Each weekday during the minor-league season, FanGraphs is providing a status update on multiple rookie-eligible players. Note that Age denotes the relevant prospect’s baseball age (i.e. as of July 1st of the current year); Top-15, the prospect’s place on Marc Hulet’s preseason organizational list; and Top-100, that same prospect’s rank on Hulet’s overall top-100 list.
Rafael Montero, RHP, New York Mets (Profile)
Level: Triple-A Age: 23 Top-15: 5th Top-100: 94th
Line: 11.0 IP, 11.45 K/9, 0.82 BB/9, 0.0 HR/9, 0.93 FIP
The Mets’ diminutive right-hander has torched the Pacific Coast League (PCL) thus far, but the organization may need to get creative if its to best utilize his services.
Cashman Field, the home of the Las Vegas 51s and Rafael Montero, is one of the most difficult parks to pitch in throughout the minor leagues. According to Statcorner.com, 15% more runs are scored at Cashman than the average PCL park. The PCL is difficult enough on pitchers to begin with. Through 150 games, PCL games have averaged 10.2 runs per game compared to the MLB average of 8.4 runs. When Toronto and Buffalo’s agreement forced the Mets to Las Vegas, many wondered if the move would have a negative effect on the team’s prospects.
Rafael Montero didn’t get the memo. After 88.2 innings of sub-3 FIP ball in 2013, he’s been dominant through his first three starts of 2014. Montero, demonstrative out of the windup, gets ahead of hitters with a fastball he throws from a three quarter arm slot. While he isn’t overpowering, his superb command of his fastball and slider has allowed him to dissect Triple-A batters.
Montero is joined in the Las Vegas rotation by Noah Syndergaard and and Jacob deGrom. If Syndergaard performance mirrors his elite pedigree and deGrom continues to impress — he joined Montero on Baseball America’s Hot Sheet on Friday — the Mets’ front office will be forced to devise a development plan for a trio at the next level. At the moment, the Mets’ rotation is full, so the Mets will need to be creative if they want the trio to face MLB hitters and build upon last season’s workloads. Some on the internet, though I cannot recall where, have suggested the Mets implement a piggyback rotation like the ones the Cardinals, Blue Jays and Astros implement in the minor leagues. It’s a radical thought, but if the Mets are to protect Syndergaard, Montero, deGrom and current starter Jenrry Mejia, a piggyback rotation will allow the quartet to continue to develop against baseball’s best hitters.
David Dahl, OF, Colorado Rockies (Profile)
Level: High-A Age: 20 Top-15: 3rd Top-100: 38th
Line: 43 PA, 7.0% BB, 16.3% K, .300/.349/.675 (.276 BABIP)
After a lost season, David Dahl is back in Asheville showing off his power.
Last season, during Spring Training, I wondered what kind of player Dahl would become before labeling him a table setter. In batting practice and intracomplex game against Arizona, Dahl showcased his versatility — plus bat control, a sound approach and batting eye, the ability to go the other way and some some pop. As the 2013 begun, he was an elite prospect slated to begin the year with the Single-A Asheville Tourists. Then, after a brief suspension, Dahl tore his hamstring and missed the remainder of the year. He has returned to Asheville and if his early performance is any indicator, he won’t be there long. Through his first 10 games, Dahl has hit 4 home runs, 3 of which came this weekend at Hickory. Hickory and Asheville are hitting paradises, but Dahl’s raw power is real. If it has become part of his game, he could be a Top 10 prospect by the end of the year.
Video by Nathaniel Stoltz.
Carson Kelly, C, St. Louis Cardinals (Profile)
Level: Single-A Age: 19 Top-15: 8th Top-100: N/A
Line: 31 PA, 9.7% BB, 12.9% K, .296/.387/.519 (.318 BABIP)
While not the most obvious candidate for such a shift, Kelly has moved to catcher from third base for the 2014 season. It’s a difficult decision with which to argue, given the Cardinals’ reputation for development.
Often, position changes are a last ditch effort to turn non-prospects into valuable commodities. Carson Kelly may be an exception. This off-season the Cardinals decided to try the former third baseman behind the dish. Prior to the move, Marc Hulet ranked him the organization’s #8 prospect. It’s amazing to me that Kelly was considered a candidate for such a demanding move. Catcher requires immense flexibility and strength in addition to steep learning curve. Still, the Cardinals have proven themselves to be among the best developers of talent in their belief that Kelly could handle the leftward shift on the defensive spectrum speaks to Kelly’s work ethic. The decision is somewhat unbelievable, as Kelly was considered to be an average defender at third and Yadier Molina will probably be a part of the Cardinals’ battery for the next century. To date, Kelly has started 5 of 7 games at catcher for the Single-A Peoria Chiefs and has a 31% caught stealing percentage (4/13) and has allowed 2 passed balls. His development will be an intriguing 2014 story line for prospect watchers, because teams rarely risk the future of a player with his ability.