This is a fun time of Spring Training, when top prospects get to throw in big league games before teams tighten up their rosters to more closely reflect their regular season 25-man personnel.
Rafael Montero: 2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 K
Montero was 91-93 in his two innings of work. He used his changeup at 87-88, and one at 84, early in counts at 1-0, 0-1 and 1-1 to set up his fastball.
He threw a solid changeup at 88 on a 0-1 count to Danny Espinosa and then tied him up with a 92 mph fastball to induce a weak groundout. He missed with the changeup on 0-1 to Ryan Zimmerman and the came back with a slider at 81 that Zimmerman fouled off before ringing him up with a 91 fastball on the black at the knees. On 1-0, he got a swing and a miss from Adam Laroche at a changeup at, froze him with a second changeup to get to 1-2 and then finished him with a fastball looking at about 91. Ian Desmond fouled off a first-pitch changeup at 88 mph.
Montero threw a first pitch slider to Wilson Ramos. He did not throw many sliders but it looked like it had better depth than ht one he was using early in 2013.
Jacob deGrom: 2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 4 K
Fastball, fastball and fastball. deGrom sat at 92-93 mph and thew one changeup down at 88 mph. He blew away Matt Moore on a fastball up at 93. After fastballs early in the count, he induced a swing and a miss from Scott Hairston on a slider down at 85mph.
deGrom admitted that facing a big league lineup gave him butterflies, “I was nervous. I had some butterflies, but I feel like everybody does when they get out there to pitch.” (DiComo, MLB.com)
Travis d’Arnaud on deGrom: “He threw his fastball really well…He fell behind to one guy 3-0 and came right back at him. He’s so tall and long, his release point is so much closer it’s hard for hitters to pick up.” (Kristie Ackert, NY Daily News)
Erik Goeddel: 1 IP, 2 H , 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 1 K
Adam Kolarek: 1 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 0 K
Jeff Walters: 1 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 0 K
From Andy Martino in the Daily News, “The Mets like righty relief prospect Jeff Walters, but were a bit confused and disappointed when he did not throw one of his best pitches, the slider, in his Grapefruit League debut Friday.”
Cory Mazzoni: 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 1 K
Mazzoni, who walked the first two guys he faced, was throwing 92-94. He missed up with what I think was his first split/changeup and then later in his inning found the bottom half of the zone with the pitch. He also threw a few sliders at 85-87.
Vic Black: 1 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 1 K
94-96 mph? Yes, please.
He worked heavily off his fastball, but missed down with a good-looking curve at 83 mph. Juan Diaz punched a curve at 79 back up the middle for an RBI single on the first pitch of his atbat.
Danny Muno bobbled a ball at second base that extended the inning and helped lead to a run.
Steven Matz: 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 K
Matz fell behind Yadier Molina, his first batter 3-0, before recovering to strike him out with high heat. Matz was throwing 95-97 mph, or 94-95 depending on the gun, threw a few nice curveballs and a changeup. At the end of the 2013 season, his changeup was ahead of his curve among his non-fastball offerings. His goals this year include tightening up his fastball location and curveball development. The curve will be important, not so much for getting outs in the Florida State League, where he should start 2014, but for levels above and beyond.
Pitching Coach Dan Warthen on Matz: ”I love the kid’s arm…He’s getting the ball down better each and every time. He threw a couple of great curveballs and a nice changeup today. It’s a very positive outing for Steven.” (Marc Carig, Newsday)
Adam Rubin at ESPNNY quotes a scout in attendance, “He has a good arm to work with. He needs to command the strike zone with the fastball down better. I do like him once he does command better.”
Logan Verrett: 1 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 0 K
Verrett was up in the zone, and gave up multiple pieces of solid contact.
Jack Leathersich: 0.2 IP, 4 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 1 BB, 0 K
- STEP Camp, for the Mets top prospect began over the weekend. The full roster is here. In the last two years, every starter on a full-season team on Opening Day attended either MLB camp or STEP Camp.
