Unlike Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler, Rafael Montero will make his debut at home. Not only will the latest Mets pitching prospect debut at home, he’ll do it against Masahiro Tanaka and the Yankees. In Montero, the Mets feel they have a pitcher who is unflappable and ready for the majors. What should they expect from him?
After signing as an international free agent in 2011, Montero rose through the minor league system incredibly fast.
Despite not having the pure stuff of Harvey or Wheeler, Montero struck out over nine batters per nine innings during stints in High-A and Double-A, and struck out 8.86 per nine this year in Triple-A.
What Montero lacks in stuff, he makes up for with impeccable control.
Here’s what Baseball Prospectus (subscription needed and encouraged) has to say about Montero:
Montero’s ability to locate his fastball to all parts of the zone and move it out of the zone when he wants to is his best attribute. He knows how to move the ball equally well to both corners. He can get in trouble when he elevates, because he loses what little plane he has on his fastball, but when he works down, the pitch is extremely effective.
Montero backs up his fastball with two average secondary offerings, a changeup that is slightly more advanced, and a slider that still lacks consistency. With the changeup, Montero maintains his arm speed well, allowing the pitch to play off the fastball and keep hitters off balance. The slider can get loose at times, but when right, it shows tight spin and works in the average range.
With a three-pitch mix, all of which rate at least average, and an impressive command profile, Montero’s projection is more about the sum of the parts than any standout tool. His ability to work in and around the zone with all three pitches while maintaining his raw stuff deep into starts gives him the ability to log innings and keep his team in the game. Once he settles in at the big-league level, Montero should be a very good fourth starter.
While Baseball Prospectus is impressed with Montero, they peg him as a number four starter.
Montero has been doubted at every level he’s pitched, due to his smallish size and a fastball that profiles as plus but lacks the sizzle of other top prospects.
However, everywhere he’s been, Montero has performed at a high level.
No one expects Montero to turn into the ace of a staff, but having seem him pitch dozens of times, I feel that labeling him a fourth starter severely underestimates his potential.
Starting tonight at Citi Field, Montero will begin to turn that potential into results.