Don’t forget about Rafael…
Rafael Montero may be a pitcher in Mets fans distant memories. Unfortunately injuries and a plethora of young hurlers tended to shift away attention and dim Montero’s star. But it wasn’t too long ago many Mets fans were wondering where this young hurler would slide in the rotation, as he had all of the makings of a future top of the rotation-starting pitcher. Montero had signed later than most players coming out of the Dominican Republic at the age of 20, but quickly ascended through the Mets system to the amazement of many in the organization. In 2012 Montero had been named the organization’s top Minor League pitcher and his stock was on the rise. Montero was a top-5 prospect for the Mets beginning in 2012 until 2014 when he had been called up to make his debut for an injured Dillon Gee. Montero had been ranked closely behind many of the well-regarded pitchers currently in the Mets rotation, but many believed he wasn’t too far away from them in terms of “stuff.” Remember it wasn’t too long ago at the 2013 Future’s game, where he and Noah Syndergaard went toe to toe against one another and flashed brilliance on the mound.
Montero had mixed results when he arrived in the Major Leagues in 2014 but he had flashed the potential that many in the organization were excited about. Montero was already being deemed, “Mini-Pedro,” in the organization due to the repertoire and physical characteristics including his wind-up, and his affinity for Pedro. Last season Montero was having rotator cuff issues and was placed on the disabled list at the end of April. That would be the last we saw of Montero for the rest of the year as he felt something was not right with his shoulder. He battled shoulder issues and setbacks for five months although he had not been diagnosed with an ailment. Many in the organization soon became frustrated with the situation, leading Terry Collins to visit Montero and offer some words of encouragement on an off-day in August.
Montero finally took a step back on a mound this winter and pitched in the Dominican Republic. Montero experienced no issues and feels he is healthy to compete for a spot in the bullpen, as the long-reliever/spot-starter position that is available. He is in competition with Sean Gilmartin and Logan Verrett for that spot, both of which had proved their worth at the Major League level last season. But neither has the pedigree and stuff that Montero possesses when he is healthy. Montero has spoken out this spring and does indeed believe he still has a lot to prove to this organization, and being healthy is the first step in the right direction. At the age of 25, Montero has a lot of baseball left ahead of him. Montero is projected to open the season at the Triple-A level, a level he has shown he is more than capable of handling. I believe Montero can make an impact this season as an occasional spot-starter and reliever for this ball club. Terry Collins is ready to run Montero out there to start the first game of Spring Training on Thursday, and see what Montero is capable of bringing to the mound this season. Many in the organization including Collins will be keeping a close eye on Montero this year. Once again if Montero proves he’s healthy, the tantalizing option of adding both Zack Wheeler and Montero to this illustrious pitching staff this season will be another remarkable step in the right direction for this franchise.