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May 13, 2014

The Call-Up

Rafael Montero

by Mark Anderson and Craig Goldstein

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The Situation: With the Mets sliding down the National League East standings, Jenrry Mejia moves from the rotation to the bullpen, clearing the way for BP’s no. 4-ranked Mets prospect, Rafael Montero. Montero will make his MLB debut at home against Masahiro Tanaka and the New York Yankees on Wednesday night.

Background: Signed out of the Dominican Republic as a 20-year old in 2011, Montero has breezed through the minor leagues. In his debut season in 2011 he chopped through four short-season leagues, compiling a combined 2.15 ERA in 71 innings. He followed that up by flying through both A-ball leagues in 2012 with a combined 2.36 ERA in 20 starts (122 innings). Montero didn’t miss a beat in 2013 when he hit the upper levels of the minor leagues, posting a 2.43 ERA and nearly 10 strikeouts per nine innings at Double-A and then pitching very well in 16 starts in the high-octane Pacific Coast League. So far this season, Montero has notched a 3.67 ERA in eight starts for Triple-A Las Vegas, allowing just 30 hits and 18 walks in 41 2/3 innings while striking out 41 batters.

Scouting Report: Montero doesn’t look the part of a mid-rotation starter, standing just six feet and weighing 170 pounds. He is lean and lacks physical projection but is a quality athlete who repeats his easy delivery well. His arm action is clean, and the ball comes out of his hand with ease.

With his quick arm and easy delivery, Montero pumps fastballs in the low-90s with consistency and will occasionally find 94-95 mph when he needs a little extra. His fastball lacks plane because of his height and ¾ arm slot, but he does generate some late life that can lead to weaker contact.

Montero’s ability to locate his fastball to all parts of the zone and move it out of the zone when he wants to is his best attribute. He knows how to move the ball equally well to both corners. He can get in trouble when he elevates, because he loses what little plane he has on his fastball, but when he works down, the pitch is extremely effective.

Montero backs up his fastball with two average secondary offerings, a changeup that is slightly more advanced, and a slider that still lacks consistency. With the changeup, Montero maintains his arm speed well, allowing the pitch to play off the fastball and keep hitters off balance. The slider can get loose at times, but when right, it shows tight spin and works in the average range.

With a three-pitch mix, all of which rate at least average, and an impressive command profile, Montero’s projection is more about the sum of the parts than any standout tool. His ability to work in and around the zone with all three pitches while maintaining his raw stuff deep into starts gives him the ability to log innings and keep his team in the game. Once he settles in at the big-league level, Montero should be a very good fourth starter.

Immediate Big-League Future: The Mets don’t look like a team poised to contend in the NL East, and that fact alone gives Montero a chance to work through his growing pains in the majors this summer. His skill at locating three quality pitches should allow him to stay out of most trouble and be competitive. He’ll hit some bumps in the road, but he should be a solid back-end starter this year as he moves toward his ultimate role as a mid-rotation workhorse. —Mark Anderson

Fantasy Impact: With Mejia’s transfer to the bullpen, Montero gets the call and should have a decent amount of rope in his first run at the rotation. Montero might actually be undervalued in fantasy circles at present, because his star doesn’t burn as bright as other pitching prospects. He’s already 23, so what works against him in prospect valuation might well be a boon in terms of his preparation for the majors.

The Mets’ bullpen is a mess, and given that the bullpen is the highest priority on middling teams, it makes sense to address that weakness by shifting Mejia and adding Montero to the staff. All sarcasm aside, creating room for Montero and addressing a bullpen need isn’t a poor decision, and it allows for some breathing room for Montero should he falter early on. While he has never profiled as a top-of-the-rotation guy, Montero has always missed plenty of bats, so while his lack of ceiling has diminished his prospect status, his ability to compile innings and strikeouts should make him plenty valuable in fantasy formats.

Montero should have something like 23 starts left, and with 155 frames thrown last year, he’s probably free to push 200 this season. He’d have to average seven innings per start to get there, which is very unlikely, so he should be able to make every start from here on out. Over those 23 outings, Montero should be able to strike out more than 7.5 batters per nine innings, and while he’s struggled with walks in a small sample at Las Vegas, control has rarely been a problem for him, which means that a solid-average WHIP should be in order.

