What to expect from Rafael Montero, who makes his major league debut Wednesday night

Toby Hyde, Contributor

Rafael Montero has an ordinary arsenal, but has blazed a very rapid path to the big leagues.

Three years ago, Montero was a 20-year-old beginning his professional career in the Dominican Summer League. Now, fewer than three years after leaving the island, he is about to make his big league debut on Wednesday night against the Yankees.


Montero


Montero works with a three-pitch mix: fastball, slider and changeup. His fastball sits 92-93 mph over most outings, but he can range from 89-94 in a given start. Starting at Citi Field in the MLB Futures game in 2013, he threw 94-95 in a one-inning appearance, but he does not work at that velocity over the course of another start. Montero thrived in the minors because he could command the pitch, moving his fastball in and out, and up and down to both left- and right-handed hitters.

His slider sits around 81 miles per hour – about average velocity. While he’s made progress with the pitch, it is at best big league average right now. One National League scout said Montero’s slider, “doesn’t have power to it, but it’s usable.” If that sounds like faint praise, it is. A different scout who saw Montero in 2013 was more blunt, calling the pitch “inconsistent.”

In the low minors, Montero’s primary off-speed pitch was his changeup. One American League scout thought it was his second best pitch, and labeled it “solid-average” for its deception and sink.

Montero threw 130 1/3 innings over 24 starts in the Pacific Coast League, averaging 5.43 innings per start. To some degree, that was by design. However, do not expect Montero to work past the sixth inning often. In 2014, in his eight starts in Triple-A, he threw 41 2/3 innings total, averaging 5 2/3 innings per start. He averaged 91.4 pitches, topping out at 98 in his last two starts.

All told, he averaged strikes on 63 percent of his offerings, although that is buoyed by his early season results when he threw 70 percent strikes in both of his first two starts. He did not surpass 64 percent in any of his next six outings. For whatever reason, Montero threw fewer strikes as this season progressed, which resulted in his highest walk rate as a professional. Major league average is 62 percent.


Montero1


Once Montero got on the mound, he made up ground in a hurry, despite his entry into professional baseball being unusual. The Mets signed Montero for $80,000 in January of 2011 when he was already 20 years old. The best Dominican amateurs sign on their 16th birthday, and many have deals in place as 15-year-olds. Montero was four, or maybe five years behind. Back in 2011, he made four starts for the Dominican Summer League team, four for Kingsport and then hopped up to Brooklyn where he made seven appearances and four starts.

That was enough to earn a promotion to full-season ball Opening Day 2012. He started as a 21-year-old in Savannah and after a 2.52 ERA (19 percent strikeout rate and a 2.8 percent walk rate) in 71.1 innings, he was off to St. Lucie and advanced Single-A. He was dominant in advanced Single-A with 2.13 ERA in eight starts (a 29 percent strikeout rate and a 5.7 percent walk rate) down the stretch for the playoff-bound st. Lucie Mets. At the beginning of the 2012 season, Montero relied primarily on his fastball command to retire lower level hitters. His primary off-speed weapon was his changeup, which he threw with good arm speed, but without great movement. He improved his slider as the year went on, but it remained below average.

The Mets promoted Montero again to start the 2013 season, this time to Double-A Binghamton. After 16 good starts there 2.43 ERA (K: 28 percent and BB: 3.8 percent), the Mets rewarded him with a ticket to Triple-A Las Vegas to test him against the minors’ best hitters in one of the worst environments for pitching.

Montero was better in 2013 in Triple-A than he has been in 2014. His walk rate jumped from 6.9 percent in 2013 to 10.6 percent in 2014. His strikeout rate ticked up as well, and he is allowing two fewer hits per nine innings, but batters are still walking far more against Montero than ever before. In 2014, National League average is an 8.2 percent walk rate and a 20.5 percent K-rate, while the PCL average was 8.9 percent and 19.7 percent respectively.

Do not expect Montero to be a star without an above-average second pitch, instead he has three pitches he can use: a fastball that plays up thanks to his command, an inconsistent slider and an average changeup. He will throw strikes and should settle in at the back of a big league rotation. To be better, he will have to command his fastball not just well, but brilliantly. He will likely post a few seasons with average production and some below. The best case scenario for the Mets is a Dillon Gee-like advance with his slider and changeup to move towards a No . 3 starter level in his first few years in the big leagues.




44 comments
KevinBrazee
KevinBrazee

@AVSNY 6 innings 3 runs. 5K 3 walks. Just see how much the Mets can score and how bullpen works.

cver
cver

Those of you who have been reading my comments know how excited I am to see Montero in the bigs and starting.  I sure hope he exceeds the expectations of Mr. Toby Hyde, although I am a fan of his as well:)

dukewillie
dukewillie

ESPN New York reporting today's starting lineup will include Flores at SS and CY in CF at Cavernous Citi Field  with Lagares on the bench. Welcome to the New York Mets Montero. Too bad TC cant back you up with better defense at the two most important defensive positions on the field  with Tejada at SS and Lagares in CF. I just can't figure out how TC thinks. But hey, that's why they pay TC the big bucks.

