New York Mets prospect Rafael Montero will make his major league debut today against the New York Yankees. Obviously we have no choice but to make Montero today's Prospect of the Day.
The Mets signed Montero out of the Dominican Republic in 2011. He was already 20 years old at the time, three years older than the typical Latin American signee. This would make him the equivalent to a college sophomore age-wise when he signed. He adapted rapidly to professional baseball, posting a 2.52 ERA with a sharp 54/8 K/BB ratio in 71 innings for Low-A Savannah in 2012, followed by a 2.13 ERA and a 56/11 K/BB in 51 innings after being promoted to High-A St. Lucie.
Montero remained very impressive in '13, posting a 2.43 ERA with a 72/10 K/BB in 67 innings for Double-A Binghamton. Promoted to Triple-A Las Vegas for the second half, he generated a 3.05 ERA with a 78/25 K/BB in 89 innings. Keep in mind that Las Vegas in particular and the Pacific Coast League in general is a tough environment for a young pitcher. He performed very well indeed. He's been similarly effective at Vegas this year, with a 3.67 and a 41/18 K/BB in 42 innings before his promotion, allowing a mere 30 hits.
Listed at 6-0, 185, Montero was born October 17, 1990. He's not a big guy physically but he's got plenty of arm strength, running up a low-90s fastball; he'll hit 94-95 at times but even at the lower velocity the fastball catches up on hitters quickly due to his long arms and a three/quarters delivery slot which adds some deception. He has a very good changeup, and while his slider can be inconsistent, the complete package plays up due to his command, aggressiveness, and mound presence. Like most short right-handers, he had to fight a "future reliever" stereotype earlier in his career, but his ability to hold up under a starter's workload no longer looks like a serious question to me.
Based on his ability to thrive in the Pacific Coast League, Montero has nothing left to prove in the minor leagues and deserves a full trial in New York. Although his ultimate upside is not as high as Noah Syndergaard's, Montero should not be underestimated and could develop into a reliable number three starter.