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Fantasy Baseball: Rafael Montero and Kevin Gausman Toe the Bump

Chris Mitchell May 14, 2014 5:18PM EDT
Last week, two middle infielders were promoted, Rougned Odor and Wilmer Flores, this week it’s two right-handed pitchers. Rafael Montero for the Mets and Kevin Gausman for the Baltimore Orioles will both make their 2014 debuts on Wednesday 5/14.

Both pitchers are right-handed but that is where the similarities end. Montero is a touch and feel, crafty mound maestro who tops out as a SP3/4. Gausman is that guy with the big fastball; he also features a serviceable slider and an out pitch change-up and has SP2 potential. Montero will pitch against weaker National League lineups, including the likely non-contending, NL East Mets, while Gausman gets thrown into the shark tank that is the AL East. Lets break down these recent prospect promotions.

Rafael Montero, RHP, Mets

If you read my pre-season NL East Top 10 Prospects List, the first thing you will notice is that Rafael Montero isn’t on it. I ranked Montero 11th but he did make my “just missed” list which you can read here.

Kevin Gausman features a plus fastball/changeup combination but he has to avoid the home run ball. Photo Credit: Keith Allison

Kevin Gausman has to avoid the home run ball to be successful in the majors. Photo Credit: Keith Allison

Montero makes his living with plus-plus command of three average pitches. He hurls a low 90’s fastball, a slightly above average change-up and a pedestrian, yet serviceable slider.  Montero has never walked more than thirty-five batters in a season while never averaging a strikeout per inning rate either.  However, in three minor league seasons of seventy innings pitched or more, he has had ERA’s of 2.15, 2.36, and 2.78. So while the “stuff” isn’t there the results have been consistently stellar.

It was announced that Montero would take Jenrry Mejia’s spot in the Mets rotation, so his promotion looks to be more than a spot start. Throwing in the National League and facing the opposing pitcher in the nine hole two or three times a night, increases Montero’s Fantasy value, but his lack of high strikeout potential and a lack of run support does not. In keeper leagues, he holds minimal value because of his SP3 ceiling.  If he holds the job all season, you should expect something in the neighborhood of 130-140 innings, 90-100 strikeouts and 6-7 wins. Montero is a two-start caliber SP and if all things go very well is worth consideration in one start weeks in favorable matchups. In shallow leagues you can ignore him. In deeper leagues with long benches, Montero is worth a spot, especially during his first run through the league before teams get a book on him.  Montero’s value is highest as a streaming option and daily leagues against teams with free swingers (Braves/Astros/White Sox/Marlins/Cubs) where his plus-plus command can exploit holes, buckle hitters and rack up some strikeouts.

Kevin Gausman, RHP, Orioles

Gausman is a big arm, SP2 guy whose status in the rotation has not yet been defined. What we do know is that he has to throw in the dreaded American League East where strikes are taken and balls are innings eaters.  The Red Sox, Rays, and Blue Jays are all in the MLB top seven in walks, and the top half of baseball in runs scored.  It will be a tough row to hoe for Gausman.

In my pre-season AL East Top 10 Prospects list, Gausman ranked second behind Dylan Bundy in the Orioles system. In three minor league seasons, Gausman hasn’t allowed more than fourteen walks per year, which is phenomenal. Gausman attacks hitters with good command, a high 90’s fastball and a slightly above average change-up, which should bode well in an AL East that kills pitchers that struggle to throw strikes.

The questions with Kevin Gausman are whether Wednesday’s start is a spot start or one of 15-20 to come.  Can he make it through patient lineups multiple times through the order and pitch deep into games without an above average breaking ball? He’ll also need to avoid the home run problems he had in his short stint in the majors in 2013, when he allowed eight home runs in 47.2 major league innings. If he can throw strikes and avoid the gopher balls, then he has the potential for 130-140 innings, 120-130 strikeouts and 9-11 wins.

Gausman, at the very least, is worth monitoring in all leagues. Don’t cut an established pitcher with good strikeout totals to add Gausman (Jose Quintana comes to mind), but if you have a young pitcher like Rafael Montero, or a veteran two start pitcher like Felix Doubront, then I would take a gamble on Gausman’s upside potential over their reliable but mediocre production. Only keeper leagues with large rosters can justify claiming Gausman in order to keep him, hoping for 2015 when he is certain to be in the O’s rotation full-time.  He will be a breakout candidate in 2015, so remember Kevin Gausman when draft season comes back around.

If you own Gausman in keeper leagues with prospectsm his value is higher than two-start, low-ceiling pitching prospects like Robbie Erlin but lower than high strikeout, high-upside young pitchers like James Paxton or potential future star, teammate Dylan Bundy.

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