Rafael Montero is next in line for the Mets

With all the pomp and circumstance surrounding Zack Wheeler’s major league debut, most likely occurring later this week, the future of Mets baseball is rapidly approaching.

The future appears to be built on strong starting pitching, anchored by Wheeler and Matt Harvey, and a slew of quality arms in Savannah, St. Lucie, and Binghamton waiting in the wings.

The next pitching prospect that should make an appearance in Flushing is Rafael Montero.

There has been a lot of buzz surrounding Montero recently, owing to his dominating performance at Double A this season, and he has crept his way up the Mets prospect rankings.

Montero has outperformed most expectations this season, posting a high 27.6 K% and a low 3.8 BB%.  He sports an 0.92 WHIP in Binghamton and opposing batters are hitting just .203 against him.

He even made a spot start for Las Vegas on May 21st, and pitched 6.2 innings, struck out five, walked one and allowed only two runs.  Despite the successful start, he was quickly returned to Binghamton where he has made three starts, and here’s his combined numbers; 20.0 innings pitched, 18 strikeouts, 11 hits, four walks, and zero runs allowed, earned or otherwise.

All this success has gotten the fan base excited, and justifiably so.  Fans often ask Mets beat writer Adam Rubin if there’s a possibility of Montero seeing major league action this year.

There’s no doubt that Montero has been great this year, but let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves.  He still has a lot of work to do before he can face major league hitters.

Before the season began, there were plenty of questions about whether or not Montero could even survive in Double A, because so much of his success is derived from his excellent fastball command.  A pitcher can thrive in the lower levels of the minor leagues on fastballs alone, but against more advanced hitters, more advanced secondary offerings are required.

This is part of the reason that different prospect rankings had him ranked behind Michael Fulmer, Luis Mateo and Domingo Tapia at the beginning of the year.

While the plus-plus fastball command is great to have, and will work well in the majors to help set up his secondary pitches, but those secondary offerings are just not very good yet.

According to reports, his slider is improving, but it has been baby steps.  It is a low-to-mid 80’s offering that is reportedly very sweepy and lacks any kind of downwards tilt.  Montero also has troubles throwing the pitch for strikes, meaning opposing hitters can ignore it until they get a hanger to mash.

Montero’s changeup, on the other hand, has been improving at a better rate.  He throws it about eight to ten miles per hour slower than his fastball, a good velocity differential for a guy who sits in the low-to-mid 90’s.  Like with the slider, Montero doesn’t miss many bats with the change, but it is the better pitch right now.  With some more work and polish, it could develop into an average pitch, which would go a long way towards helping Montero succeed in Triple A and the Major Leagues.

If he gets called up to Las Vegas when Wheeler joins the big club, and the secondary pitches improve a little bit more, it would not be unreasonable to expect Montero to be a mid-season call up in 2014.

Unless there is a Matt Harvey-like progression that takes place, the ceiling for Montero is in the best case a number three starter, but that’s all the Mets need him to be.  In a rotation that will prospectively feature Harvey and Wheeler as a one-two punch followed by Jon Niese, having a number three starter fourth in the rotation is a nice luxury for a Mets team hoping to contend for a playoff spot.

Joe Vasile is a play-by-play announcer and radio host.  You can check his website out here.

32 comments for “Rafael Montero is next in line for the Mets

  1. June 10, 2013 at 8:33 am

    What purpose does it serve to rush Montero to the majors? I thought the organizational goal was to be competitive in 2014? It merits no value and since the 2013 is a lost cause then let the team prepare for the next season with a plan to develop the outfield so that Harvey and Wheeler don’t lose games because of lack of defense.

    • Joe Vasile
      June 10, 2013 at 6:50 pm

      Zero. RT @mstacey9: Any chance of Montero coming up?— Adam Rubin (@AdamRubinESPN) June 9, 2013

      About 2 hours after I filed this article, this tweet came across my twitter feed.

  2. Name
    June 10, 2013 at 9:06 am

    Maybe going to PCL is not such a bad thing. I’m saying that because right now I’m actually more excited about Montero than Wheeler, and it may be because the PCL is inflating Wheeler’s numbers which could temper expectations and make whatever he produces all that more meaningful.

    • Joe Vasile
      June 10, 2013 at 6:49 pm

      I mean, it’s clear at this point that Montero has progressed past the AA level, but is not major league ready yet. I work with the Trenton Thunder, the Yankees Eastern League affiliate, and their announcers agree that he is too good for AA.

