The best Mets pitching prospects I saw this year: #1 Rafael Montero

USA TODAY Sports

We crown the best Mets pitching prospect we saw in 2013, Rafael Montero

Disclaimer (because someone will ask why a player I didn't see isn't on this list): This is a ranking of the best Mets prospects I saw in person this year. This is not a comprehensive Mets prospect list. I did not see Las Vegas, St. Lucie or the GCL team this year. If a player is not on the list, it is most likely because I did not see him. Otherwise, all rankings are consistent with how I would order the players within the Mets system. Oh yeah, and I am not a scout.

1. Rafael Montero, RHP

6', 170

Bats/Throws: R/R

Age: (as of Opening Day 2014) 23.5

Acquired: International Free Agent, 2011

2013: 155.1 IP, 24% K, 5.6% BB, 136 H, 6 HR

Date(s) seen: 4/14/13 vs. New Hampshire: 5 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 6 K, 1 HR

The short of it: Montero passed the Double-A test with flying colors and stands to be a factor in the 2014 rotation, but I wonder how much upside there really is here.

The long of it: Montero walked past me at the Futures Game and I wonder if the six-foot listing might be a tad generous. Either way, he definitely gets the ball going out of his small frame. Was 91-93, touched 94 with the fastball, and mixed in a two-seamer at 89-91. It's not a special pitch, but his plus command makes it play up. Montero could spot to all four quadrants of the zone, though he generally preferred to work away. The fastball has reportedly been higher in short bursts, including the aforementioned Futures Game. Delivery has some effort and he falls off to the first base side, but it has not negatively affected his results so far. Secondaries are a mixed bag. The slider is a low 80s offering that is below-average at present day, and Montero struggles to get it to break downard. It's too often a sweepy pitch, and he throws his fair share of cement mixers, including one that got parked in the start I saw. The change-up is the better present-day offering. It's a bit firm, but features some late fade (almost like a hop) away from left-handed batters. Both secondaries are potentially average major league offerings, but neither is there yet. In the start I saw, Montero used a very fastball-heavy approach and was able to get called strikes with his fastball seemingly at will, even deeper in counts. I wonder about the efficacy of that approach at the major league level, and even at Triple-A the K-rate took a large hit. There's also the issue of Montero's body type. Although he has been injury-free so far, the track record of short righthanders as major league starters is, well, short. And 155 innings is not 180 innings and is not 200 innings. That said, Montero has moved quickly and gotten results at every level, so I am willing to believe the stuff will get there and the body will hold up, at least in the near-term. If he doesn't end up a major league starter, I don't think it will be for lack of #want either.

The very long of it

The projection: Average major league starter (#3/#4)

Risk Factor: Medium. Close to major-league-ready, but lacks a present day out pitch. Frame has to show it can hold up over 180-200 innings. Reliever projection is the easy fallback here.

What’s next: Depending on how the front office reshapes the rotation in the wake of Matt Harvey's injury, Montero could come to camp with a shot to win a job. More likely he is on the short list to come up when an arm gets hurt or fails to perform.

What I'll be looking for in 2014: Can the slider get good enough to keep major league hitters from sitting on the solid, but not special, fastball?

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