- At ESPNNY, Adam Rubin reports that Erik Goeddel will be transitioning to a bullpen role. This is not a surprise. In fact, when I ranked him as the Mets’ 33rd-best prospect, I had already factored in a move to the bullpen into his valuation.
- At Fangraphs, Jeff Sullivan did a great piece about Juan Lagares and how much outfield defense shifts in value year-over-year. He found range rankings are more stable than arm ratings, where Juan Lagares excelled last season.
Articles about Pitching Prospects
The Mets beat writers have figured out that Frank Viola 1. knows all of the minor league pitchers and 2. gives a great quote.
Viola on Rafael Montero
“I don’t know if you’ll ever have a perfect delivery but that’s as close as you’re going to see…”
Mike Vorkunov in The Star-Ledger
On Jeff Walters
“He went from 89 to 91 [mph], all the way up to 97 sometimes,’’ Viola said. “Sometimes it’s just a mental thing. In the bullpen you just react and go. He thrives on the moment and he’s learning how to win.
Kevin Kiernan in the NY Post. There’s other good stuff on Walters, a three-sport athlete in high school who called Bronson Arroyo his “hair idol” in there too.
On Jack Leathersich
“In Triple-A he finally couldn’t get hitters out just by throwing up in the strike zone, and now he has to adjust. He has to get a little mentally tougher and attack the strike zone.
John Harper in the NY Daily News, who compared Leathersich to Mitch “Wild Thing” Williams.
The best quote in Harper’s article comes from Leathersich’s buddy, Zack Wheeler, “Hitters tell me he throws an invisi-ball. For some reason, they just don’t see it very well.”
John Delcos submits his bid for “Worst Spring Training Article of the Year.”
I’m going to write at some moderate length about the Mets’ Sterling Award winners at each level of the farm system. In some cases the choice of player intersects with the team’s best prospect, or one of their best prospects, in others it diverges.
The series starts at the top of the farm, where Rafael Montero earned the AAA Las Vegas 51s Sterling Award.
Montero, who will turn 23, has nearly an extremely rapid rise through the Mets’ minor league system. He began 2011 in the Dominican Summer League and has advanced at least two levels in each of his three minor league seasons, including a four-level summer (DSL, GCL, APP, NYP) in 2011. His rise has been extremely brisk
His 2013 in Numbers
Statistically, therere are two things that matter to me in there. After running strikeout rates of 29% and 27% in advanced-A and AA, his strikeout rate declined to 21.5% in AAA. Meanwhile, his walk rate which was 2.8% in the SAL in 2012, and 3.8% in AA, climbed to a career-high 6.9% in AAA. Basically, he’s headed back to league average (~19.4% k rate and 9.1% walk rate in the PCL this year) in these two crucial markers. Two amazing statistical notes: he did not hit a single batter all year, and was charged with just one wild pitch. Those control metrics can get lost in a focus on walks, but the baserunners and extra bases they give an offense should not be ignored.
Montero is a three-pitch guy, fastball, slider and changeup. As a starter, he’s mostly 92-94 mph with his fastball with outstanding control and the ability to get to both sides of the plate. Note that in the Futures’ game over the summer, he averaged 95 mph for seven fastballs. That’s harder than I’ve ever seen him throw as a starter. Subtracting a mile or two for stamina and control takes him to his standard 93 ish range. It’s a little straight, but again, he can spot up with the pitch to make it play.
In the low minors, his second pitch was his changeup. He had good armspeed on it and just enough movement to miss bats. His slider has come along in the last few years from poor to a weapon in ball to a little below big league average when I saw it in spring training (and for two pitches in the futures game). It was short and flat and that more defined movement is progress from the loopier breaking balls of years’ past. He continued to improve the offering all year.
The Mets wanted to see Montero’s progress with his slider and changeup this year. Mets’ VP of Amateur Scouting and Player Development Paul dePodesta in April, ““His fastball is very advanced right now, but the secondary pitches need to continue to get better.”