  3. Metsense
    June 10, 2013 at 9:14 am

    Montero should have stayed up after the May 21st start. The fact he didn’t does indicate that his secondary pitches are expected to be hit in La Vegas. Yet keeping him at Bingo is only holding him back. Maybe his secondary pitches will never be ML quality. Maybe he won’t pan out in the Majors. It happens all the time.
    Everyone says Wheeler is can’t miss, yet HoJo says honestly that maybe just not yet. Slotting a pitcher as your #2 starter when he hasn’t thrown a ML pitch is quite risky. To me that is a high risk plan.
    Then we look at Harvey, who no one in the spring projected his numbers on this site. He is the rare exception, not the norm.
    What happened to Mejia and Familia? Weren’t they supposed to be in the 2013 rotation?
    I’m glad the Mets have stockpiled their minor league pitching and even at the lower A levels have some hitters but you should never plan that these players are your answer or you may end up extremely disappointed.

    • Joe Vasile
      June 10, 2013 at 7:02 pm

      I agree. He pitched well in his AAA start, and has nothing left to prove at AA. If his secondaries never come along, they could at least be serviceable enough to make him a quality bullpen arm.

      I’m from the camp that Wheeler is a bit risky because of his mechanics, which puts some stress on his elbow, but if he can stay healthy, he will be a nice productive piece for the foreseeable future.

      Mejia and Familia are on rehab in St. Lucie right now, I believe. Familia projects as a bullpen arm at this point because of his control problems (see BB/9 of 6.35 in the majors). Mejia got ruined by the call up and the constant shuffling between the bullpen and starting rotation, and of course the Tommy John surgery didn’t help things either. Once again, looks like a bullpen arm long term.

      The number of arms, especially at Bingo and below is very promising. They could miss on three out of four of them and still be set.

  4. Trey
    June 10, 2013 at 9:30 am

    In regard to this: “In a rotation that will prospectively feature Harvey and Wheeler as a one-two punch followed by Jon Niese, having a number three starter fourth in the rotation is a nice luxury for a Mets team hoping to contend for a playoff spot.”

    ==> Not until Alderson addresses at least 5 of the 8 position players in the everyday lineup — and that assumes d’Arnaud is healthy. 1B, SS, LF, CF and RF are black holes and in need of a major overhaul. Yje pitching is no sure thing, but even if it is, there will be a lot of 1-0, 2-1, 2-0, 3-2 heart breakers.

    This team is a mess and the young guns alone will not suddenly propel this team into a playoff contender.

    • Chris F
      June 10, 2013 at 9:52 am

      I agree. I’m a big pitching first guy, and I believe that is under some control as at as the rotation and promotions for the rotation are concerned. This team is desperately in need of players that can field their position and bat. The offensive anemia is staggering. By the way, the bull pen needs attention too.

    • Joe Vasile
      June 10, 2013 at 7:07 pm

      Yes. There is no doubt that this team has MAJOR offensive holes to fill. With $60 million coming off the payroll this offseason, some of that money should be used to fill those gaps for the long term (or at least until the prospects in Savannah/St. Lucie are ready in a few years). While he insists that he will spend the money, I’ll believe it when I see it.

      As far as the hoping to contend line, that’s based off the “2014 is the year” mantra that keeps getting thrown around. They’ll make large strides by improving the pitching situation, but they can’t hope to contend until the offensive woes are fixed.

  5. blastingzone
    June 10, 2013 at 9:42 am

    If Montero is promoted to AAA when Wheeler is called up (and he should be) he will have a sept call up and he should compete for a starting position in the mets rotation in 2013
    not 2014! Whats the rush? If the mets are going to compete for a playoff spot in 2013 there
    going to have to do it with pitching and Harvey.Niese,Wheeler,Montero, and Gee should give
    the mets one of the best if not the best pitching staff in baseball! Hopefully next year the Wilpons will give SA the money to fix the offense as they said they would(I will believe it
    when I see it)!!

    • Chris F
      June 10, 2013 at 9:49 am

      Compete for a playoff spot in ’13? What team are you watching?

      • blastingzone
        June 10, 2013 at 10:42 am

        The mets of 1968 who with Seaver in his 2nd year and Koosmans in his rookie year were a year away from wining the world series and if you had said that in 1968 you would have been shot dead right on the spot!! The mets were bad in 1968 except for there pitching
        which was starting to develop and they had no offense(sound familiar) I’m not saying
        Harvey is the 2nd coming of Seaver yet but even with Harvey, Wheeler, Niese, Gee, and ?
        next year the mets will have a very good if not great starting staff and then add Montero
        to the mix! The mets added Gentry and Ryan to the mix in 1969 and Gentry only won 13 games? I’m not saying the mets will win the world series next year but I am saying with
        there pitching next year they could compete for one of two wild card spots if SA and the
        Wilpons add some offense!!

    • June 10, 2013 at 6:23 pm

      Well it’s 2013 now.. and the Mets are how many games under.500? Halting Montero’s development and starting his free agency clock would be foolish better off waiting until next year for Montero. Trust me it will be well worth the wait.

      • Joe Vasile
        June 10, 2013 at 7:10 pm

        Absolutely, the last thing they need is to turn Montero into another Jenrry Mejia.

