Welcome to the second edition of HYPE Files! As a reminder, these HYPE Files will be a weekly guide to: 1. Shine light on prospects not getting their due respect and 2. Extinguish the hype on some prospects that will probably end up being mentioned in the same breath as Lastings Milledge and Yusmeiro Petit.
Where’s the hype?
Rafael Montero, SP: You may have seen this name towards the bottom of some Mets’ top prospects lists this year, but do not be surprised to see his name on most lists next year, with a few of those featuring him in the top half. It appears that a lot of prospect hounds wanted to list Montero higher this year, but they could not due to his unproven track record. Montero only appeared in 17 games last year (12 starts) – spanning the Dominican Summer League, Gulf Coast League, Appalachian League, and finally the New York Penn League in Brooklyn. In other words, the then 20-year-old Montero did not pitch above short season A-ball.
So what got him on these lists? First, Montero has the beginnings of a nice three-pitch arsenal. His fastball sits around 91-92 and it can be cranked up to 94. Although the velocity on his fastball is not going to blow anyone away, it is his control of it that makes him impressively successful. To go along with that fastball, he has an advanced changeup. It is a nice pitch for him because he is able to induce weak contact with it. His third pitch is a slider that is a work in progress, but is improving and has a chance to be an average pitch in the majors.
Second, while Montero pitched at the lowest levels of the farm system last year, his stats were impressive. In 71 innings, he produced a 2.15 ERA with 66 Ks and only 13 BB. As you can see, his 1.6 BB/9 really stands out. The 8.4 K/9 is impressive, but perhaps not realistic to expect that from Montero in the majors, as he was an older player dominating younger kids in 2011. Still, there is no reason not to expect Montero to have solid K/9 rates as he advances.
These two things made the Mets start Montero out in the South Atlantic League this year, where he was actually more impressive than he was in the lower levels. He started 12 games for in the Sally League and in 71.3 innings he produced a 2.52 ERA with 8 BB and 54 Ks. That was not a typo – he only walked eight batters! The only concerning factor there is his 6.8 K/9. It is not exactly dominating, but with control that good he may not need an ultra-high strikeout rate to succeed.
With his 1.0 BB/9, Montero proved there was nothing that would challenge him in the Sally League. So after the loop’s All-Star game, Montero was rewarded with a promotion to the Hi-A Florida State League. In four starts and 25.1 innings for the St. Lucie Mets, Montero has a 2.49 ERA with 8 BB and 23 Ks. That includes his start last night in which he threw four no-hit innings in an impressive outing.
Four starts is such a small sample size, but it is all we have to work on so far. However, there are pros and cons immediately apparent. His strikeouts are up to almost the tune of an 8.2 K/9, but his walks are up as well. This is a concerns if Montero is to succeed due to his control. Fans should monitor his walk rate the rest of the season in the FSL. Montero is finally being challenged and there will be an adjustment period.
Montero does not have the pure stuff nor the brain of Greg Maddux (who does?) to be an ace when he finally reaches the Mets. However, if he can perfect that slider he has a good shot at being a strong middle-of-the-rotation starter. Can this Mets fan start dreaming of a future rotation of Wheeler, Harvey, Niese, and Montero? How is that for hype?