All Eyes Are On Montero

Rafael Montero's 2012 season caught the attention of scouts everywhere as the Dominican-born right hander annihilated his competition for Savannah and St. Lucie. So far in 2013, he has done more of the same outside of one bad outing, allowing just six runs through is first five starts in his first stint at Double-A Binghamton.

Rafael Montero's remarkable statistics in 2012 are enough to arouse the dreams of Mets fans everywhere. He pitched 122 innings split between low and high-A, posting a 2.36 ERA and a sub-1 WHIP, while racking up 110 strikeouts and walking just 19. His performance was enough to warrant a call-up to Double-A and has put him on a fast-track to the major leagues.

The exciting 22-year old offers three pitches, a fastball in the low-90's with some late movement, a plus-potential slider and a changeup that is a work in progress. However, his biggest asset is his exceptional fastball command, as explained by Binghamton manager Pedro Lopez.

"What makes him tough is his fastball command," Lopez said emphatically. "He can control it to both sides of the plate and that's where the strikeouts come in. Once you have fastball command, hitters start to press and swing at pitches out of the strike zone, and he does that pretty good."

Pitching coach Glenn Abbott, too, could not say enough about Montero's ability not only to throw strikes, but to throw strikes whenever and wherever he wants.

"He's got great command of his pitches, that's the whole idea," Abbott added. "He's not afraid, he's aggressive, he's not afraid of contact, and he comes right after hitters."

This ability to throw strikes bears itself out in his numbers, as his walk rate of just 1.4 BB/9 in 2012 was among the best in the league.

"It's been a blessing from God that I can throw strikes and I'm just going to keep working with that," Montero said through an interpreter. "I've been blessed by God, I've always been throwing strikes since I was young."

There are some knocks on the prospect, though. For one, while his slider does show flashes of being above average, it is not fully developed. However, Lopez believes that as time goes on, he should be able develop the pitch into a consistently solid offering.

"The slider is a work in progress… as he matures it is going to get better," Lopez said rather confidently. "The slider is a bit loopy at times but once again, he's only 22 and he's only been here in the States for a year and a half, so I think with maturity, that slider is going to be a better pitch for him."

Abbott mentioned both the slider, and more importantly the changeup as pitches which Montero must improve.

"His slider is pretty respectable, at times it can get a bit big," Abbott mentioned. "But his changeup is probably the weakest pitch of all that he has. It's a little bit hard and he tends to push it a little bit, but he's only been pitching here in the states three years, so he's come a long way pretty quick."

Abbott explained that the separation [difference in speed] between the fastball and changeup needs improving, and that Montero needs to get on top of the baseball rather than get behind it and push it towards home plate.

When a pitcher gets behind a baseball, as Abbott discussed, it tends to move laterally, sometimes going too far inside or outside, or drifting towards the middle of the plate. By getting on top of the ball, a pitcher will produce more downward spin on the ball allowing him to control it better and create downward movement as the pitch reaches home plate.

Both Abbot and Lopez have been astonished by Montero's quick rise through the minors thus far, especially considering his still being in the Dominican Republic less than two years ago.

"He's a guy that's 22, and a year and a half ago, he was pitching in rookie ball, now he's in Double-A," Lopez explained. "We have American guys; they were been in ‘A' ball 4 years ago, and now is their first time here in Double-A.

"I know looking at the track record, Latin players tend to develop slower just because of the culture and language barrier, but Montero is ahead of the curve. He has [jumped] ahead of a lot of guys and I hope he continues to do what he's doing now."

Lopez believes that Montero's ability to grow as a pitcher is due, at least in part, to his superior baseball intelligence.

"I think he's a bright kid, when you hear him talk about some of the stuff, talk about hitters, talk about certain situations, he's a different cat, he pays attention to details that some other guys don't. I think that's a complete package… he's really quiet because of the language barrier but I think he's sharp," Lopez said.