  6. June 10, 2013 at 9:58 am

    Blastingzone. I think one went off to close to and the smoke is blocking your view. To project the Met starters as the best in the majors when Wheeler hasn’t even pitched an inning yet? Talk about expectations. Where is the offense going to come from? This team is capable of losing 100 games. They are 3-7 against the Marlins. Even if the Wilpons give SA the money to compete in 2014 there are plenty of teams with payroll flexibility. The problem is there is a VERY limited amount of quality free agents available.

  7. June 10, 2013 at 12:30 pm

    IF the Wilpons loosen the purse strings, the FIRST order of business should be buying out Harvey’s arbitration years and and a couple of years of free-agency.

    • Joe Vasile
      June 10, 2013 at 7:12 pm

      Smart idea. I’m sure Sandy is going to lobby them for that.

  8. June 10, 2013 at 12:39 pm

    The biggest difference is that the Mets played defense and had a solid catcher in Jerry Grote. The Mets today have so many holes in their line up. You do understand that their outfield is nonexistent. That they signed Rick Ankiel in the hopes he could play better than what they had on their roster speaks volume of either desperation or stupidity. How you can compare Agee,Jones and Swoboda to what the current Mets have in the outfield? The team will be just as bad next season. There are no superstars available(besides who would come here?) Do you think SA is going to fork over 25 million per to sign Cano? That’s just not his style.

    • June 10, 2013 at 6:19 pm

      Hey may not try to bring in someone as big as cano, but bringing in Shin Soo Choo if the reds don’t extend him or maybe even Curtis Granderson is not out of the question.

      • Joe Vasile
        June 10, 2013 at 7:13 pm

        I wouldn’t have a problem with Choo or even Hunter Pence, Granderson at the right price could work, but his power might not play as well in Citi as it does in Yankee Stadium.

        • za
          June 11, 2013 at 9:21 pm

          I’d take Choo and/or Beltrán, and/or trade for Chase Headley/CarGo. Granderson would be an option too. Not sure about Pence though.

          • Joe Vasile
            June 11, 2013 at 10:03 pm

            I’m afraid of what we’d have to give up for CarGo, but if we can get him and keep Syndergaard, I’m all for it.

            • Name
              June 12, 2013 at 10:13 am

              Not sure why people think that CarGo is available… he’s not. The Rockies are 5 games over .500 and well within contention in the NL west, so he’s not going anywhere.

              • Joe Vasile
                June 12, 2013 at 11:36 am

                I think the thinking is that CarGo’s contract is insanely backloaded ($7.9 MM this year, $10.9 MM next year, $16.4 MM in ’15, $17.4 MM in ’16 and $20.4 MM in ’17) so the Rockies may try and part ways with him to avoid paying those higher salaries down the road. It will take a sizeable package to get him, probably starting with Flores and Syndergaard, but if Alderson can work his magic again and pull off a steal.

                • Name
                  June 12, 2013 at 1:33 pm

                  He’s still cheap now so it still makes absolutely no sense for them to trade him. Add in the fact that they aren’t burdened with lots of bad contracts and that they are winning now makes even less sense for them to trade him. I think Wright has a better chance to be traded this year than CarGo does.

  9. June 10, 2013 at 10:20 pm

    I like Choo. He plays right field and can lead off. The problem some Met fans fail to realize is that teams like the Braves,Yankees and Red Soxs have dramatically lowered their payrolls for 2014. Also the new television contracts will give each team an additional 50 million dollars in revenue. There is no right price for signing free agents. You need to get that Sandy attitude out of your head. Don’t you see? With the free agent market for outfielders being so weak in 2014 Sandy has no leverage. he will play the waiting game and tell the fan base to be patient. The Mets are BROKE!!They will have maybe 60 million to spend and try to be competitive in the open market. But if you’re a free agent and have equal offers from the Mets or Atlanta or Cincinnati where would you go? The Mets are starting all over again and have to overpay to show other free agents that this is an organization you can play for. Good luck with that.

    • Joe Vasile
      June 11, 2013 at 2:34 am

      Seeing as Atlanta’s needs and the Mets’ needs are different, I doubt they’ll be going after the same players, and similar things can be said about the Reds. But I realize that’s just semantics at this point.

    • Name
      June 11, 2013 at 9:18 am

      Most players chase every last dollar, nothing wrong with that. You offer $100 bucks more than another team and they don’t care who you are.

  10. June 11, 2013 at 9:52 am

    I agree with your assessment of MLB players taking the highest bid. But this isn’t a level playing field. Even small market teams will have an additional 50 million to spend on free agents from the new television contract which begins in 2014. The Mets in turn will use that windfall to pay down there massive loans which are due over the next two seasons. Besides with Sandy’s mentality of waiting for the market to dry up and demand for a free agent to dwindle there will be nothing left for your Christmas stockings in 2013

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