The assumption around foresighted fantasy circles is that Mets ace-in-the-making, Noah Syndergaard, will force his way into the big league rotation at some point before this year’s All-Star break. It’s not a poor assumption to make — Syndergaard is loaded with size and stuff and athleticism, and he baffled Double-A hitters last season to such a degree that one would think he’s ready to do the same at the highest level. And maybe he is. What folks around fantasy are ignoring, though, as they make room at the ends of their benches to stash Syndergaard, is that he’s probably not the first man the Mets will ask to start ballgames once a need presents itself this season.
Rafael Montero is about as well-cooked as a prospect gets. Mets fans were clamoring for his call-up last summer, as he posted a line at 2.78/1.10/150 through 155 IP between Double-A and Triple-A. Although it isn’t flashy, Montero brings a quality arsenal, featuring a plus fastball and two above average secondary offerings (CH/SL). It’s not front-end caliber stuff, but when it’s delivered with the deception and pitching savvy that Montero brings to the mound, the entire repertoire gets a boost in grade. The 2014 Minor League Baseball season is not yet a week old, but Montero has already notched two Triple-A starts, and the results have been quite good: 11 IP, 3 ER, 14/1 K/BB.
To be clear, none of this post is to suggest that Rafael Montero is somehow a better starting pitching prospect than Noah Syndergaard. But amid all of the the Syndergaard hype this spring, I feel like Montero’s name is getting lost in the hoopla. The Mets have the coveted luxury of SP depth, and soon enough, they’ll be faced with the decision: Syndergaard or Montero? A number of factors will be considered, and service time will no doubt be a major influencer. In the end, there might even be room for both arms in the Mets rotation. For now, though, I suspect Montero’s overall polish will earn him the first look. And if that’s indeed the case, he’ll be worthy of mixed league attention, offering impact potential in ERA and WHIP while spending most of his days in the pitcher-friendly environment of Citi Field.