Mets right-hander Bryce Montes de Oca left today’s Spring Training outing due to a forearm strain, manager Buck Showalter told reporters (including The Athletic’s Tim Britton). Montes de Oca will undergo tests and imaging to determine the extent of the injury, and there is certainly plenty of extra concern considering de Oca’s history of arm troubles. The 26-year-old underwent a Tommy John surgery back in 2013 when he was a high school pitcher, and he had another elbow procedure while pitching at the University of Missouri.
A ninth-round pick for the Mets in the 2018 draft, de Oca was further sidelined by knee, back, and shoulder-related surgeries. Between those injuries and the canceled 2020 minor league season, de Oca didn’t make his pro debut until 2021. Since then, he has a 3.80 ERA over 85 1/3 career minor league innings (almost all as a relief pitcher), and he made his MLB debut in the form of three appearance and 3 1/3 innings last season.
Despite all of the injuries and de Oca’s relatively advanced age (he turns 27 in April) for a prospect, MLB Pipeline ranks him 22nd on their list of the Mets’ top 30 prospects. The upside is obvious, as de Oca’s 75-grade fastball often hits or surpasses the 100mph threshold, and he also has a cutter and slider that rank as plus pitches. De Oca has a hefty 10.5% walk rate during his minor league career, but he has also missed bats to the tune of a 31.6% strikeout rate. In addition, de Oca has also been excellent at keeping the ball in the park — he has allowed only a single home run in his 85 1/3 frames in the minors.
With all of this potential, it would be devastating to see de Oca’s career set back yet again by another major arm injury. The best-case scenario is a low-level strain that could be healed within a couple of weeks, but naturally the Mets will be quite cautious with a pitcher with such a lengthy injury history.