Mets Prospect Rafael Montero Scouting Report
Writer’s note: I had previously posted a Game Report in April on Rafael Montero at Amazin Avenue prior to joining the team here at Bullpen Banter. When writing this article, I decided to delete the fanpost at Amazin Avenue. I did this in order to have this article act my primary scouting report on Rafael Montero. I have incorporated elements of that first article into this article, which is a scouting report of two starts, as oppose to the first report I did in April. Enjoy!
I had two looks at Rafael Montero in the Sally, both in Rome, before his eventually promotion to the Florida State League. My first look was a mid-April start, a start in which he relied primarily on a 90-92 MPH fastball to get outs while rarely using his secondary pitches. In the initial article, I called his secondary stuff very raw, having only seen his better secondary stuff, a tight slider and a changeup, on a very limited basis and being exposed to a very ugly looking Slurve. Montero pitched 6 innings, allowing 3 hits and no runs or walks while striking out 7 in a relatively easy outing. At that time, I referred to Montero as having the ceiling of a likely pen arm, especially after not seeing his whole assortment of pitches.
The second start was much better. While the line score wasn’t as pretty as the first game, (giving up 2 runs, 7 hits, a walk and a home run while striking out six) the outlook was much better. The slurvy looking pitch was gone as the go-to secondary pitch, replaced by a slider that he threw sparingly in April. He still didn’t showcase his changeup like I would have liked him to. However, the pitch looked relatively good in my limited exposure to it, leaving me with thinking the Mets were having him work on less refined secondary pitches.
Like his first start, Montero’s fastball sat between 90-92 Mph. Montero showed immaculate control of this pitch. But his command during this start wasn’t as sharp as the first outing, which resulted in better contact made by the opposition. To clarify, by control I mean the number of balls to strikes, while command is the pitcher being able to throw the ball where he wants, when he wants to throw it. The first start, Montero would throw a Fastball and he could place it just about anywhere he wanted. In one sequence, against a right handed hitter, he threw two fastballs, in and on the hands of a hitter, setting the hitter up for a two seam fastball outside that ran back on the black. The second start, against left-handed hitting infielder Kyle Kubitza, he tried throwing a two seam fastball off the plate inside. However, the pitch drifted into the middle half of the zone and Kubitza launched the ball for a long home run, one of only 6 homeruns he gave up in 122 innings pitched.
Most people see 90-92 MPH and say that’s an average fastball. I see average velocity but I also see above average movement and good to plus command. When he is on, his primary fastball, a two seamer, will usually start either outside and nip the outer half of the plate or he’ll start it over the middle and it will dart inside. He has decent sink with this offering, but nothing extravagant. It’s not like the pitch is a true sinker. It’s more prone to inducing groundballs than fly balls. The four seam fastball is used primarily to change the eye level of the hitter. He used it manly in situations when he dialed it up to throw it by the hitter or when he needed to get the opposition off of his two seam fastball that lived in the lower half of the strike zone.
The slurvy curve was taken over by a much better slider in this second outing. The effectiveness of this pitch probably explains the uptake in his strikeout totals once he was promoted to St. Lucie, since a good slider will always generate some nice strike out numbers despite employing only an average fastball. Just ask Dodgers prospect Matt Magill, who is striking out over 10 guys per nine with less of a fastball than Montero has in a higher level. A good slider is kryptonite for many young hitters in the minors. Anyway, he worked at 85-87 MPH with this offering, showcasing a pitch that had movement on 2 different planes, slithering away from right handed hitters while also having drop that causes lefties to swing over it. He commanded the pitch much better than his fastball in the second outing.
Finally, the pitch I know the least about; his changeup. The few changeups he threw in his June start showed good deception, about the same downward break of his two-seamer, but lacked some of the command that even his less than best fastball had that day. After giving up the home run to Kyle Kubitza the previous AB, Montero was able to get Kyle Kubitza on the best changeup he threw that day. It was an 81 MPH change that had excellent deception. It was refreshing to see a pitcher not give away this pitch by standing a bit upright or slowing down his motion.
Toby Hyde, the radio voice of the Savannah Sand Gnats and also of Mets Minor League Blog, published an article this week about the Mets shutting down Montero for the rest of the 2012 season because Montero hit his innings limit. In the article, Hyde quotes Mets minor league pitching coordinator Ron Romanick about Montero’s recent work in St Lucie, including some comments about Montero’s makeup, changeup and slider. This is all very encouraging for Mets fans. The makeup of this kid is tremendous. I commented in the now-deleted article how Montero signed an autograph and was smiling, talking with a fan right before he took the mound to start the game. It was very Johan Santana like. And like Santana, when it came time to get on the hill, the smile was gone and the gaze of an executioner was peeking out from under the brim of his Sand Gnats hat.
While I considered Michael Fulmer to be the better overall prospect, and Domingo Tapia may have the better upside of the pitchers donning a Sand Gnats uniform this year, Rafael Montero is the surer thing. The kid has 3 pitches that rank in the 50’s on a 20-80 scale. Having seen his better secondary pitches the second time around, I project him to be a middle of the rotation starter, likely debuting sometime during the 2014 season if all things continue to go as swimmingly as they did this season.
The video below is from the first game I scouted. I did not videotape the second start because I was there with my niece and not on my usually press pass. I still had my notebook though.