After losing Luis Severino for the whole year, Domingo German for more than a third of the season and James Paxton for the first few weeks of 2020, the Yankees’ rotation is in dire need of stability. Sure, Gerrit Cole and Masahiro Tanaka are good on paper, and J.A. Happ could bounce back to his 2018 levels, but the team needs at least another arm to step up.
Jordan Montgomery himself seems primed for a rebound season after losing most of the last two years with Tommy John surgery. He broke onto the scene in 2017 with a very good performance, but most signs are suggesting that he can be even better in 2020.
Montgomery is 27 years old. He has only had one full, healthy season before 2020, and it was a success. Back when he was a rookie, he put up a 3.88 ERA and a 4.07 FIP in 29 starts and 155.1 frames. Those numbers translated into a 2.6 fWAR, which is a very good figure for a young hurler making his debut in the hardest league of them all. A 8.34 K/9 and a 2.95 BB/9 rounded out a very successful 2017.
He was, in fact, on the way to another good season in 2018 before going down with a left elbow strain. In six starts, he had a 3.62 ERA with a 4.22 FIP when the baseball gods determined that he needed Tommy John surgery. He returned last season for a handful of innings, but 2020 will be his opportunity to show that he is healthy and effective.
During his rookie season, he averaged 92.1 mph on his fastball according to FanGraphs. Baseball Savant classifies his sinker at 91.7 mph and his four-seamer at 91.9 mph on average.
However, during spring training, Montgomery has been sitting in the 92-93 mph range, showing increased velocity that not only makes him tougher to hit, but also, it makes his breaking stuff play up.
I've said it before, I'll say it again.— Pitcher List (@PitcherList) March 10, 2020
Draft Jordan Montgomery.
- He just went 12-up-12-down with five strikeouts ✅
- Sat 92/93 after averaging 91/92 in 2017
- Three secondary pitches to get whiffs. ☠️
- He's also the Yankees' #4 starter. ☑️
- ADP past pick #300 in NFBC pic.twitter.com/NFChAfjp9M
Montgomery’s best offerings are his curveball, changeup and slider. All three of them can get whiffs. That’s why, if his sinker and four-seamer are reaching the catcher’s mitt quicker than ever before, he could have an arsenal of four or five pitches that he can use at any time, in any count. He can mix and match depending on batter, scenario, handedness, and other variables.
Since 2018 and 2019 were both abbreviated seasons, the best parameter to judge Jordan Montgomery would be 2017, his breakout season. That year, he threw sinkers 24.5 percent of the time and his four-seamer usage was 17.4 percent. That amounts to a total of 41.9 percent of fastballs.
In 2017, all the breaking and offspeed stuff were in the positive side of things according to FanGraphs’ pitch values. The slider was 2.5 runs above average, the changeup 8.3 and the curveball 10.4.
Back then, Montgomery threw 26.1 percent curves, 24.5 percent sinkers, 18.9 percent changeups, 17.4 percent four-seamers and 13.1 percent sliders. Thanks to the increased velocity, he could maintain a similar split and be as effective in 2020, if not more. He is more mature, he has a whole season of experience under his belt, and if he ever requires advice, he has several qualified veterans in the rotation to go to, not to mention a talented pitching coach in Matt Blake.
Spring training has allowed us to see the best of Montgomery. His stuff is looking excellent, and in his last outing, he sat 12 batters in order with five strikeouts. In total, he has a 4.09 ERA, but the number is inflated by an outing in which he gave up four home runs. The Yankees’ lefty has only conceded one walk, striking out 16 batters in 11.0 frames.
Montgomery is the real deal, and his 2017 is looking less and less like a fluke. He has the tools, demeanor and stuff, and let’s not forget about the opportunity (he is slated to be the Yankees’ fourth starter due to the rash of injuries) to show that he can finish the season with more than 3.0 fWAR. An ERA in the 3.40-3.60 range is in the cards.