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Appreciating the steady contributions of Jordan Montgomery

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The big southpaw isn’t the flashiest starter, but post-injury, his 2021 was right in line with his solid rookie campaign.

New York Yankees v Boston Red Sox Photo by Omar Rawlings/Getty Images

Jordan Montgomery had his first healthy season since 2017, his rookie year. He did a reputable job representing the feeling surrounding the entire rotation of the Yankees: Intrigue with the upside of several capable arms and a significant level of uncertainty, primarily due to injuries (given the group’s large track record in that department).

Montgomery, like the Yankees rotation, responded well to those question marks with a solid campaign that reflected his talent as a major league pitcher. Perhaps even more importantly, he was also able to remain healthy for the duration of the year, pitching a career-high 157.1 innings in 30 starts.

The six-foot six southpaw was drafted in the fourth round by the Yankees in 2014, but was never an incredibly hyped prospect. Despite more or less hitting the ground running as a big leaguer, he also probably will never be a truly elite pitcher. Nonetheless, all of those factors combine with others — such as essentially a three-year hiatus due to injury and an unlucky shortened 2020, in between strong seasons — to distinguish Jordan Montgomery as an underrated pitcher. At the very least, he’s what I’d like to call an under-the-radar, underappreciated good pitcher.

There’s a specific pitcher who is a little further down the line in his career arc when it comes to innings pitched, has eerily similar numbers as Montgormery, and who is probably more widely recognized as the pretty good pitcher: A’s lefty Sean Manaea, a potential trade target.

Career totals:

Jordan Montgomery: 388 IP - 15.8 K-BB% - 1.27 WHIP - 3.90 FIP - 7.3 fWAR

Sean Manaea: 727 IP - 15.2 K-BB% - 1.20 WHIP - 3.96 FIP - 11.1 WAR

They are not particularly alike in their approach, as Manaea is a three-pitch guy relying heavily on his sinker, throwing it well over 50 percent of the time, while Montgomery throws all five of his pitches at least 10 percent of the time mixing it all up. There’s plenty beyond just that to differentiate each pitcher.

The point is that so far in his career in almost half the total innings, Montgomery has pitched at the Manaea’s level. Maybe some people already have them both as equals and this is to be expected, but it is also fair to assume that for the reasons listed above, Manaea may be more recognized for his efforts, while Montgomery is still getting there.

Moving forward, it is not easy to predict Montgomery’s ceiling in terms of workload. After all, I could come in here and talk about the possibility of a 4.5+ WAR season with 200 innings, but his 157.1 this season came in 30 starts, so it’s not like he missed significant time. It was just a reflection of his stamina and the leeway the Yankees gave him coming off the healthy-but-pandemic-shortened 2020.

Even if Montgomery settles into that 160 innings threshold moving forward, he has all the tools to continue as an above-average No. 3 starter for a perennial contender, and even a solid No. 2 in several rotations as needed. An unlucky 2020 is the only blemish performance-wise in his career and because of the nature of that season, he didn’t get enough time to regress to the means. The southpaw’s peripherals remained steady.