The New York Yankees pipeline has made a lot of noise lately. Between the long-awaited full-time debut of Gary Sanchez, and the elite prospects acquired at the trade deadline, suddenly a once-barren farm system is now considered top notch, making big jumps up the organizational rankings.
Within the system, Jordan Montgomery is making some big jumps himself. Seemingly on the cusp of a possible big league debut, it is time to pay attention to the left hander.
Montgomery was drafted in the fourth round of the 2014 MLB Draft. The big lefty — standing at 6-foot-6 and 225 pounds — made a name for himself with huge success in the College World Series — a 5-0 record with a 0.93 ERA to be exact — for the University of South Carolina. He had a solid final season for the Gamecocks, going 8-5 with a 3.42 ERA, while striking out 95 and walking just 29 over 100 innings.
Despite working his way into the Gamecocks rotation as a freshman and sticking there as one of the more consistent pitchers in a very powerful SEC, Montgomery slipped because of his stuff. He doesn’t have that defining pitch, but he uses his whole arsenal very well and simply gets batters out. He has done nothing but succeed at the advanced levels of the minor leagues, and the Yankees have rewarded him with a fast climb the past two seasons.
The lefty is armed with a fastball that has gained velocity over his brief minor league career, which is not surprising behind his big frame. What once started as a high-80s offering hits as high as 94 now. It has a lot of sink to it, which in turn leads to a good amount of ground balls when he is cruising. His changeup is a plus pitch, and he uses it to his advantage to deceive opponents; his curveball is average at the least. When he is landing his curve, it has a very nice drop though. He has become your cliché finesse pitcher, but he has done it to the point where it’s time to believe that there is a major league career calling in the not-so-distant future.
Montgomery had a modest 2014 debut split between the Gulf Coast League and New York-Penn League, but it was nothing to jump off the charts. He showed good control, but nothing screamed out about him. That all changed in 2015, when he jumped two levels behind solid campaigns.
He proved to0 dominant for the South Atlantic League and after nine strong starts — in which he went 4-3 with a 2.68 ERA, a more impressive 2.09 FIP and a 55-to-12 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 43.2 innings — Montgomery quickly jumped to the Florida State League, where he didn’t miss a beat with the T-Yanks. He made 15 starts once in Tampa, compiling a 6-5 record behind a 3.08 ERA striking out 77 and walking 24 over 90.2 innings. Striking out the advanced hitters of the FSL became a more daunting task, but he was still in command, as his 2.87 FIP shows.
This season once again saw Montgomery jump two levels, and he now stands on the precipice of the big leagues. He made 19 starts at Double-A, earning his first All-Star honors in the Eastern League as people finally began to take notice. He went 9-4 behind a 2.55 ERA, posting 97 punch outs over 102.1 innings. He posted an uncharacteristic “high” walk rate of 3.17 per nine, which was the first — and only — time he eclipsed the three-walk barrier in his climb of the higher levels of the minor leagues. He earned a promotion to Scranton Wilkes-Barre on August 1.
If you want a tutorial in repeating one’s delivery, Montgomery seems to be a good example. He has a smooth, fluid motion, with a little pause before he plants, but he comes hard at the plate every single time. Without overpowering stuff, a consistent delivery to ensure his stout command is essential to Montgomery’s game.
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