If Montero was not dominant overall in AAA, he was in August, when he put up a 1.40 ERA and a 37/6 K/BB (6.2) ratio in 38.2 innings with a 25.8% strikeout rate and a 4% walk rate. He was big league ready when the Mets shut him down to manage the jump in his innings on a year-over-year basis.
In a world where Matt Harvey is not ready to go on Opening Day 2014, Montero really might have a chance to win a spot in the Mets’ starting rotation out of Spring Training behind Jon Niese, Zack Wheeler, Jenrry Mejia and Dillon Gee. He could be a league-average starter in the near term and more if his slider continues to progress past average to plus.
However, keeping Montero down in the minors for about a month will buy the Mets an extra year of control on his services by postponing the date he is eligible for free agency. The smart money is on the Mets signing an extra veteran or two, both to add depth for the duration of the year, and postpone Montero’s big league debut and service time clock in 2014.
Montero was a very strong choice for his award.
Other (Good) Choices:
Picking a single MVP in AAA usually going to be an daunting feat. This year, the Las Vegas 51s used 28 position players and 31 pitchers. That’s pretty standard in AAA. Montero made the third-most starts on the 51s, behind only Matt Fox (20 starts; 4.59 ERA) and Chris Schwinden (28 starts; 5.78 ERA).
Zack Wheeler made 13 starts for Las Vegas with a 3.93 ERA, nearly a full run higher than Montero’s, before his big league promotion. Given that Montero threw 20 more innings than Wheeler, and allowed exactly the same number of both earned and unearned runs, he was better. Wheeler’s reward in 2013 was his big league debut and the beginning of big league money.
Among pitchers, Montero was the clear choice.
Montero faced 363 batters in AAA this year. Only a four position players had that many plate appearances for the 51s: Eric Campbell, Wilmer Flores, Jamie Hoffman and Zach Lutz. Flores at .321/.357/.531 in 463 PA, would have been a deserving candidate too. Like Wheeler, his reward was big league time and big league money. Better to leave the minor league award to a deserving minor leaguer.
Baseball America has named Rafael Montero the #1 prospect on this week’s prospect Hot Sheet.
Excerpts from their comment:
The Mets signed him in January 2011 when he was 20—an age that makes him practically ancient in the world of international scouting—but he’s skyrocketed from the Dominican Summer League to Triple-A in just two seasons thanks to his impressive command of a solid arsenal. Little has fazed Montero on that journey, including the hitter-friendly conditions of Las Vegas. … otherwise he overmatched hitters during his two home starts in Las Vegas.
Montero sits in the low 90s and can get up to the mid-90s when he needs it, but it’s the late life and the command of his fastball that makes him so effective. He lacks a wipeout offering among his secondary pitches, so scouts aren’t projecting Montero as a frontline starter, but the stuff and command are there to profile as a steady mid-rotation arm.
C Travis d’Arnaud also shows up in “In the Team Photo.”
And from the chat, a little bit about Wilmer (TRAID/NO TRAID) Flores….
Sam (New York): Thoughts on Wilmer Flores debut? Do the Mets find a place for him next season?
Ben Badler: I like him and I’d like to see him get a chance to play everyday in the big leagues next year, I just don’t know where you can put him if you’re the Mets. Best-case scenario, he performs well the rest of the season and becomes a very attractive, major league-ready trade chip.
AAA: @ Las Vegas 51s 3, New Orleans Zephyrs (MIA) 2
Hey, now, Rafael Montero: 7 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 8 K. The eight strikeouts for Montero were one off a AAA season-high set in his last start. After an ordinary first 10 starts in AAA, Montero’s August has been spectacular: 3 GS, 0.82 ERA, 22 IP, 10 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 HR, 2 BB, 21 K. He’s striking out batters at a rate of 27.6% in his last three starts and walking them at a 2.6% rate. After 122 innings a year ago, Montero has thrown 138 this year, so he likely only has another 15-20 to play with before the Mets will shut him down for the year. That, plus the fact that the 22-year old is not on the Mets’ 40-man roster, and will not need to be added for Rule 5 protection for two more years, means he will not get a chance to make his big league debut until next year. Instead, bet on 2014 for Montero.
