Happy Jordan Montgomery Day, New York Yankees fans.
As one who has seen a lot of Yankees prospects over this restructure, this is an exciting day. Montgomery has done nothing but prove he deserves a shot in the big leagues and today he gets that. Montgomery isn’t necessarily going to step in as the newest Yankees ace today, however he is a pitcher that can provide consistency to a very inconsistent rotation.
So, who is Montgomery?
The 24-year old left-hander came to the Yankees in the fourth round of the 2014 MLB Draft. He arrived with little fanfare, but there was plenty in which to be excited. The southpaw is a hulking presence on the mound, standing at 6-foot-6 and 225 pounds. He was also battle tested, working his way into the South Carolina rotation as a freshman and pitching in the always tricky SEC.
What held Montgomery back from the earlier rounds was his lack of wipe out stuff. He came to the pros with a four-pitch arsenal, with his fastball-changeup combo the best of the bunch. Here’s what John Sickels had to say about his stuff heading into 2017, when he ranked him the 14th best Yankees prospect:
… finesse pitcher in college but fastball has bumped up as a pro, now at 90-93; also has change-up, curveball, cutter, plus a deceptive arm angle helps his pitches play up; sharp control, potential fourth starter and ready for a trial soon. ETA 2017.
Montgomery quietly climbed the ladder before his 2016 breakout season. After a strong, start to the season at Double-A Trenton, he was at his best in his six starts at Triple-A. The big lefty went 14-5 over both levels, with a combined 2.13 ERA striking out 134 and walking 45 over 139.1 innings. His 2.91 walks-per-nine was actually a bit high for Montgomery, as control has been his forte.
He concluded the 2016 season hurling five dominant innings in the Triple-A Championship. He allowed just one run to the power-happy Chihuahuas lineup (consisting of the red-hot Manuel Margot and Hunter Renfroe) They managed just six hits, striking out five times and no walks. Montgomery picked up the win on Triple-A’s biggest stage on national television. You can add moxie to the list of good qualities.
His success continued over to his first MLB spring training this season. He eventually put himself into the mix for the fifth starter spot. After putting up a 3.20 ERA and striking out 17 while walking just three over 19.2 spring training innings he became the favorite in most circles.
Not needing a fifth starter until mid-April, the Yankees sent Montgomery to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre for one final tuneup. He responded by throwing five shutout innings, striking out eight and walking just one.
What can be expected from Montgomery?
That's the hardest question for any prospect pundit. Rookie pitchers often go through a learning curve, with many ups and downs. Some dazzle as Amir Garrett did the other night. Others -- like Montgomery's opponent Blake Snell -- battle inconsistencies despite showing some of the best stuff the minors had to offer. Someone with Montgomery's modest stuff should come with tempered expectations, but there is a lot in which to be hopeful.
As John pointed out, Montgomery's stuff has improved in velocity, making his changeup and cutter more deceptive than they were. He has also been a model of consistency, able to go innings while limiting base runners, something every rotation needs near the back end. While Montgomery won't be challenging Masahiro Tanaka for his job, he should be able to stick as the fifth starter for the remainder of the season.
(video courtesy of Adam Hayes/ YouTube)