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Reasons for optimism with Frankie Montas

The deadline acquisition struggled after arriving in New York, but he can still be an excellent pitcher.

MLB: New York Yankees at Milwaukee Brewers Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

The trade deadline was unfortunately marred mostly by disappointment this year for the Yankees. Harrison Bader showed some serious life in the postseason, but the major acquisition, bringing Frankie Montas over from the Athletics, brought mostly concern. Lou Trivino, who came over with Montas, was a very solid piece in the bullpen but Montas did not deliver on his potential as a top-of-the-line starter. I, however, am glad he’s a Yankee still. Montas has been an excellent pitcher, and could help make this rotation even better than it was this season. The talent is undoubtedly there, and now he’ll have a full season to show it to the Yankees.

General confidence in Montas had all but dried up by the end of the season, and an injury left him off the division series roster. He made a brief (and rough) cameo in the championship series, but didn’t show much. But realistically, this fall-off was just four or five bad starts, and up until the trade Montas had been one of the American League’s best starting pitchers for a year and a half. New teammates, coaches, and a new city to live in could certainly have an effect on a player, as it may have on Montas. Next season, he’ll have a full build-up and season with New York, and it could prove to be very beneficial.

This year, up until the trade, the righty threw 104.2 innings good enough for a very solid 3.18/3.35 ERA/FIP. His strikeout rate was mostly in line with his career numbers and his walk rate was the best it had been in years. In 2021, he was just as good, but over a mostly full season. He pitched 187 innings and finished sixth in Cy Young voting for the Athletics.

His shortened 2020 was rough, but ‘19 was some of his best pitching, as he sported a sub-3 ERA over 96 innings. Montas may not be the picture of consistency, but he has shown himself to be an excellent starting pitcher for extended periods.

There shouldn’t be too much doubting of his abilities, even if his start in pinstripes didn’t go as planned. Perhaps one of the most important things to consider going forward is the approach to his pitch mix. Here’s how it’s shaken out so far in his career:

Most encouraging in this graph is the decrease in sinker usage, and the increase with his splitter. The sinker is the pitch that gets hit the hardest (.375 wOBA against) and the split-finger is on the opposite side of the spectrum (.223). Thinking logically, throwing his worse pitches less and his best ones more is a good progression to make.

The splitter is very good, and Montas has established it as his best pitch. There is a good argument for him to throw it even more, it has a 36.1 percent whiff rate, but it isn’t his primary put away pitch.

His slider is also an interesting and solid pitch, and the cutter has yielded encouraging results in the short time that he’s used it. Although he throws it less than 10 percent of the time, this Yankees regime seems to like utilizing cutters, and perhaps Montas is capable of getting even more out of the pitch going forward.

Frankie Montas was the headliner of this year’s trade deadline, but was a major disappointment for the Yankees. He had a forgettable finish to the regular season and ended up as a non-contributor in the postseason. But in reality, he made a handful of bad starts after being traded, which doesn’t condemn him to mediocrity going forward. Since the beginning of 2021, Montas had been one of the best pitchers around, and there’s no reason to think that has completely disappeared.

With some established success and perhaps something to tap into with his pitch mix as well, I think there’s good reason to be excited for his 2023 with New York. The Yankees thought they were getting a top-shelf starter at this year’s deadline, and that could still very well end up being the case.