The Yankees have placed minor league pitching prospect Mark Montgomery on the disabled list for the third time and his 2013 season has finally hit rock bottom. This was supposed to be his breakout year, but injury and ineffectiveness have completely derailed his progress.
Drafted in 2011, Montgomery has gone through two levels a year on his barnstorming to the majors and many expected him to be with the Yankees by midseason, if not earlier. He's supposed to be the next David Robertson as an elite backend reliever, but he's dealt with shoulder issues all year and now it will likely be next year before we see him in the majors. How did this season go so wrong?
It seems that Montgomery has been dealing with shoulder fatigue since spring training when he was a lot less impressive than everyone hoped for. Mark Newman mentioned that they were unhappy with the shape his arm was in coming back from the offseason and he was basically playing catch up because of poor conditioning. After that it seemed that he was never as impressive as he was in his first two seasons, but the real troubles seemingly revolve around one appearance from May. On the 15th of May, Montgomery curiously pitched 3.1 innings and from that point on his season became a nightmare.
Before that game he was pitching to a 1.62 ERA and opponents were hitting .200/.302/.327 against him in 16.2 innings pitched. He threw 61% of his pitches for strikes and his line drive rate was at 14%. After the May 5 game he could only manage a 5.40 ERA and opponents hit .348/.466/.500 off him in 11.2 innings before he went on the DL for a second time in June. In that time frame he only threw 57% of his pitches for strikes and his line drive rate was at 26%.
The Yankees weren't even giving him that much work as he pitched 40 innings in 25 games at Triple-A in 2013 and pitched 40.1 innings in 31 games at Double-A in 2012. The extra couple innings amount to a few more two-inning appearances and that questionable 3.1 innings game, so the Yankees weren't exactly burning through his arm. The problem has been the amount of pitches he's thrown in an outing. In 2011 he averaged 10.2 pitches per inning and 11.2 pitches per inning in 2012. Now, in those same 40 innings in 2013, he has thrown 19.8 pitches per inning and after that 3.1 inning appearance he threw 21.6 pitches per inning.
As a result, Montgomery now has a career high 5.6 BB/9 and a career high in pitches thrown. He threw 729 pitches in 64.1 innings last season, but this season he's already reached 793 pitches in only 40 innings. It looks like he's just tired out and just not able to maintain the control he once had. Maybe he was overworked last season or maybe he didn't condition his arm correctly in the offseason, but it doesn't look like he will be shooting up into the major leagues as fast as everyone expected.
Montgomery missed over a month in his last DL stint, so who knows how long he'll be out now. It's probably time to call 2013 a lost cause and hope that everyone has learned something so this never happens again.
On a positive note, he's still striking everyone out with an 11 K/9.