PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla.—Nothing speaks to the precociousness of righthander Rafael Montero quite like the fact that the Mets invited him to big league spring training, even though he finished last year with high Class A St. Lucie and doesn't need to be added to the 40-man roster until after the 2014 season.
The Mets sent Montero, the reigning organization pitcher of the year, to minor league camp during the first wave of cuts in early March, but the 22-year-old remains on the fast track to Queens, having caught the eye of big league skipper Terry Collins.
"I like the fact that he really pounds the strike zone with his stuff," Collins said. "He's got great poise on the mound, a great demeanor. He's pretty impressive."
Montero said he regards his 92-94 mph fastball as his best pitch, and catcher Travis d'Arnaud concurs, saying "he can locate it to either side of the plate in any count."
One scout who saw Montero this spring liked his changeup but thought his slider suffered from an inconsistent release point. Given that Montero falls off to the first base side when finishing his delivery—and that he stands 6 feet tall—some project Montero as a reliever.
D'Arnaud isn't so sure. "He executed all three of his pitches and has a game plan out there," the catcher said. "He had a phenomenal breaking ball, too. He kept it down and he had a good, sharp angle on it. It's a real hard pitch to hit."
Having signed at age 20 out of the Dominican Republic in 2011 and having conquered six minor league levels in two seasons—going 16-9, 2.28 with 8.2 strikeouts and 1.5 walks per nine innings—Montero only seems like he emerged from nowhere. In fact, he grew up near the Haiti border and didn't play much baseball until he moved to Santo Domingo at age 17.
"Many (international prospects) sign at 16, but plenty of others sign at 17 and 18," vice president of scouting and player development Paul DePodesta said. "Twenty is a bit more out of the ordinary."
• Righthander Michael Fulmer, a 2011 sandwich pick who spent last season with low Class A Savannah, had surgery in mid-March to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee.
• Nearly a year after returning from Tommy John surgery, righthander Jenrry Mejia said he feels like he's finally regained the mid-90s velocity and sharp cutting action on his fastball.