Prospect Pulse: Stock Is Rising For RHP Rafael Montero

An article by posted on February 20, 2013

rafael montero

RAFAEL MONTERO, RHP

Bats: R  Throws: R
Height: 6′  
Weight: 170 lb.
Position: Pitcher
Age: 22
ETA: 2015
2013 MMO Top Prospect Ranking: #9

Background:

Here is a brief player profile from the recent 2013 MMO Top 25 Prospect series:

If you go by the numbers, Sterling Award winner Rafael Montero is a guy that you should be taking note of. He entered the Mets system in 2011, and has already seen work at six different levels, culminating in his work in St.Lucie last year. Montero was stopped short last year because he hit his innings limit, but impressed basically everybody with a 2.36 ERA in 122.0 innings over two levels, while posting a 0.943 WHIP.

He has continued to keep his walks down, as he’s done during every stop of his MiLB career so far, posting a 1.6 BB/9 rate compared to a 8.1 K/9. To put it plainly, he walked only 19 while striking out 110, and it’s mainly because of the strength of his secondary offerings. In addition, he only allowed six home runs all season, so there are more than just a few reasons to be excited about him.

Montero has an interesting skill set which is accompanied by a frame that most scouts agree needs to be bulked up a little before guaranteeing any success. His fastball is not dominant by any means, but it is possible to work with it at the MLB level. Although it sits in the 90-92 MPH range, it has great late movement and Montero commands it impressively. I have seen him work a curve and a change into his pitching arsenal at times, but I have to say he also throws a good hard slider that’s not far from being a plus-offering. Montero has three solid pitches to work with – the fastball, slider, and change up. He varies the speed on his change well and the bottom drops out more often than not.

Montero pitched well enough in 2012 to get an invite to spring training, and thus far in camp, he has been nothing short of spectacular. Jon Heyman of CBS Sports has reported in a recent tweet that Montero is ”thrilling Mets people” in camp, and “unreal’ is the word being used in camp when describing this exciting prospect.

Michael Baron of Metsblog was also recently blown away by Montero and noted that the young right-hander had “electrifying stuff.” Here is more of what he had to say about Montero, after watching a recent bullpen session down in Florida:

He worked counts and the pitch situations that come with that, such as coming back with fastballs down 2-0, and using his breaking pitch on the corners when ahead in the count. He didn’t seem to fall behind too much…Montero’s stuff looks electrifying, but he’s still quite raw, which is to be expected at this stage of his development. He throws very hard, and his breaking pitch has very heavy movement down through the strike zone. He is very lanky, kind of like Pedro Martinez when he was younger.

Baron’s report is just as promising as Heyman’s, however I found it to be a tad contradicting. Baron states that Montero worked counts, didn’t fall behind much, and used his breaking pitch on the corners when ahead in the count which hardly sounds like Montero is ”raw.”

I think what Baron was trying to convey was that Montero is inexperienced, since he has only pitched in the lower levels of the system. Someone who is raw generally oozes talent, but hasn’t figured out how to apply that talent in game situations — it seems that from Baron’s description that Montero is still figuring out how to pitch. Being a raw talent and an inexperienced player are two different things.

Analysis:

Based on the video, Montero does have a couple of minor mechanical issues he has to work on, but he does have electric stuff and tons of potential. His fastball tops out at 93mph, and he has a nice, biting slider to go along with his fastball.

He also throws a slower slurve, which is a bendy combination of slider and curveball, but he uses it very rarely. Montero has a lot of promise, but I would like to see him focusing on developing his changeup, and get rid of that slurve he throws. Most early scouting reports had Montero labeled as a bullpen arm, but with continued progress, he could be a very formidable middle of the rotation starter.

Montero still relies on his fastball, so the Mets will start working with Montero to incorporate his secondary pitches more and more as he progresses. In the lower levels of the system, it is easy for pitchers to get by with fastball, fastball, but as he rises through the system, he will need a variety of well developed pitches to get the more advanced hitters out.

Montero should start the season with Double-A Binghamton, and you should definitely keep an eye on him in 2013. Montero is a name that Met fans should get used to hearing.

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To read previous editions of this feature, go to our MMO Prospect Pulse Archives.

Follow MMO Minor League Analyst Mitch Petanick on Twitter at @FirstPitchMitch for even more Mets Minor League and prospect coverage.

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