-A Binghamton of the Eastern League. Rafael made it known from the start that 2012 was no fluke. In his first month in Double-A he put up a 1.95 ERA in 27.2 innings while striking out 35 and allowing a .188 batting average against. Oh yeah, and in typical Montero fashion he walked just three. He would continue to embarrass Eastern League hitters until the second week of June, when the Mets would take pity of the league and promote him to Triple-A Las Vegas. The 51’s play in the Pacific Coast league, an extreme hitters league, with Las Vegas serving as one of the most hitter-friendly parks in the PCL. Some teams won’t send their top pitching prospects to the PCL in fear of damaging their confidence. Seemed like a recipe for disaster for the flyball prone Montero. But much like he’s always done the right-hander dominated the league to the tune of a 3.05 ERA in 88.2 innings. Even more impressive was how he finished the season, sporting a 1.40 ERA and a 37:6 K:BB over his final six starts.
From the scouting side, there’s a lot to love about Montero but not a ton of projection. He’s got an fluid three-quarters delivery with easy arm action. His fastball sits in the low 90’s but can touch 94-95. He commands the pitch incredibly well, working both corners of the plate with surgical precision. His changeup his is next best offering, showing good arm action and nice fade with room for a bit of improvement– likely ending up an above-average pitch. The breaking pitch is a slider that’s a low-80’s offering that could use some tightening up. Could eventually grade out solid-average. He holds his velocity late in games and is said to have a great work ethic. Overall not the sexiest arsenal but the command is what separates him. It’s plus-plus and causes all his pitches play up a notch.
Outlook: Some scouts and writers have put a reliever tag on Montero and I’m just not seeing it. His ability to hold velocity late in games shows that he can probably handle the load of a starter. Too often guys who aren’t 6’2 and above get slapped with the reliever label and I think it’s lazy. Rafael is a hard worker and can still add muscle to his frame. He may not be a superstar but he’s a solid number 3 starter even if the secondary stuff doesn’t improve.
MMN Top 40 Prospects
Photo credits: MiLB.com and John Munson/Star Ledger