Remember when Rafael Montero was thought of more highly than Jacob deGrom? That sounds like a ridiculous question in 2020, of course, but such a time did indeed exist. In the 2013-14 offseason, Montero ranked among the game’s 100 best prospects according to Baseball America and MLB.com, whereas deGrom ranked 10th in the Mets organization, per BA, and landed outside their top 20 at MLB.com.
That’s not an indictment on any prospect rankings — the general industry consensus seemed to be that Montero was the higher-end farmhand — and it’s hardly unique to deGrom. For two years, Montero ranked ahead of deGrom, Steven Matz, Michael Fulmer, Jeurys Familia and several notable bats in the Mets system (e.g. Brandon Nimmo, Wilmer Flores).
That feels like ancient history. Some may be wondering why we’re talking about Montero in the first place. The minor league deal he signed with the Rangers in November 2018 didn’t draw much attention, and not everyone took notice when a .500 Rangers club selected Montero’s contract last July. Even those who did take note of the move may not have paid attention the 29 innings from Montero that followed, but at least for a handful of games, the now 29-year-old righty reminded everyone why scouts were at one point so bullish on his arm.
Before delving into Montero’s 2019 season, it’s worth taking an abbreviated run through his Mets career. The righty signed as an amateur out of the Dominican Republic but did so much later than most July 2 prospects, inking his first pro contract at 20 years old. Three years and four months later, Montero was in the big leagues. He punched out 10 hitters and held the D-backs to one run over six innings in his third big league start, and his rookie campaign ended with a solid 4.06 ERA in 44 1/3 innings.
Montero’s 44-inning debut was overshadowed by deGrom’s out-of-the-blue Rookie of the Year season, but he still broke camp with the Mets in 2015 as a member of the bullpen. Unfortunately for Montero, he went down with a shoulder injury in late April after making his first start of the year. That injury helped pave the way for uber-prospect Noah Syndergaard to emphatically seize a rotation spot of his own. Syndergaard and deGrom joined Matt Harvey, Jon Niese and “Big Sexy” Bartolo Colon in a strong Mets rotation that eventually landed in the World Series.
Niese’s offseason departure opened another rotation spot … but it was ultimately claimed by Matz, who’d impressed in his own 2015 debut. Montero spent the 2016 and 2017 seasons struggling between Triple-A and the Majors before undergoing Tommy John surgery that wiped out his 2018 season. That November, Montero went unclaimed on waivers and opted for free agency — ending his Mets tenure.
Jump back to this past July, and Montero was summoned back to the big leagues in a new organization as Shawn Kelley hit the injured list. He’d tossed 18 1/3 innings with the Rangers’ minor league affiliates as he rehabbed, posting a sensational 31-to-2 K/BB ratio along the way.
Montero would go on to appear in 22 games for the Rangers, working more than an inning in eight of those contests and only allowing runs in five of them. He tallied 29 innings with Texas, logged a sterling 2.48 ERA, punched out 34 hitters and issued just five walks.
Montero averaged 5.2 walks per nine frames in his time with the Mets, but his Rangers work in both Triple-A and the Majors was a reminder that as a prospect, he was touted for his plus command. He spent much of that Mets tenure working as a starter and/or pitching at less than 100 percent health and still averaged 93.0 mph on his heater — but that number soared to 95.8 mph in 2019. Working in shorter stints and at full health added some newfound life to his four-seamer.
The bigger change for Montero, though, came in his pitch selection. Montero severely ramped up the usage of his changeup — at the expense of his sinker/two-seamer and slider — and did so to great benefit. He’d thrown a changeup in his Mets days but never at a particularly high rate; in 192 1/3 innings as a Met, Montero threw 643 changeups (17.7 percent). Last year, in just 29 frames, he rattled off 181 changeups (39.4 percent). Opponents batted .152/.220/.174 against Montero’s changeup, which registered a strong 18.2 percent swinging-strike rate. Opposing lefties had fits against Montero thanks to that offspeed offering — as evidenced by their putrid .111/.143/.222 slash in 56 PAs against Montero.
Obviously, a sample of 29 innings is far from conclusive. We don’t know when or if the season will resume, but when it does, few would be surprised to see Montero’s effectiveness fade away. But the 2019 version of Montero looks nothing like the pitcher who struggled through four years with the Mets. He’s throwing harder, inducing more whiffs and most importantly, demonstrating control the likes of which he never has at any point in the past.
If he can stay healthy moving forward — and that’s a big if for a pitcher who missed nearly a full year due to rotator cuff troubles and another due to Tommy John surgery — Montero could yet deliver on some of the promise he showed as a prospect in a ridiculously pitching-rich Mets system. He’s still controlled through the 2022 season, too, so the Rangers might have found a fairly long-term piece in the offseason bargain bin.
