Rafael Montero, RHP
I‘m sitting in Valley Stream, NY on Long Island as I visit friends for the weekend with my family. This article is a nice little tie in to New York as I got the chance to see one of the Mets top pitching prospects, Rafael Montero, earlier in the week. I got the chance to cut and edit the video on my flight and I’m going to debut it here.
The Mets young right-hander from Higuerito, Banica, Dominican Republic was signed in 2011, a little late for an international free agent, but he’s made fast strides and moved quickly through the system. He started the 2012 season in the Sally League and much like his debut 2011 season he posted a sub 3.00 ERA which again is supported by his FIP.
His K rate hasn’t been elite level until his jump to the FSL recently and it’s a small sample size but a nice boost if sustainable. Especially when paired with his elite level walk rate which he’s held through six levels of the minor leagues. Let’s take a look at the Baseball Instinct Video:
Now let’s delve a little deeper into pitching arsenal and the mechanics in a true Prospect Instinct.
He’s primarily been successful based on excellent movement of his fastball. It tails in hard on right-handers and the he works the pitch in the 90-93 range. In the 8/7 outing the fastball touched 94 and you can see in the video the hard arm side tail. At times it gets flat without the extra velocity so I’m still wondering if its a four seam fastball that he may be pairing with the two seam. It’s a likely scenario.
He pairs the fastballs with a hard slider with excellent break. At times with frisbee like action which works well with fastball arm speed and mirrors the movement of the tailing two seam fastball.
There is also a second breaking pitch which looks like a true curveball. I haven’t seen much Scouting Report information on his pitch choices, but there is a clear curveball in his arsenal which at times froze hitters in this outing. Though he’s already 21, there is plenty of time for him to fully command the pitch.
Last but not least, he uses a changeup very effectively in the low 80s and at times into the 70s. It’s the pitch that will make him an effective starter as he moves up the ladder. But may also be the pitch that is making him elite level effective at the lower levels of the minors.
I had Aaron Bentley take a look at the video to give me his thoughts and in a nutshell he had this to say:
now that is an easy arm action
gets his arm up on time perfectly
I hate that he stops after his initial foot movement
kills his momentum
and instead of driving through his plant foot to create momentum toward the plate, he just drives it into the ground
so even though his arm action is easy, he’s relying on his arm too much
Basically we’re looking at a pitcher who isn’t getting the most out of his frame. A frame that isn’t ideal to begin with. But that doesn’t mean that he’s going to be relegated to the bullpen at the higher levels. He does need to make a small tweak or two to max out the velocity and protect the arm long term.
The easiest one is going to be his tempo. Just continuing through his wind up instead of stopping at the back step.
The most important will be allowing the energy from his easy arm action to come straight through and dissipate through his plant leg instead of the current movement in which he plants and then drives back up in order to stop himself. That action diverts energy back up through the arm and it tends to over stress the shoulder.
With Montero it’s not a red flag because of how easy he gets his velocity, but for long term arm health reasons it would be an easy fix. It may also allow him to generate another mph or so with the fastball.
Montero is pretty much age appropriate now for the Florida State League and his performance since turning pro has been impressive. There is already hype in the New York area about him and the expectations will now start to rise.
While he’s getting some premium velocity, its not the raw velocity that makes his fastball a near plus pitch, it’s the movement that he gets. He’s going to need time to refine his command of his secondaries, but he has a 4 pitch mix which is rare amongst second year professionals.
His size could put him on the path to the bullpen, but it would be a waste to have that pitch mix relegated to a bullpen role. Especially since he holds that velocity into the later innings and his walk rate is very low. The MEts should give him more than enough time to continue to develop as a starter and he should find himself back in the FSL to start the 2013 season where he’ll meet up once again with Sally League rotation mates Domingo Tapia and Mike Fulmer.
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