After three games, the starting pitchers for the Mets have a 4.82 ERA, having allowed 10 ER in 18.2 IP. While that’s still less than half the ERA of the bullpen, it’s nowhere near what many hoped from out of the group that was expected to carry the 2014 club. While it’s still weeks away from being a legitimate cause for concern – recall that the 2013 club had Dillon Gee with a 5.96 ERA and Shaun Marcum with a 7.94 ERA at the end of April, and the starters finished the season with a 3.68 ERA – it’s now something about which for fair-weather fans to complain.
Rather than complain, perhaps fans can be placated by the knowledge that the top pitching in the pipeline, specifically Rafael Montero, is only a phone call away in Las Vegas. At this site, we hold Montero in high regard, even if that opinion is not shared by the prospect hounds of MLB. If and when he does get called up, the 36th-best pitching prospect in the game can still help the Mets, who are perennial underdogs in MLB betting lines, in part due to their lousy pitching. And that’s using the Baseball America list, which has him ranked higher than any other major list available.
The minor league season began Thursday night and Montero picked up right where he left off in 2013 – dominating hitters in the highest level of the minors while pitching in one of the most hitter-friendly environments around. He threw six shutout innings, did not walk a batter and recorded five strikeouts to lead Las Vegas to a 9-2 home win over the Fresno Grizzlies.
Dating back to his sparkling run to end the 2013 season, Montero now has a 1.42 ERA in his last eight starts, a span covering 50.2 IP. Five of those games were at Cashman Field in Las Vegas. And if somehow you had the idea that his ERA was a giant fluke, he has a nearly 7:1 K/BB ratio and has allowed just two homers. That works out to a 2.31 FIP and keep in mind that FIP adds 3.2 as a constant, meaning a pitcher with a mark below that has really, really excelled.
The knee-jerk reaction for many is – So what, it’s only eight starts! And while there’s truth to that, it’s also extremely unlikely to find any pitcher in the last 25 years to experience such fantastic success in a similar number of innings in the PCL in general and Las Vegas in particular. And if we limit the PCL to the West Coast teams – and eliminate those in the middle of the country who joined from the old American Association and who play in more pitcher-friendly environments – my strong suspicion is you will not find anyone.
Montero may get pounded in his very next start – even 1985 Doc Gooden gave up 5 ER in 5 IP one start – but that should not take away from the unbelievable run of pitching he’s exhibited in his last eight starts. If you cannot get excited about a guy excelling in Las Vegas, there’s probably no pleasing you. If nothing else, Thursday’s start should drive home the point that there’s no reason to trade Montero – much less throw in another player!! – to acquire a guy who is a defensive liability at shortstop.