More proof the NY Mets are the most dysfunctional franchise in baseball.
Isn’t just the owner. It is the entire front office.
How is letting a guy go, who had spent a decade in your system, had multiple chances and completely failed, and throws 29 solid innings two years after you release him an example of their ineptitude?
I am not saying the Mets have good management at all, but using this guy as another example of their failures is way premature. It’s only 29 innings. There’s dozens of relievers like him every year that are never heard from again.
Should just be happy the Mets have been pretty good at evaluating talent.
Not that much with keeping talent but evaluating it and developing it for other teams
Did you miss the part where they developed a prospect who was even top 10 in their organization into a top three starter in MLB?
What the heck? The guy absolutely sucked as a Met we gave him opportunity after opportunity. It’s not the Mets fault he couldn’t thrive in the spotlight of New York
And the Mets kept Rhame over him, oops
Fluke. Super small sample size and nothing in his history indicates he can maintain a sub 2 or even sub 3 bb/9. All his other splits were basically aligned to what he had done before, except for a lower h/9.
Lol the article is pondering if he possibly is a gem. He could be a fluke, but also could be a solid reliever. He’s got the stuff and the talent. And seems to be healthy now
Surface level stats are surface level. You can’t predict future success by looking at /9 stats. I mean you could try, but there would be not a coherent argument other than, “What has been is what will be,” which is not always the case especially in baseball. So let’s take a deeper look at Montero’s numbers to see if this is a sustainable change.
First I just want to point out that Montero has a huge track record in the minors for his plus command. His 2016-2017 season were him pitching hurt, so this could have lead to bad command.
But lets get to the more important stuff. The increase in velo and higher uses of his change up led to a substantially lower o-contact%. This means the number of pitches out of the strike zone that hitters made contact with (fair or foul). It fell from around 68% to 57%. That is a huge drop. This would mean a lot of his walks were being turned into strike outs.
He also raised his first pitch strike percentage from 60% in 2017 to 65% last season. That means that on average 1 out of 20 balls he through in the past is now a strike. That doesn’t seam like a lot, but that alone can lower your BB/9 by almost a full walk.
Will he put up a 1.55 BB/9? Probably not as that is pretty elite. But a 2.50 is pretty reasonable considering his peripheral stats. He also probably wont be a 2.45 ERA guy either given his 95% LOB rate, but a low 3.00 with a great K/BB rate is still pretty good. To say that last year was a fluke is completely disingenuous and illustrates you have no idea how to predict a players future success.
Why use his minor league stats when he has 221 big league innings across parts of five different seasons? At this point with his age and experience, I don’t care what he did in the minor leagues. It is no longer revelant. Jurickson Profar had an 809 Ops in the minors, so with your logic I guess we should expect him to have an 800 OPS since that’s what he showed in the minors.
Your ability to think astounds me. You really are the superior big brain
Good debate, sir. Again, he’s 28 or 29 years old with more than a full seasons worth of innings across five different seasons. Why would his minor league numbers matter at this point given his age and experience?
A good compromise is Kyle Wright. Top 100 prospect for a few years now, a couple of short stints in the bigs with not much success. He has a 3.1 bb/9 in the minors and a 6.7 bb/9 in the bigs. But, given his age and limited experience and minor league numbers, that 6.7 bb/9 in the bigs is not evident of his ability, as of this point.
Now, if he pitches the same for the next three seasons with good minor league numbers but continues to have the same numbers in the bigs with one decent short stint, why would anyone think that the short stint is actually the type of pitcher he is?
Montero needs more than 29 good innings to make me a believer that that is actually the pitcher he is going to be moving forward. Too much history against him for me to just jump on the bandwagon like you all.
Also, Steve Nebraska is a fitting name for you given your similar IQ and mental conditions as him.
BB/9 doesn’t drastically change in the majors in minors. You don’t suddenly lose command as you go tot he next level. It isn’t the same as H/9 or K/9. It typically stays relatively the same. So for there to be a drastic change from one level to the next, means there is an under lying problem, such as an injury, which he CLEARLY had. This is freaking objective stuff dude.
I also gave you advanced metrics which included a pretty easy explanation of on field differences as to why his BB/9 went down, and you came back with, “He is what he did.” Which I already said is a bad argument because it would disregard any breakout of any player ever.
And if you are going to bring the body of work argument up, he had less than 200 innings with the Mets. That isn’t enough to make an objective claim about who a player is in any context. So the only thing we can do is look at the peripheral numbers and try to make educated guesses. NOT base our predictions off of the cumulative surface level stats.
