It wasn’t long ago that we were referring to Rafael Montero as “The Dominator” here at MMO, as his pitching performances often left us with our mouths hanging open, and each performance seemed to get better and better.
Then he was called up to make a few starts with the Mets last year, and all the hype caught up to him. He didn’t look like the same guy that we watched dominate so many minor league games over the past couple of seasons. Many fans may have started to question what the big deal was about this prospect that had heard so much about.
Let’s face it, Montero wouldn’t have been the first prospect to completely over power minor league competition and then not be able to put it together at the big league level. Whether it be something mental, or the pressure of the big leagues, some players just don’t ever live up to the hype.
However, Montero doesn’t seem like that type of guy. If you read or listen to his interviews, he sounds hungry—he sounds confident.
Say what you will about Terry Collins and his management style, but it was a smart move to start Montero against the Yankees. Like Collins alluded to in post-game interviews, he got a chance to see him against a big-time lineup.
“That is the best I’ve seen him,” Collins said after the Mets 7-2 win. “We’ve heard for two years about what a strike thrower he was, and last year when he came up I don’t know if it was nerves or what, but we didn’t see that.”
If you watched that game, you saw some things that made Montero so great in the minor leagues, and yet you also saw some things that got him into trouble when he was called up last year. His change-up was masterful. Watching him throw that pitch and see the left-handed hitters swing through it as it dove down and away from them was a reminiscent of Montero in Binghamton a couple of seasons ago. His curveball was sharp—but it’s Montero’s fastball that will get him into trouble.
Montero isn’t overpowering—generally sitting in the low 90s. Montero’s fastball also tends to be flat—very little movement that comes in at waist height to the hitter. He has to rely on pinpoint control, moving the ball in and out and working the corners in order to be successful. If the fastball catches too much of the plate, the major league hitters will take advantage of it, as we witnessed this past Tuesday when Chase Headley ripped that double in the gap.
We know that Montero has earned a roster spot for 2015. Whether that is in a relief or starter role remains to be seen. Montero truly has the stuff to be one of the best No. 5 starters in the league. It’s pretty impressive when one of the greatest baseball players of all-time says “He’s got a really good arm and he should be a nice asset for that team for a long time.” You may not like Alex Rodriguez, but the guy knows baseball.