Jordan Montgomery arrived to spring training with the chance to show the Yankees he belonged in their long term plans. Earlier in the offseason, I wrote that he could work his way into the rotation as early as midseason. After pitching well in camp, however, he has accelerated that timeline. Following his eight-strikeout performance against the Rays last week, he’s established himself as a legitimate contender for the fifth starter position.
Somewhere along the way, though, expectations got out of hand. Montgomery went from depth option, to fifth starter candidate, to future ace in less than two weeks. I’m not exaggerating when I mention the frontline starter comments either. Former scout Bernie Pleskoff took to FanRag Sports earlier this week and penned a glowing piece on Montgomery. He went so far as to compare him to bonafide aces Chris Sale and David Price without much to substantiate his projections.
“Chris Sale is 6-foot-6, the same size as Montgomery. However, Sale is 27 pounds lighter than Montgomery. The repertoires of both pitches are very similar. Even their mound demeanor is similar.
Sale began his big-league career in the bullpen. I project Montgomery to start his major-league career in the Yankees rotation, but a stint in the bullpen wouldn’t be out of the question. With the exception of the weight difference, the similarities to Sale are almost scary. But if the physical difference is too much to make the comparison to Sale accurate, perhaps think David Price. That wouldn’t be too shabby either. He can be that good — maybe somewhere between Sale and Price. That’s All-Star territory.”
Pleskoff’s comparisons essentially boil down to physical size and handedness. There’s some mention of their arsenals, but he circles back to size as his primary unit of analysis. There are a number of reasons why these particular projections are problematic, but his final takeaway stands out as the most puzzling piece of the article. He gives Montgomery a scouting grade of 60, or “an occasional All-Star and a solid front-end of the rotation starter.”
When discussing Pleskoff’s article, Matt Provenzano pointed out that this is an unusually high grade. In fact, only consensus top-prospect Gleyber Torres received a 60-grade in Eric Longenhagen’s comprehensive Yankees’ prospects ranking. He graded Montgomery at 45, which is far more in line with the other projections for the southpaw.
“I think Montgomery’s command will allow him to thoroughly squeeze all of the juice from his stuff,” Longenhangen noted. “He’s a low-risk No. 4 or 5 starter for me with a chance to be a solid 50 on inning-eating volume or if the changeup develops past my projections.”
That’s the book on Montgomery. There will always be outliers, like Pleskoff who envision an ace-like outcome or Keith Law who doesn’t view him as a big league starter. Most, however, see a reliable back-end of the rotation starter. He might not break through right away, but when he does, he figures to be a serviceable pitcher.
For most of the spring, we’ve been urging readers to temper expectations in regards to the young position players. Now it’s clear that the sentiment should be reiterated for Montgomery. Let him pitch and develop at his own pace, according to his own abilities. Projecting him as a future ace does nothing but create unreasonable expectations. If he pans out as a back-end of the rotation pitcher, then the Yankees will surely be happy. There’s value in that. Anything else would be a bonus and should be treated as such.