Yankees prospects had a good year in 2017, and while Aaron Judge is the Rookie of the Year and Luis Severino is the team’s ace, it was the rise of Jordan Montgomery that no one saw coming. A rotation lacking in enough bodies gave a rookie the chance to make an impact, and not only did he hold his own, but Montgomery also managed to grab a few votes as the only rookie starting pitcher on the scene.
It would be easy to look at Montgomery’s final numbers for the season and think that they are pedestrian, but then you’d be dismissing the fact that he was a 24-year-old rookie who wasn’t even initially expected to compete for a major league job in spring training this year. It was clear that the rotation needed help, and the Luis Cessas and Bryan Mitchells of the world were clearly not doing the trick.
For the year, Montgomery had a 3.88 ERA and 4.07 FIP as the fifth man out of a rotation that also included a struggling Masahiro Tanaka and a sidelined Michael Pineda. He was valuable as a 2.7-win pitcher with a solid 8.34 K/9 and impressive 2.95 BB/9, but also for holding up over the course of the full season. The 155 innings he provided proved to be a godsend for this team.
Montgomery is a back of the rotation arm, and there is nothing wrong with that. Every team needs at least one innings eater who can be relied on to stay healthy and give the offense a chance to win games. No one wants to pay for them, but if you can produce them, you’re golden.
Unfortunately, as valuable as he was to the team, it wasn’t a perfect fairytale season. He allowed home runs at an alarming rate, with a 1.2 HR/9 to his name that will just not do in Yankee Stadium moving forward. He also had an ugly 5.66 ERA against left-handed hitters, which is going to torpedo his chances of staying in the rotation if he can’t counteract them.
While he may have stayed healthy all season, that doesn’t mean he remained consistent all year. On more than a few occasions he sunk the Yankees early in the game, losing it before he could complete five innings and leaving the team to suffer. Fatigue also began to sink in during the second half, his control began to suffer, and his ERA dipped to 4.22 ERA.
He was briefly demoted toward the end of August before returning to finish strong with a 1.04 ERA over his last three starts. However, it would appear that the Yankees never trusted him any more than they had to. He made the team’s postseason roster, but never got it into a game, despite multiple situations where they could have used an extra arm.
Montgomery has certainly done enough to get a spot in the 2018 rotation, as long as Brian Cashman doesn’t do anything drastic. With another year under his belt, the left-hander should be able to give the Yankees a little bit more out of his arm. There is already a lot to like about Montgomery, and though he has potential to be more than a no. 5 starter, his future is in the back of the rotation. We all want every prospect to be the next Severino or Judge, but not everyone can be. Sometimes it’s ok to be the next Jordan Montgomery. Teams still need people like that.