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Candidates to Replace Mike Montgomery in Railriders Rotation

Matt Krook pitching for the Somerset Patriots on May 6, 2021 (Chris Jones)

On Sunday, Robert Murray of FanSided reported that left-hander Mike Montgomery is planning on opting out of his minor league contract with the Yankees on June 1. He will become a free agent if the Yankees don’t select him to a major league contract.

The Yankees signed Montgomery in early April, shortly after he had been released from a minors deal with crosstown rival Mets. Since then, he has started in four games for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Railriders. He has worked to a 7.56 ERA, 21.1 percent strikeout rate, and 11.8 percent walk rate over 16 2/3 innings. Despite working exclusively as a starter in Triple-A, he has a lot of experience in a swing role. Between 2015-20, Montgomery made 183 appearances in the majors, 70 of them starts. He will always famously be remembered for being on the mound for the final out of the 2016 World Series as the Cubs broke their 108-year title drought.

Montgomery opting out of his deal with the Yankees will leave an open rotation spot in the Railriders rotation. The remaining starters in the rotation will now be Deivi Garcia, Nick Green, Brian Keller, and Brody Koerner. Garcia is one of the Yankees’ top prospects and has been up-and-down between Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and New York. He has made two starts for the Yankees – one on Saturday – and four with the Railriders. The other three are not currently on the 40-man roster and are pretty set in the rotation for the time being.

Janson Junk pitching for the Somerset Patriots on May 7, 2021. (Chris Jones)

Candidate 1: Janson Junk

The right-hander was selected by the Yankees in the 22nd round of the 2017 MLB Draft and has continued to climb the ladder through the system. He finished the 2019 season with High-A Tampa before the pandemic canceled the 2020 season. Junk has now excelled in the Somerset rotation with Daniel Moskos as pitching coach this season. In his four starts this season, he has allowed just one run on nine hits and five walks while striking out 22 in 15 innings.

Shawn Semple. Photo by Matt Kardos

Candidate 2: Shawn Semple

Semple was another right-hander who was drafted by the Yankees in the 2017 draft, ten rounds prior to Junk in the 11th round. He worked his way up the ranks in 2019, even making one start in Triple-A. In that one start, however, he got rocked for eight runs in 3 1/3 innings. Other than that, he was pretty solid. He posted a 4.09 ERA, .223 batting average against, and 119/42 strikeout to walk rate in 123 2/3 innings between Low-A Charleston, High-A Tampa, and Double-A Trenton. So far this season, he has struck out 16 in 17 2/3 innings over five appearances – four starts for Somerset.

Matt Krook pitching for the Somerset Patriots on May 6, 2021 (Chris Jones)

Candidate 3: Matt Krook

Maybe a “Krook” will steal the open rotation spot. The left-hander was the Yankees’ first selection in the 2020 Rule 5 Draft from the Tampa Bay Rays organization. He had four fairly subpar minor league seasons since being drafted by the San Francisco Giants in the fourth round in the 2016 draft out of the University of Oregon. Krook was actually selected in the first round in the 2013 draft out of high school by the Miami Marlins before his stock dropped a bit out of college due to undergoing Tommy John surgery. After struggling up to this point in his career, he has been on point for Somerset this season. Over five starts, the southpaw holds a 1.86 ERA, .162 batting average against, and has struck out 27 while walking just seven in 19 1/3 innings.

Luis Gil. Photo by Matt Kardos.

Other candidates: Glenn Otto, Luis Gil, Ken Waldichuk

All these guys are solid candidates as well. Waldichuk would be skipping over Double-A if he were to move to the Railriders rotation. While it’s probably not too likely, he has been very dominant – 38 strikeouts in 18 2/3 innings – at High-A Hudson Valley. He will without a doubt at least get a call to Somerset sooner rather than later. Otto and Gil have been very good, but it may be a little too soon for both highly-touted prospects. A few more starts for both of them should come at the Double-A level before they move up.

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