Subtitled "Rafael Montero: Where is the love?"
The 22 year-old Dominican right-handed pitcher is in the midst of a break out season and building on a solid 2012 by utterly dominating double-A and earning a promotion and a handful of starts at triple-A thus far. After reading Rob Castellano's piece about Noah Syndergaard and if he could be every bit the pitcher that Harvey and Wheeler are, I think the same could be said for Montero, yet he seems to fly under the radar and is merely considered a possible "number four starter" by J.P. Ricciardi, who should be higher on him than anyone.
J.P. Ricciardi with Jim Duquette today projected Rafael Montero as a No. 4 starter in the big leagues -- No. 3 as ceiling. #mets— Adam Rubin (@AdamRubinESPN) July 13, 2013
I know I'm not the first person and I certainly won't be the last to make this argument, but I feel I should at least do my part to create some hype around an undervalued prospect, also, I have nothing better to do. So, it's time to play my favorite game, unknown players A through E and their combined numbers for A+ and AA.
Every player played for the Mets' A+ and AA affiliates in recent years
*See footnotes for calculations used outlined in detail
You might well have a very good idea about who these players are (E is more difficult), but the numbers for each of them are actually pretty similar. FIP, a better estimator of pitching performance than ERA (although still not great), shows that each pitcher performed extremely well between A+ and AA. A problem with FIP is that home runs have an unreasonably large impact, so players B and D allowing only ~0.3 HR/9 will probably be unsustainable, as will their FIPs.
Out of these 5 nameless players, which has undoubtedly the best stats?
"Hmm, that player D looks interesting", you say to yourself.
"The best BB/9, HR/9, BABIP, ERA, and FIP you say?"
Rafael Montero out of nowhere
I'm sure I caught you completely by surprise, but my point is that, despite some issues I'll discuss briefly, Montero has put up better numbers than 3 very highly regarded prospects (and Collin McHugh) and yet is still considered a "back end rotation starter" or a "potential workhorse on the mound", an "innings eater" and so on. He should at least be considered in the same breath as a at least a potential number 2 and someone to possibly lead a staff for a number of reasons.
Why I Am High on Montero:
- SO/BB Ratio
Noah Syndergaard is lauded for this but, Montero's is even better at 6.1, while striking out over a batter an inning.
- Lowest BABIP and excellent command
The low BABIP could indicate inducing weak contact from opposing batters, possibly because his command allows him to keep his fastball off of the center of the plate.
- Success at an age appropriate level
Although not as young as Syndergaard, he is/was a similar age to Harvey and Wheeler and had greater success. Also he is relatively new to pro-ball (his first year was his age 20 year).
- No red flags over this sample (statistically)
You could argue he does not have the ideal pitchers build or how good his pitches are, but from his statistics, he does not have a concerning walk rate (like Wheeler) or have an above average BABIP (like the others), while still having lots of Ks and not a lot of BBs. Not to say that these are hugely worrying for the others, just not ideal for a top 10 pitching prospect.
Why You Might Not Be High on Montero:
- Not a "Pitcher's Build" and scouts split on stuff
A generous 6'0" and 170 lbs is traditionally considered an injury risk and I've heard scouts say all sorts of things about his pitches. His fastball sits 92-93, touches 94-95 apparently, which would seem above average, but his slider and change-up go from being both plus pitches to fringe average depending on who you ask.
- Not great at AAA thus far
The elephant in the room, in 8 starts the Ks are down and BBs are up (7.82 and 3.08 per 9) in 38 IP. If Wheeler is allowed to say the air is dry and he can't grip the ball, I think Montero deserves a break as well. Furthermore I'm going to be a hypocrite here and cover my ears and scream small sample size, which brings me onto...
- I specifically chose the sample to prove my point
...and at 117.1 Montero innings, it's a small sample at that ...and the samples for each pitcher are all different sizes. Yeah, you should probably ignore this bullet point or my whole argument falls apart...
I'm not saying he's a surefire MLB ace, but I am saying that from his stats, he has every chance to be as good as Matt Harvey (that's right I went there) as any other top pitching prospect, and should be given the respect he deserves. Just because he doesn't throw 100 MPH or have what is considered a massive breaker does not mean much. If two pitchers had identical breaking balls (speed and break) they could be fringe or plus pitches depending on the complete package that the pitcher puts together. Hypothetically, a pitcher with pinpoint command 95 MPH fastball, two other average pitches that has dominated A+ and AA sounds like a damn good prospect to me.
Thanks for reading, this was my first time posting anything more than a snide comment at AA, so any criticism is more than welcome.
(Stop reading here unless you want to here about how I calculated the stats)
*Age was an average of age across both levels, all other stats calculated from combining the numbers of both years, not averaging the rates (/9s) of the years, so the stats are calculated accurately, apart from BABIP, which was averaged from the BABIP figure from Fangraphs, but weighted by IP and so should again be accurate.