The second best prospect in the New York Mets system, Rafael Montero looked calm and composed from the first pitch he threw until the last, despite the fact that his debut came against the crosstown rival Yankees.
Signed just three years ago as a 20-year-old out of the Dominican Republic, the right-hander is extremely advanced considering he has only two years of full-season ball under his belt.
Montero showed that experience while commanding his fastball, which ran 91-95 mph, and mixing in offspeed pitches with confidence. He perhaps threw the fastball too much, despite the fact that it exhibited late tail action and decent sink and was sneaky fast. All five of the hits he yielded, including two home runs, came on fastballs.
He walked two batters in six innings, which puts him right on track with his BB/9 over his Triple-A career. For Montero, the walks aren’t necessarily a terrible thing; since he lacks the type of dominant stuff that allows a pitcher to challenge hitters in the zone, he sometimes is better served pitching around hitters in certain counts rather than giving in, a factor which I think has contributed to his elevated BB/9 during his time in Triple-A Las Vegas, a well-known hitters park.
Still, Montero was mostly in or near the zone with everything he threw. The one exception was his changeup (86-88 mph), which he often missed with while trying to steal strikes early in the count. This came back to bite him, especially in the sixth inning, when he fell behind Mark Teixiera and allowed a home run on a 1-0 fastball.
The changeup, however, was effective as a put-away pitch against left handed batters. He struck out both Brett Gardner and Brian McCann with changeups, one in a 2-2 count and the other in a full count. He did not shy away from any of his pitches, no matter the count.
His slider, which ranged from 81 to 84 mph, was a less effective pitch. Throwing it mostly to right handed batters, the pitch resulted in only one out, which was a grounder to shortstop against Derek Jeter, who he also struck out with a 3-2 fastball.
Besides the two solo home runs, the second which came on a 3-1 fastball to Yangervis Solarte, Montero was very effective. The first run he allowed—which really was not his fault—came after retiring the first two batters of the second inning. After walking Solarte, Brian Roberts hit a liner to left that Eric Young Jr. inexplicably dove for, turning a sure single in to a triple. To make matters worse, the pitcher, Masahiro Tanaka, was on deck.
Overall, Montero impressed me during his 108-pitch outing. His secondary pitches need to do more damage against big league hitters if he’s going to be successful in the long run, which I think likely to happen. His changeup is already a plus pitch, and his slider is at least average right now. He wasted too many changeups in first-pitch situations, which is something I think he will remedy as he gets more experience. Still, there’s much to be excited about for the Mets and their fans, who have likely found themselves a solid No. 3 starter who is ready to compete every fifth day in the majors right now.
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