C Travis d’Arnaud (1-for-3, BB, RBI) is hitting .304/.487/.554 with 21 walks against 12 strikeouts in 19 games in AAA. This is a guy who drew 19 walks in 67 games in Las Vegas when they were a Blue Jays affiliate in 2012. He has addressed the major flaw in his on-field game: his patience at the plate.
RF Kirk Nieuwenhuis had a solid night at the top of the order, going 2-for-4 with a double, a walk and two strikeouts. In 55 games in AAA, the 26-year-old has hit .243/.342/.471 with 30 walks and 59 strikeouts. Nieuwenhuis is playing right while Matt den Dekker patrols center.
AA: Binghamton Mets 9, @ Reading Fightin’ Phils 3
The Binghamton Mets are now a franchise-best 30 games over .500. Which is nice. The B-Mets’ magic number to clinch a playoff berth is just one. Which is also nice.
CF Alonzo Harris had a nice night at the bottom of the Binghamton order, going 3-for-4 with a double. Despite leadoff man speed, the 24-year-old is the owner of a .225/.292/.310 line in 88 games.
SNY.tv was at the Futures Game at Citi Field on Sunday, and spent the day following Noah Syndergaard, Brandon Nimmo, and Rafael Montero. Nimmo, Syndergaard, B-Mets Manager Pedro Lopez, and Team USA Manager Mookie Wilson discuss the their development, and talk about what they need to do in order to get to the big leagues.
Sunday, RHP Rafael Montero and Noah Syndergaard started for World and the US teams in the Futures games. Just a few minutes after their day began, they were done. In All-Star games for pitchers, that’s a good thing.
The massive Syndergaard threw 15 pitches, 11 fastballs, a slider and three curveballs. His fastball was sitting 96 mph. His curves averaged 79 and the slider almost 85. Syndergaard has thrown his curve longer than his slider, which he really began working on last year with Toronto. While the Mets have suggested that the slider will become his primary breaking ball, as he showed when the cameras were rolling, he still is more comfortable with the curveball. It’s a big rolling breaker with lots of both horizontal and vertical movement.
Rafael Montero’s outing was even shorter – he needed nine pitches in his inning: seven fastballs and two sliders. He was throwing harder than I can ever recall seeing him, averaging almost 95 mph. He used to sit 92-93 over the course of a game. His slider has ordinary MLB velocity at 82 mph. It has solid horizontal movement, but it’s “flat” without much depth vertically. It is the development of this pitch that will dictate whether he can be an MLB caliber starter.
Brooks Baseball has player cards for both guys now, so if you want to play around with charts on fewer than 20 pitches, have fun.
What do their performances mean? Not much in practice; they each threw an inning in an exhibition game. The bigger deal was the symbolism of the event with two promising young arms starting Sunday in front of Matt Harvey’s All-Star Game start on Tuesday.
In practice, the more important thing is that Syndergaard return to AA and Montero to AAA and they each keep progressing. Both guys could well be in the rotation by this time next summer. They gave Mets fans a little extra reason to be optimistic about the future but now have to get back to work.
Coverage Other Places
Syndergaard told the Times: “I set a goal at the beginning of the year to make it to the Futures Game and end up in Double-A,” said Syndergaard, who turns 21 next month. “I just had no idea I was going to be here this soon.”
He also seemed to get a kick out of New York City (as quoted by Brian Costa in the WSJ): “”I’m kind of in awe right now,” Syndergaard said. “I’ve never been to a city this big. But it’s been unbelievable. I just can’t wait to hopefully start my pro career here. I can’t imagine. I was just thinking the other night, it feels like a dream walking down Times Square.”
Wisely, Syndergaard promised to study Matt Harvey (as quoted by Anthony McCarron in the NYDN): “I try to be a sponge whenever he’s on the mound,” Syndergaard said. “His mentality on the mound is pretty unbelievable. I’d be pretty scared if I were a hitter.”