If you want to play the ultimate baseball skeptic and say no one is anything until they have proven it to you over and over again, then you do you, man. But don’t ever try to make a projection of a player or a claim about a guys future because that is bringing a highchair to the big boy table.
It does if you don’t know how to pitch and your stuff isn’t good enough to make that transition from the minors to the majors. He’s not the first pitcher ever to have his bb rate get worse going from the minors to the big leagues.
For four seasons Montero showed that he couldn’t make that transition. Montero has a history of immaturity, weak mentally, and not living up to his former prospect status, which he was once inside the top 100, so let’s not pretend like the guy was projected to be an absolute stud pitcher.
Again, in four straight seasons in the bigs his bb/9 was 4.7, 4.5, 7.6, 5.1. How is that not a better indicator of what he is than one 29 inning season of 1.6 bb/9? 192 innings vs. 29. That in math is called an outlier. Google it, because you obviously don’t know what it means.
He had 8 innings less than 200 with the Mets, get serious dude. I’ll take 192 innings vs. 29 relief innings as a better indicator of what he’ll do going forward than what he actually is.
And yes, with him, given his age and experience, it is a “prove it situation”. If we were talking about a young prospect like Kyle Wright, different story. But we’re not. We’re talking about a guy who will be 30 in October with a season’s worth of big league innings and 87% of those innings are with a bb/9 of 5.2.
Big boy table? Again, get serious dude, don’t put all your chickens in a Rafael Montero basket. Lets revisit this at the end of this season, next season, and the following season and see who is right.
I have no emotional investment in whether or not Montero succeeds or not. I don’t even care if my prediction comes true or not. What I do care about is that your claim is not rooted in any factual predictive evidence. I understand your argument, but I have given you countless reasons, including factual analytical numbers to suggest that his improvement is sustainable and you have yet to acknowledge them, my guess is because you can’t or know if you do, your claims are baseless. You continue to hammer on a body of work claim, which takes no intellectually capability whatsoever. The point of the article and my post is to support the idea that a veteran can reinvent himself and become a good player. Based on the logic of your stance, no veteran can because they haven’t been before.
Where in any of my posts did I ever talk about another player besides Montero or Wright? Where in any of my posts did I say that a player and a veteran cannot reinvent himself? Where in any of my posts did I say that what I’m talking about with Montero applies to every other player in his situation.
I’m talking about Montero and his situation only. You took what I said about him and randomly applied it to ever other veteran and player in his situation. That’s on you for your lack of intelligence and reading comprehensive. Don’t try and make my argument more than that of just Montero because you are clearly wrong. Obviously players can reinvent themselves, players can overcome bad stretches in their youth, and can make comebacks. I never said they couldn’t in any of my posts and to try and claim that I did so you can “win” the argument is moronic. You lost, move on with your “big boy chair”.
Montero did not just look like a fluke last season, he looked…mad. Not like pissed off “mad”, but like finally getting redemption “mad”. This dude took over Shawn Kelley (hallelujah), and came out firing. I would be surprised if he takes over the closer role next season, high velo, good off-speed to pair with it, and he has been a starter for most of his career, so now his workload should “technically” be lower. He reminds me a lot of Carlos Martinez.
Rant: I never want to see Shawn Kelley in a Rangers uniform again! Not only would he get the weirdest, and saddest injuries, but also, anytime he pitched I felt like he always loaded the bases. I thought mid-season in 2019 that if I looked at his stat line that it would read era 2.50 whip 4.00 lol. He is aging, and has a high injury risk. Not saying he should retire, but maybe take a good year off to re-coup.
He always has had a serious look.
I remember the back to back games when Montero debuted against the Yankees in one, and the next game was degrom vs chase whitley with then both making their debuts
A Doubleheader I think!
And Montero was the one that everyone was excited to see. deGrom was just brought up because it was a doubleheader.
I think Montero is a really talented pitcher. I’m not really shocked that the given that he was fully healthy once called up to the Rangers that he was able to pitch as well as he did. I think he’s always had the raw talent and it’s good to see him putting it all together. I definitely don’t think it’s a fluke and if he can stay healthy — he most certainly could become a dominant force in the Rangers pen (this year or whenever baseball does finally resume) — who knows he’s actually (relatively) young enough that if healthy and a team wanted — he could even give another go at starting. He’s got the skills… just needs to stay healthy and limit the walks!
Mets gave up on him a bit too quickly
What? We gave him nearly 200 innings pitched over 4 years and he had a 5.38 ERA during this time and he was 26 at the time of his last outing with us,so he was no longer a prospect. Don’t forget we had (and still have) a rotation full of great arms so there was no room for Montero. If anything we gave up on him too slowly.
Exactly. And wasn’t he out of options?