"e's just going to get better with experience," Abbott concurred. "Each time out, he learns. He's a quick learner and he pays attention to the games more than most."

As for expectations for 2013, Montero expects more of the same.

"I just had a good season [in 2012], trying to do the same thing this year."

So far in 2013, Montero had impressed once again with numbers even more unbelievable than those he put up last year until his first bad outing of the year in his last start.

"Montero's a kid. I say he has cold blood because nothing seems to bother him. It was cold the other night, and he pitched like it was 100 degrees," Lopez emphasized.

The main key for Montero at this point is to stay healthy and keep building up the innings [he was placed on an innings limit of about 120 in 2012], but as Pedro Lopez explained, it's out of his or the young pitcher's control.

"The decisions that the front office make, they make for the benefit of the player," Lopez explained, "whether it's 140 or 160, they have reasons for it but hopefully it will be in that area and it will give Rafael more room for error. The more he pitches the better he's going to get."

Montero is taking the innings limit in stride.

"I hope to throw more innings than last year, but I just do what they say," Montero accepted. "I feel good, and I'm just trying to keep working hard and be successful in my other starts."

Many believed at one point that Montero was destined for the bullpen, but seeing what he has done in his young career so far, there is no reason to believe that he cannot become a solid or even top flight pitcher for the New York Mets at one point.

"I just don't see why he couldn't [be successful]," Lopez opined. "Once again, he has what every pitcher dreams of, that fastball command… It will be just a matter of time for him to get innings under his belt, and to get more experience at this level. But once he does that and he shows the front office that he's ready to move, I think that will be something they'll do."

When asked what his goal was for 2013, Rafael Montero had just one thing in mind; "My goal is to be in the big leagues," he concluded.