Thor liked Citi Field, (as quoted by Mark Herrman in Newsday): ”Awesome. I could definitely get comfortable on that mound.”
RHP Rafael Montero and Noah Syndergaard have been selected to the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game in NY on Sunday, July 14 at 2 pm. Montero will throw for the World Team and Syndergaard for the U.S. Team.
Brandon Nimmo is one of five “Futures Finalists” that fans can choose among to select the final member of the US team.
Andrew Vazzano, SNY.tv:
Toby Hyde, Mets Minor League Blog:
I had Montero ranked as my #9 Mets’ prospect in my pre-season rankings.
The pitchers I ranked ahead of Montero were Zack Wheeler, Noah Syndergaard, Michael Fulmer and Jacob deGrom. Wheeler is on the cusp of a big league debut. Syndergaard has performed very well (3.11 ERA, 64 K, 16 BB in 63.2 innings) in advanced-A. Fulmer has been on laid up all season recovering from a torn mesiscus. deGrom is still looking for a reliable off-speed pitch to throw with his power sinker. And then there’s Montero, who has been lights out.
Since making a spot start in AAA on May 21, Montero has not allowed a run in AA. His three-start line: 20 IP, 11 H, 4 BB, 18 K.
Montero is a three-pitch guy who lives off of his fastball command while his changeup and slider aspire to consistently MLB average.
If fans want to look ahead, the Mets had Zack Wheeler make 13 AAA starts before determining that he was ready and Matt Harvey 20. It seems unlikely that the Mets would have Montero make fewer AAA starts than either Wheeler or Harvey. Thus, expect him to spend, at the very least, the vast majority of the remainder of the minor league season in Las Vegas. However, a September look after the 51s season is certainly within the range of possible outcomes for Montero given continued health and success.
Originally posted on Metsblog:
Rafael Montero has been promoted to Triple-A Las Vegas, according to Jay Horwitz on Twitter.
22-year-old Montero is 7-3 with a 2.43 ERA and 0.915 WHIP with Double-A Binghamton. He’s struck out 72 batters and walked just 10 in his 66 2/3 innings of work with the B-Mets.
He made a spot start at Triple-A earlier this year, taking the loss despite allowing just one earned run over 6 2/3 innings.
AAA: Las Vegas 51s 2, Fresno Grizzlies (SF) 1
RHP Zack Wheeler put together his first quality start in his three tries since his return from a right shoulder strain. His line: 6 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 6 K. He threw 65% of his pitches for strikes. Wheeler’s line in his last three starts: 15 IP, 12 H, 9 R, 7 ER, 4 HR, 6 BB, 12 K. He’s getting closer, and the Super Two deadline is getting close and the Mets have need in their rotation. However, given that he gave up two homers in each of his last two starts before Saturday, I still think he’ll get a few – like three – more starts for Vegas.
CF Kirk Nieuwenhuis homered again, his eighth in 31 games in AAA. He’s gotten hot in a big way: in his last 11 games, he’s hit .293/.431/.756 with one double and six homers, 10 walks and 10 strikeouts.
A night after getting plunked Friday, 2B Wilmer Flores did not play Saturday.
AA: Binghamton Mets 6, @ New Hampshire Fisher Cats (TOR) 0
Ho-hum, seven more shutout innings for Rafael Montero. His line: 7 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 4 K and 69% strikes (70 of 102). In his two starts back in AA since a solid sport start in AAA, he’s done this: 13 IP, 9 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 3 BB, 12 K. That’s a pretty good way to earn a more lasting assignment to AAA.
2B Danny Muno, snapped a 24-at-bat hitless skid with a three-hit night, including a homer. The 24-year-old is hitting .210/.353/.324 in his first 52 games in AA.
After one homer in the month of May, RF/LF Cory Vaughn equaled that in his first game in June by going 3-for-5 with a double and a homer, his sixth of 2013. Vaughn finished May at .280/.344/.354 with three doubles and one homer and is now hitting .295/.374/.458 just past his 24th birthday.