Zack Wheeler isn’t the only hot Mets pitching prospect worth watching in Spring Training this season. Rafael Montero has seemingly come out of nowhere and is making a name for himself in Mets camp. On Thursday night against the Nationals, Montero allowed one run in two innings in a modest spring debut. Those who watched him came away impressed with the 22-year-old’s arsenal.
“He has a game plan out there and he’s got phenomenal stuff,” catcher Travis d’Arnaud said. “He’s got three great pitches.”
Montero can get up to 95 miles per hour with his fastball and can also throw his slider and change-up for strikes. This allows him to “pitch backwards” which means throwing his off-speed pitches for strikes earlier in the count and finishing batters with his fastball. Conventionally, pitchers use the fastball to get strikes over the plate before using a slider or change-up to get outs. The ability to pitch backwards should serve Montero well as he works his way through the minors.
Last season, Montero dominated the Savannah (low-A) and St. Lucie (high-A) levels with 110 strikeouts and just 19 walks with a 2.36 ERA. This year, he should get to start at double-A Binghamton, where we will really get to see what Montero is made of. If he impresses at Binghamton, Montero could see himself vaulted ahead of Jeurys Familia on prospect lists due to Familia’s stuggles at the highest level of the minors.
Personally, I love Montero’s ability to control his pitches. Just from watching him on Thursday, I could get an idea of how he tore through A-ball last summer with such an incredible strikeout-to-walk ratio. That said, a lot of prospects hit a wall when they get to double-A. That makes this 2013 season such a critical one for Montero’s development. Hopefully, he’ll keep impressing us throughout the summer.
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