Amazin Clubhouse Top Stories

\r\n \r\n\r\nRafael Montero's remarkable statistics in 2012 are enough to arouse the dreams of Mets fans everywhere. He pitched 122 innings split between low and high-A, posting a 2.36 ERA and a sub-1 WHIP, while racking up 110 strikeouts and walking just 19. His performance was enough to warrant a call-up to Double-A and has put him on a fast-track to the major leagues.
\r\n
\r\nThe exciting 22-year old offers three pitches, a fastball in the low-90's with some late movement, a plus-potential slider and a changeup that is a work in progress. However, his biggest asset is his exceptional fastball command, as explained by Binghamton manager Pedro Lopez.
\r\n
\r\n\"What makes him tough is his fastball command,\" Lopez said emphatically. \"He can control it to both sides of the plate and that's where the strikeouts come in. Once you have fastball command, hitters start to press and swing at pitches out of the strike zone, and he does that pretty good.\"
\r\n
\r\nPitching coach Glenn Abbott, too, could not say enough about Montero's ability not only to throw strikes, but to throw strikes whenever and wherever he wants.
\r\n
\r\n\"He's got great command of his pitches, that's the whole idea,\" Abbott added. \"He's not afraid, he's aggressive, he's not afraid of contact, and he comes right after hitters.\"
\r\n
\r\nThis ability to throw strikes bears itself out in his numbers, as his walk rate of just 1.4 BB/9 in 2012 was among the best in the league.
\r\n
\r\n\"It's been a blessing from God that I can throw strikes and I'm just going to keep working with that,\" Montero said through an interpreter. \"I've been blessed by God, I've always been throwing strikes since I was young.\"
\r\n
\r\nThere are some knocks on the prospect, though. For one, while his slider does show flashes of being above average, it is not fully developed. However, Lopez believes that as time goes on, he should be able develop the pitch into a consistently solid offering.
\r\n
\r\n\"The slider is a work in progress… as he matures it is going to get better,\" Lopez said rather confidently. \"The slider is a bit loopy at times but once again, he's only 22 and he's only been here in the States for a year and a half, so I think with maturity, that slider is going to be a better pitch for him.\"
\r\n
\r\nAbbott mentioned both the slider, and more importantly the changeup as pitches which Montero must improve.
\r\n
\r\n\"His slider is pretty respectable, at times it can get a bit big,\" Abbott mentioned. \"But his changeup is probably the weakest pitch of all that he has. It's a little bit hard and he tends to push it a little bit, but he's only been pitching here in the states three years, so he's come a long way pretty quick.\"
\r\n
\r\nAbbott explained that the separation [difference in speed] between the fastball and changeup needs improving, and that Montero needs to get on top of the baseball rather than get behind it and push it towards home plate.
\r\n
\r\nWhen a pitcher gets behind a baseball, as Abbott discussed, it tends to move laterally, sometimes going too far inside or outside, or drifting towards the middle of the plate. By getting on top of the ball, a pitcher will produce more downward spin on the ball allowing him to control it better and create downward movement as the pitch reaches home plate.
\r\n
\r\nBoth Abbot and Lopez have been astonished by Montero's quick rise through the minors thus far, especially considering his still being in the Dominican Republic less than two years ago.
\r\n
\r\n\"He's a guy that's 22, and a year and a half ago, he was pitching in rookie ball, now he's in Double-A,\" Lopez explained. \"We have American guys; they were been in ‘A' ball 4 years ago, and now is their first time here in Double-A.
\r\n
\r\n\"I know looking at the track record, Latin players tend to develop slower just because of the culture and language barrier, but Montero is ahead of the curve. He has [jumped] ahead of a lot of guys and I hope he continues to do what he's doing now.\"
\r\n
\r\nLopez believes that Montero's ability to grow as a pitcher is due, at least in part, to his superior baseball intelligence.
\r\n
\r\n\"I think he's a bright kid, when you hear him talk about some of the stuff, talk about hitters, talk about certain situations, he's a different cat, he pays attention to details that some other guys don't. I think that's a complete package… he's really quiet because of the language barrier but I think he's sharp,\" Lopez said.
\r\n
\r\n\"e's just going to get better with experience,\" Abbott concurred. \"Each time out, he learns. He's a quick learner and he pays attention to the games more than most.\"
\r\n
\r\nAs for expectations for 2013, Montero expects more of the same.
\r\n
\r\n\"I just had a good season [in 2012], trying to do the same thing this year.\"
\r\n
\r\nSo far in 2013, Montero had impressed once again with numbers even more unbelievable than those he put up last year until his first bad outing of the year in his last start.
\r\n
\r\n\"Montero's a kid. I say he has cold blood because nothing seems to bother him. It was cold the other night, and he pitched like it was 100 degrees,\" Lopez emphasized.
\r\n
\r\nThe main key for Montero at this point is to stay healthy and keep building up the innings [he was placed on an innings limit of about 120 in 2012], but as Pedro Lopez explained, it's out of his or the young pitcher's control.
\r\n
\r\n\"The decisions that the front office make, they make for the benefit of the player,\" Lopez explained, \"whether it's 140 or 160, they have reasons for it but hopefully it will be in that area and it will give Rafael more room for error. The more he pitches the better he's going to get.\"
\r\n
\r\nMontero is taking the innings limit in stride.
\r\n
\r\n\"I hope to throw more innings than last year, but I just do what they say,\" Montero accepted. \"I feel good, and I'm just trying to keep working hard and be successful in my other starts.\"
\r\n
\r\nMany believed at one point that Montero was destined for the bullpen, but seeing what he has done in his young career so far, there is no reason to believe that he cannot become a solid or even top flight pitcher for the New York Mets at one point.
\r\n
\r\n\"I just don't see why he couldn't [be successful],\" Lopez opined. \"Once again, he has what every pitcher dreams of, that fastball command… It will be just a matter of time for him to get innings under his belt, and to get more experience at this level. But once he does that and he shows the front office that he's ready to move, I think that will be something they'll do.\"
\r\n
\r\nWhen asked what his goal was for 2013, Rafael Montero had just one thing in mind; \"My goal is to be in the big leagues,\" he concluded.
\r\n
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