J_Mogilner
J_Mogilner

@tobyhyde did he throw more of his off speed pitches after his first two starts? Or was he just missing with the fastball?

MetsFan1962
MetsFan1962

All we can hope for Montero on his first ML start is to have poise and control to beat them Yanks. Lets Go Rafael and Lets Go Mets!

nailbiter111
nailbiter111

@tobyhyde Just read it. It knocked some of the excitement right out of me. I thought you were high on him?

William Kelley
William Kelley

Montero seems very similar to Gee. Not quote"top stuff" but has ability to hit spots. Actually could be very effective. He is in tough tonight versus Tanaka. Mets need to be aggressive early in the count. You fall behind and your in trouble.


Will someone please tell d"Araud that he needs to get his front foot down earlier. You can't start swing until front foot hits the ground, He is constantly late with his swing due to front foot.


Glenn Blasius
Glenn Blasius

Time for the young guns.  I think Montero will be better then people suggest....just like Wheeler is worse.  Perhaps Bartolo could open an ice cream shop now. 


brrrandooo
brrrandooo

From what I understand Montero is a similar pitcher to Gee with better "Stuff" should be nice to watch a pitcher with good command

Anthony Perez
Anthony Perez

this is coming from a guy who said don't expect Harvey to win a cy young award any time soon. Can someone correct me if I'm wrong

Max Denby
Max Denby

Not sure I get Mejia to the pen and this guy to the Rotation.  If Montero has a plus fastball and does not walk batters, he seems like a good fit for the pen.  Mejia has plus secondary pitches.. Someone please explain. 

Joe Meyer
Joe Meyer

Not a very promising scouting report

pepperniko
pepperniko

I'm very confused, if Toby Hyde contributes to MetsBlog, why is his name not on "Team Mets Blog"

chiescuela
chiescuela

Good luck kid. Hopefully the first of many.

tobyhyde
tobyhyde

@J_Mogilner I'm honestly not sure. I wasn't there. No one seemed terribly concerned, but it's the kind of jump in BB% that matters

Ed Yano
Ed Yano

They don't think his delivery can hold up for 200 innings per year,which he will need to be a starter.I think they just see him as a late inning pen guy.He won't be a closer because of his delivery,he will actually need time off between BP appearances.We are going to hear the term "max effort" when they talk about Mejia's delivery.

TheJMan
TheJMan

@Max Denby  

1. let's see what he's got -- he's risen this fast for a reason

2. showcase him for a trade
3. bolster the bullpen with Mejia -- he started out there and can't last now as a starter
4. give the fans what they've been clamoring for



dv92
dv92

@Max Denby  Mejia can't last after the 5th inning. He gets rocked the third time around. Don't get me wrong I love Mejia but he's better suited for the pen. He can be a real threat in the pen.

Esquire Nupe
Esquire Nupe

@Max Denby  Lineups the second and especially the third time around have hit Mejia hard.  This makes him (at least for now) better suited to shorter outings of 1-2 innings.  Montero has shown tremendous control and so far good overall starts for close to 6 innings, unlike Mejia recently.

Sean Mc D
Sean Mc D

Because he doesn't -- mets blog lifts content from metsminor league blog

C.K. Dexter Haven
C.K. Dexter Haven

@mikesml  If you haven't had a chance yet, take a look at that roundtable they did on the MLB network with former pitchers and a doctor from the Hosp. for Spec. Surg.  It's interesting even with some of the editorializing from Smoltz and Kaat.  I think they echo what you just said about the body not being built for that type of repeated stress.  The interesting part to me was Smoltz said he hadn't seen a radar gun until some specialized tourney he played his senior year in HS.  Now?  Parents have radar gun apps on their phone for their kids in little league.... 

nailbiter111
nailbiter111

@tobyhyde I hear you. As a fan it is hard to get excited about a 4th or 5th starter. Those are the guys we like to whine about.

Sean Mc D
Sean Mc D

He most definitely can be a closer --- everyone who saw him when he was 20 said he'd be a closer -- many a closer have been max effort guys including arguably the mets best closer of all time, billy Wagner (this might be surprising but can anyone else think of a better one?)

mrmet4mvp
mrmet4mvp

@mikesml  Hopefully he works a little faster than Trachsel, or we're gonna be looking at more 5-hour games.

Ed Yano
Ed Yano

No they don't DL Germaine and Gee add Montero and DeGroom.Its not that hard.

Anthony Perez
Anthony Perez

My mistake. Never would've even have noticed

Anthony Perez
Anthony Perez

5th paragraph down. And not for nothing Harvey was very well in contention last year. Even though he would've need a monster last month. None the less he most likely would've finished second and in my books that's good enough