We’re really starting to think Yankees left-handed pitching prospect Jordan Montgomery is being underrated in the scheme of things.
The 6-foot-6, 225-pound native of Sumter, S.C., taken by the Yankees in the fourth round of the 2014 draft from the University of South Carolina, is almost never mentioned in discussions involving pitching prospects in the system. Yet, he’s the closest to the majors and may go north with the big club.
“I really like Montgomery, and think he could really help the Yankees this year,” said an American League Central scout. “His command is among the best I saw among upper-level pitching prospects last spring and summer.”
Maybe it’s because Montgomery isn’t flashy as an innings-eater type. His fastball does not sit at 98 and sometimes reach 100. He did, however, put together an impressive 14-5, 2.13 mark in 25 starts between Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton, taking the mound and winning the Triple-A Championship Game for the RailRiders.
That ERA was ninth-best in the minors in 2016.
What helped Montgomery dominate in 2016 was a boost in velocity. His fastball had mostly sat between 88 and 92 prior to last season, but the 24-year-old had a few clocked at 96 early in the campaign and was tossing some at 93 at the end of the season.
Coupled with bis excellent command, it made a difference.
“I’ve had a boost in velocity,” Montgomery, who was signed by Yankees scout Billy Godwin to a bonus of $424,000. “It allowed me to set up my other pitches better.”
Montgomery also throws a changeup and curve, displaying outstanding control and command. He recorded a strikeout/walk ratio of 134-45 – his strikeout number behind only fellow fast-riser Chance Adams in the system. His WHIP was a solid 1.199, as he allowed just 122 hits in 139.1 innings.
He pitches with confidence.
“I know I can put my pitches where I want them and keep hitters off-balance,” Montgomery said. “That is the key to it all.”
Another key is, with southpaw Montgomery being 6-foot-6, his pitches approach a hitter from something of a downward angle that both makes his fastball look a bit more speedy and produces swings and misses. He gave hitters at both levels of the upper minors plenty of headaches.
Rated the No. 13 prospect by Baseball America, Montgomery’s secondary stuff could improve a bit, but his command and control makes up for it. If he can battle big-league hitters the way he did his opposition in the upper minors, he can definitely help the Yankees this season.
After his effort in 2016, there isn’t much more he can do in the minors, where he often pitched late into games. His tenacity is that of a starter, not a middle reliever.
Compared to others, it’s not surprising Montgomery is overlooked and underrated. There have been many like him, without the flash of fellow prospects, who have gone to have excellent careers. Command and control almost always are more effective than flash at any level.
A strong effort in Spring Training could easily earn Montgomery a spot when the Yankees travel north in early April. It may surprise some, but not the Yankees or this corner.