Round 9, Pick 260 – RHP Bryce Montes de Oca
Ht: 6’7″ Wt: 265 DOB: 3/23/96 (22)
School: University of Missouri (Junior)
- 2015: 7 G, 8.0 IP, 0-0 W-L, 6.75 ERA, 9/10 BB/K, 1.50 WHIP
- 2016: 1 G, 0.1 IP, 0-0 W-L, 0.00 ERA, 0/1 BB/K, 0.00 WHIP
- 2017: 15 G, 12 GS, 61.0 IP, 4-5 W-L, 4.43 ERA, 42/61 BB/K, 1.39 WHIP
- 2018: 15 G, 9 GS, 54.2 IP, 6-4 W-L, 3.13 ERA, 33/65 BB/K, 1.19 WHIP
- Totals: 38 G, 21 GS, 124 IP, 10-9 W-L, 3.99 ERA, 84/137 BB/K, 1.31 WHIP
There are fewer picks in the 2018 draft more intriguing than right-hander Bryce Montes de Oca. In terms of pure “stuff” and upside, the right-hander might look like a steal for the Mets in a ninth round. However, his background raises concerns. Montes de Oca has already undergone two major pitching-related surgeries, having undergone Tommy John surgery while still in high school in 2013 and ulnar nerve transposition surgery (the same surgery that Mets’ pitcher Steven Matz underwent in late 2017), after facing just one collegiate batter in 2016.
Montes de Oca is a Lawrence, Kansas native, and graduated as the valedictorian of his class at Lawrence High School in 2014. The right-hander has been drafted twice previously, first by the White Sox in the 14th round in 2014 and then in the 15th round in 2017 by the Nationals. However, both times he has decided to pursue his collegiate career at The University of Missouri. The decision to return for his junior season turned out to be a fruitful one for Montes de Oca, as he put together his best season so far and jumped six rounds in the draft.
As a redshirt junior, the big right-hander had the opportunity to return to Mizzou, but instead chose to sign on with the Mets.
At 6’7″ and 265 pounds, Montes de Oca uses all of his gigantic frame on the mound to throw hard and intimidate hitters. His motion is quick and explosive, starting from a closed set with his hands together at the letters. He brings his arm through in a whip-like motion at a high three-quarter angle. When he brings his arm back, he establishes the dreaded “inverted W”, which could partially explain his injury-prone past as well as his command issues. He lands on a stiff plant leg and hinges forward on his hips, recoiling forward after he finishes.
In terms of a repertoire, Montes de Oca works with a solid two-pitch mix. His fastball is his best pitch, sitting in the 94-96 MPH range, but having touched triple digits multiple times. His size also helped him maintain his velocity deeper into outings when he did start. Because of his height, long stride, and extension on his release, he gets exceptional downward action on his fastball. His secondary pitch is a wipeout slider in the low 80s with more looping, slurve-like action. He still throws the pitch with plenty of power and effort behind it, and because of that, it is a true swing and miss pitch. Montes de Oca also mixes in a below-average changeup that will need refinement to be useful at a higher level.
Both the fastball and the slider are considered legitimate strike out pitches. The only problem is that he has no idea where anything he throws is going. His walk rate in 2018 was a career-best 5.43 per nine innings, which speaks to the level of control issues he has had. His mechanics are repeatable and not overly complicated, so the hope is that he will be able to develop better control as he continues to pitch. His command issues were so bad at times that, despite his high strikeout numbers and excellent stuff, Mizzou at times stayed away from using him for extended periods of time. These issues might also turn out to be a result of his big frame, as it is not uncommon for tall pitchers to have difficulty throwing strikes with consistency.
The key for Montes de Oca is clearly his command. Whether the Mets believe they have a starter or a reliever with him remains to be seen, as he did both in Missouri. If he shows improvement with his control, it would not be out of the question for the Mets to give him a shot at starting. That said, his greatest upside might come from the back of the bullpen, where the Mets can let him go out and compile swings and misses on his two plus pitches without any real need to develop a third.
Simply put, Montes de Oca has a chance to jump to the Majors quicker than most if the Mets decide to fast-track him in the bullpen. However, he will need to improve on his command by a considerable amount to reach his full potential. If Montes de Oca turns into what the Mets want him to be, he should miss a lot of bats and be a lot of fun to watch on the mound.
He was already placed on the 60-day disabled list for the Brooklyn Cyclones and will not make his pro debut in 2018.