ESPN: Montero could be key for Mets in 2014

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The buzz regarding highly touted pitching prospect Rafael Montero making his major league debut this season continues to build.

Several prognosticators have ticketed the Mets to finish with a similar record from last year (74-88) as they continue their rebuilding project and wait for the return of Matt Harvey from Tommy John surgery. On the other hand, Adam Rubin of ESPN New York devised a scenario in which the Mets flip their record to 88-74. One of the key points in his “ambitious outlook” is a contribution from Montero at the big-league level.

Montero, who earned his first taste of Double-A and Triple-A last season, has been rumored to be a candidate for the last spot in the starting rotation on Opening Day or could be a mid-season addition. His name has also surfaced as part of the mix for the bullpen, though, that seems unlikely after he finished 12-7 with a 2.78 and 1.10 WHIP in 27 starts between Binghamton and Las Vegas last year.

According to Rubin, if Montero “pitches 150 really good innings in the major leagues” he could possibly eclipse double-digits in wins with an ERA around 3.00 — marks that could make him a Rookie of the Year candidate. The Dominican native would likely face an innings limit, as he has compiled more 150 innings only once in his career (he threw 155 1/3 innings last season).

Viewed as the Mets’ second-best pitching prospect behind only Noah Syndergaard by, the crafty right-hander also owns a 4.87 K/BB rate for his career and has surrendered just 16 homers in 64 total appearances in the minors (59 starts). His rising potential has made him a valuable commodity in the organization’s restocked farm system, an area that was evident in the offseason when general manager Sandy Alderson reportedly balked at trade offers that included the 23-year-old.

The Mets are expected to have several players vying for the No. 5 spot in spring training, including Daisuke Matsuzaka, John Lannan and Jenrry Mejia. The remainder of the rotation is occupied by Bartolo Colon, Zack Wheeler, Jonathon Niese and Dillon Gee.

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