Jordan Montgomery quietly had a fantastic 2017 season. He came to camp as a non-roster invitee and won himself a spot in the Yankees’ starting rotation. Granted, beating out Bryan Mitchell and Luis Cessa might not seem like much of an achievement now, but at the time, it was a big deal for the unheralded lefty from South Carolina. While there were certainly some bumps in the road, Montgomery lead all rookie pitchers in fWAR in 2017 and ultimately proved himself to be a serviceable, young starter that the Yankees could trust at the back of the rotation for 2018.
2018 Statistics: 6 GS, 27.1 IP, 3.62 ERA, 4.22 FIP, 7.57 K/9, 3.95 BB/9, 0.99 HR/9, 1.35 WHIP
2019 Contract status: Pre-arbitration eligible (earliest arbitration: 2020, earliest free agent: 2024)
For the first month of the 2018 season, Montgomery appeared to be on track to repeat his rookie year performance. In nearly every statistical category, he was essentially the same pitcher. His walk and strikeout rates were a little worse than they were for the 2017 season. However, comparing five starts of possibly-injured work to an entire healthy season isn’t totally fair. When you break down Montgomery’s 2017 season month-by-month, March/April 2018 ranks as a pretty middle-of-the-road performance, so it’s probably not worth reading too heavily into the statistics.
After completing just one inning of his May 1st start against the Astros, Montgomery hit the 10-day disabled list with left elbow flexor strain. In retrospect, the bad omens were there, especially in the velocity department. His average fastball velocity was down a full mile per hour in 2018. Still, it was initially thought Montgomery would miss just 6-8 weeks rehabbing the injury. On June 5th, it was revealed Monty would need Tommy John surgery and would miss the rest of the season.
Montgomery’s season was over before he really got going and left the Yankees will a pretty big void in the rotation. Now it’s unclear just how Montgomery can contribute in the future. Tommy John surgery isn’t uncommon for pitchers nowadays, but it wouldn’t be unreasonable to be worried about how he bounces back from surgery. Montgomery was already a back-of-the-rotation type of arm before surgery, so he can’t really stand to lose any stuff.
In 2017, Monty’s curveball and changeup graded as above average pitches, but his other pitches weren’t nearly as good. Opponents hit about .300 off Montgomery’s fastball and sinker, and his slider generated a low number of swings-and-misses. If he loses any break on his curve and/or change, it could spell serious trouble for Monty in 2019 and beyond.
The earliest we could see Montgomery again is during the second half of next season, so we aren’t likely to know how he fits in with the team until then. The Yankees currently have three starting pitchers in their rotation -- Luis Severino, Masahiro Tanaka, and CC Sabathia -- but reports indicate that they aren’t going to wait for Montgomery. Brian Cashman recently said the Yankees are still looking for multiple arms to join the rotation.
Regardless of when he returns or who’s on the team, Montgomery’s age gives the Yankees some flexibility. Monty still has multiple minor league options remaining and can freely move between the big leagues and Triple-A. Whether the Yankees need him as a regular member of the rotation or as an up-and-down depth arm, Montgomery will hopefully be healthy enough to contribute to the 2019 Yankees.