As the New York Mets start approaching the beginning of Spring Training, players will be excited to be back, and eager to know their role in the upcoming season. Bloggers and reporters who follow the team have been writing about possible position battles that will take place in Spring Training, but there has not been much talk or curiosity about Rafael Montero’s role on the ball club for this season. A crowded starting rotation has pushed Montero out of the picture, but how do the Mets maximize Montero’s value this season?
Although there is still some time in this offseason, Sandy Alderson’s inability to trade a veteran, such as Bartolo Colon or Dillon Gee has created a logjam in the rotation. Gee will most likely begin the season as the long-relief pitcher and emergency starter, leaving Montero with a possible role in the bullpen or gaining more experience in the minor leagues.
Last season, Montero went 1-3 with a 4.06 ERA, and 42 strikeouts in 44.1 innings. The main problem for Montero was keeping the ball in the yard, as he allowed 8 home runs last season. This is worrying, but in his last two starts, he pitched 10.2 innings and allowed one run over those two starts. Granted, that is only two starts, and they were against the Rockies and Astros, so the sample size is small. The potential to be a good starting pitcher is there, but is this the year that the Mets make Montero into a reliever?
Transitioning from a starting pitcher to a reliever has become common in the Mets organization, as the main three relievers on the team were starters when they came up. Jenrry Mejia has made 18 MLB starts, Jeurys Familia started one game in the MLB, but had 111 Minor League starts in the minors, and Bobby Parnell made eight starts in the MLB before becoming a reliever. These three relievers are going to compete for the closer role in the bullpen, so transitioning from the rotation to the bullpen has been done successfully.
Montero could become a valuable piece in the bullpen, as he can strike out hitters and he has shown solid control throughout his career in the minors. He even has two saves in the minors when he was 20 years old. This may not be the season to throw Montero into the closer discussion, but working out of the bullpen could be quite handy for the Mets this season.
The other route is for Montero to begin the season in the Minor Leagues and call him up if there is a need for a pitcher. Even though Montero is young, it seems starting him in the minors would not maximize his value. If Montero started out in Triple-A Las Vegas, he would join top prospect Noah Syndergaard on the waiting list to be called up.
The starting rotation will have an open spot next season, as Bartolo Colon’s contract will expire, but that seems to be Syndergaard’s spot and with the Mets willing to trade Jon Niese, another spot could open. This spot could go to Montero, but it could also go to Steven Matz, who is probably a year or two away from being in the big leagues. This means that Montero could be the sixth guy in the rotation, meaning Montero could split time in the bullpen and the rotation.
This is the role that would make Montero the most valuable to the big league team this season. Of course it will be difficult keeping his arm stretched out when he needs to start, but his stuff would definitely be an addition to the bullpen.