We’re reviewing every player to appear in Houston’s system through the 2022 season.
Rafael Montero is a six-foot, 190 lb. right-handed pitcher from Higuerito, DR. Born on October 17, 1990, he was already 20-years-old when he signed his first professional deal, with the New York Mets on January 20, 2011.
Montero progressed through New York’s system at more-or-less a normal pace, making his major league debut in 2014. Through his first six major league seasons (four with New York, two with the Texas Rangers), he was 8-17 with a 4.93 ERA, a 1.565 WHIP, and 9.1 K/9. After starting the 2021 campaign at 5-3 with a 7.27 ERA, a 1.638 WHIP, and only 7.7 K/9 through 40 contests with the Seattle Mariners, he joined the Astros via trade. He arrived along with Kendall Graveman for Abraham Toro and Joe Smith.
Montero was on Houston’s active roster for two weeks, pitching six innings, striking out five, and allowing only one unearned run before going on the injured list. He left mid-game due to right-shoulder throwing discomfort, and didn’t return for the rest of the campaign. Prior to the season, he avoided arbitration by signing with the Astros for a one-year, $2.725 million deal.
Montero began the 2022 season as a main component of Houston’s bullpen, and immediately showed why the Astros had enough faith in him for the one-year deal. Through the first two months of the season, he allowed 12 hits and five walks over 20 1⁄3 innings, giving up only one earned run and striking out 23. On April 18, in an 8-3 win against the Anaheim Angels, he struck out the side in a perfect eighth inning.
On June 5, Montero earned a two-pitch save, by coming in with a 7-4 lead over the Royals and the bases loaded with two outs in the bottom of the ninth. He got Nicky Lopez to ground into a 4-3 out for his fourth save of the season. On July 7, he struck out the side in a 1-2-3 eighth as the Astros topped Kansas City, 5-2.
Of Montero’s team-leading 71 appearances, opponents only scored off him on 11 occasions. He struck out 73 in 68 1⁄3 innings, getting his WHIP all the way down to 1.024, well lower than his career-to-that-point average, but only slightly better than the “average” Astros pitcher (the team had a collective 1.092 WHIP).
Montero was 5-2 with a 2.37 ERA and 14 saves. Opponents slashed .193/.268/.267 in 270 plate appearances, and his .535 opposing OPS was 266 points lower than his career-mark prior to 2022.
Whatever it was that Montero figured out through the regular season he retained in the postseason. He pitched in 10 games for the Astros, striking out 10 and allowing two runs on five hits and six walks over 9 1⁄3 innings. For his efforts, Houston signed Montero to a three-year, $34.5 million deal. Thanks for reading.