While it’s likely that Montero’s stuff won’t translate as well to the majors as it has to the Pacific Coast League, the adjustment in home parks should give one hope that he can approximate his Triple-A stats. He should be a positive contributor in the strikeout department and average or slightly better in WHIP and ERA, although wins could be hard to come by given his team. In NL-Only leagues a FAAB bid in the range of $20-24 should be expected, as adding quality starters who have the chance of lasting the rest of the season are rare. The shallower the league, the less he should cost, as he’s not the impact performer that most shallow leaguers are looking to blow their FAAB on. He’s likely to be owned in all dynasty formats, but if he’s not, he’s worth rostering, even in a 12-team league. He’s a borderline asset in 10-team mixed formats but should be a streamable option thanks to his generous home park, as well as the other favorable pitcher’s parks in the NL East. —Craig Goldstein

Mark Anderson is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Mark's other articles. You can contact Mark by clicking here
Craig Goldstein is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Craig's other articles. You can contact Craig by clicking here

6 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

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thsaladboy

Your sarcasm is strange. Many on the BP staff have banged the drum that Mejia can't hold up under a starter's workload and is best suited for the pen. Simultaneously, Montero was the obvious next starter to push to the majors. So isn't this move less a middling team addressing an unimportant need and more about the Mets finding the best roles in both the short and long term for the young assets they have? I know there's a desire to make fun of everything the Mets do, but I don't see where this decision warrants it.

May 13, 2014 08:31 AM
rating: 4
 
BP staff member Craig Goldstein
BP staff

It depends on the motivations, I suppose. If the motivation that prompted the decision was addressing the bullpen on a middling team, that's poor decision making. If the motivation was preserving Mejia's arm, then that's a different story and one not presented thus far.

May 13, 2014 09:29 AM
 
Nojsztat

Mejia has been getting crushed in the fifth and sixth innings so far this season. His numbers have been great the first time through the order, slightly worse but still good the second time, and then batters tee off on him the third time. Even in a small sample size, a pitcher who can't get through a batting order three times is going to have a hard time sticking in a starting rotation.

May 13, 2014 11:41 AM
rating: 3
 
jcutiger

The number clearly backup what you said. He's lights out the first time thru the order and quickly gets worse the 2nd and 3rd time. Also, he's on very limited innings count this year. So sometime in the pen will keep available further into the season.

May 13, 2014 14:23 PM
rating: 0
 
thsaladboy

It certainly seems to be a prime motivator behind the switch, since everyone observing the organization, from the aforementioned BP to the Mets announcing team, has talked about Mejia's fatigue issues and the way his stuff gets massively worse as the game goes along. There's a reason he's the one moving to the pen, after all. The talk that he'd be able to help he bullpen seems to me to simply be accentuating the positions is all. And that they are saying he has late inning potential because, after all, his stuff is fantastic.

Honestly, when you have as many quality starting candidates as the Mets do--ones you certainly are going to be patient with--and there are guys like Mejia who seem like the move to the bullpen is inevitable, or like DeGrom who are so low on the depth chart there will be no chance for them to start at the major league level, isn't using them to fill out and bolster the bullpen the smart move regardless of how good the major league team is? Hell, if Wheeler starts to pitch to his potential and Montero prove a quality mid-rotation guy, while Mejia and DeGrom successfully pitch better than the dross at the back of the pen, don't they seem like they might at that point be a bit better than middling (especially if Wright and Granderson start hiring a bit more like you'd expect them too). I realize my favorite team has a history of half baked decision making, but the moves they've made this week--promoting Flores, Campbell, Montero and DeGrom while moving Mejia to a relief role--all seem like good moves to me.

May 13, 2014 15:10 PM
rating: 1
 
huztlers

This and every other BP scouting report on Montero is an exercise in scouting bias. I am pulling for him more than anyone other prospect this year to succeed and there is no reason to think that doesn't have a shot. Maybe people will learn something, but I doubt it. Too old, too small, too thin... in other words he is a bad prospect on paper.

May 14, 2014 10:35 AM
rating: 0
 
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