Rafael Montero is arguably one of the most disappointing Mets prospects of the last few seasons. Once more highly regarded than Jacob deGrom, Montero was first promoted in May 2014 to fill in for an injured Dillon Gee and did well enough, only he was out-pitched by deGrom and sent back to the minors. Since then, he has bounced between the majors and minors, often starting in the minors but being asked to fill a bullpen spot at the major league level.
Montero began 2016 in Triple-A Las Vegas, but he was quickly called up to the majors in April to help ease the work on an already taxed bullpen. He made three relief appearances in which he gave up three runs in 2.1 innings and was subsequently demoted back to Las Vegas, where he struggled mightily.
Between April and the beginning of July, Montero made 16 starts with the 51s and had quite possibly the worst stretch of his minor league career. He averaged only 5 innings per start and tallied a 7.20 ERA and a slightly better 5.47 FIP. In 80 total innings, Montero allowed 64 earned runs, 111 hits, and and 40 walks against just 68 strikeouts. His performance clearly did not sit well with Mets’ brass, as he was demoted to Double-A Binghamton on July 13.
In his stint with the B-Mets, however, Montero appeared to rebound. In eight starts with Binghamton in July and August, Montero pitched to a sparkling 1.70 ERA in 47.2 innings. On August 29, he was recalled directly to the majors to make a spot start for deGrom, who was coming off two straight horrific starts against the Giants and Cardinals. Montero ended up making three starts for the Mets this season, his first of which came against the Miami Marlins.
Originally billed as a pitcher’s duel between deGrom and Jose Fernandez, Montero’s first start came against one of the National League’s top aces. However, neither Montero nor Fernandez had their best stuff. Montero threw 100 pitches in five scoreless innings, but walked six Marlins on the night while only allowing two hits. Fernandez tossed 113 pitches in six innings, giving up three hits and four walks. Though it wasn’t a spectacular outing, Montero did enough to to earn another start, and the Mets won the game 2-1 thanks to a Yoenis Cespedes walk-off home run in the tenth inning.
Montero’s following two starts were not as good. After a quick demotion back to Triple-A, Montero was again called back up to start against the Reds on September 6. Against one of the worst teams in the National League, Montero lasted only 4.1 innings, giving up three runs and four walks on 79 pitches. Despite this, Montero was allowed to start against the Nationals six days later and completely torpedoed. The 26-year-old rightly threw a ridiculous 60 pitches in just 1.2 innings, giving up six runs on five hits and another four walks. He was bumped from the rotation the next day.
Montero finished the season in the major league bullpen as a mop-up man, ending the season with an 8.05 major league ERA in 19 innings. It remains to be seen where he will begin 2017, though he is still on the team’s 40-man roster.