Archive for Mark Montgomery
While the Yankees’ development of starting pitchers has been considered a weak point for years, there is no doubt that the farm has produced some impressive relief arms. In recent years, this includes Tyler Clippard (who came through the system as a starter), Mark Melancon (who struggled early this year, but was impressive last year), George Kontos (who has been impressive since being traded to the Giants) and of course David Robertson, once described by a scout as a “the baseball equivalent of a sociopathic murderbot from the future.”
Evaluating relief prospects is often a tricky proposition, and going just on minor league statistics can mislead as much as it may inform. There are plenty of examples from the Yankee system of organizational arms who posted silly minor league numbers, but never amounted to anything in the majors. Colter Bean, Josh Schmidt, and Edwar Ramirez (one of my all-time favorite prospects) are several examples of this phenomenon. Bean and Schmidt were sidearmers who largely got by on deception, while Ramirez was a one-trick pony, relying heavily on a changeup that is perhaps the best I have ever seen (I kid you not). Since most relievers are failed starters, draft pedigree is not often informative in determining which prospects to follow, and who will have success in the majors.
With all these caveats in place, it’s still hard not to get excited about what Mark Montgomery has done this season. Montgomery, the subject of a prospect profile back in November, has exceeded the loftiest expectations. He is an 11th-rounder out of Longwood University in 2011, works in the low-90′s with his fastball and boasts one of the best sliders in the minors that is already considered a plus major league pitch. Because of that nasty slider, Montgomery’s Twitter handle @snapdragonmonty is especially appropriate. On the season, his first full one as a professional, Montgomery has been flat-out dominant. Between high-A and AA, he’s put up a 1.34 ERA, with 13.8 strikeouts/9 and 3.6 walks/9. The strikeout rate is impressive, and evidence of how he has overmatched hitters thus far, and the walk rate is not bad for a power pitcher.
Because of his strikeout dominance and rapid rise through the minor leagues, David Robertson is probably the most appropriate comparison. On paper, the numbers are very similar. Throughout his minor league career, Robertson posted a 1.28 ERA, 12.6 strikeouts/9, and 3.5 walks/9. Montgomery has posted a 1.41 ERA, with 14.7 strikeouts/9 and 3.4 walks/9. The numbers are very close, favoring Montgomery slightly on the peripherals, though it is worth noting that he has only reached AA. However, Montgomery is on a slightly different trajectory than Robertson because he debuted at 20 in his draft year, while Robertson didn’t make his minor league debut until age 22 (the year after he was drafted, because he received an overslot bonus).
D-Rob was fast-tracked to the majors, spending less than two years in the minors before making his big league debut, where he quickly became a fixture in the Yankee bullpen. Montgomery looks to be on a similar path, and he could be in the bigs as soon as September if the Yankees are interested in really pushing him. With the return of Joba Chamberlain from injury, the incentive to push Montgomery to the majors may be reduced, since Joba fills a bullpen hole, and Montgomery would likely be reduced to pitching low-leverage innings on the big-league roster. However, if the Yankees think that Montgomery could be an asset during the playoffs, I could see them swapping out Cody Eppley to give Montgomery a try. Realistically, however, Montgomery will likely start 2013 in AAA, and if all goes well, could be knocking on the door to the bigs fairly soon.
Mike Ashmore and Josh Norris (the dynamic duo of Trenton Thunder beatwriters) have some great video of Montgomery embarrassing some AA hitters in a recent 4-strikeout outing. I highly recommend checking them out, and thanks to Mike and Josh for all their hard work in acquiring them. The nasty slider is definitely on display, and the Altoona hitters have no chance. It’s pretty clear from the videos that Montgomery is not getting by on gimmicks and trickery, but rather, bona fide major league stuff. I don’t know when Montgomery will make his Major League debut, however, if I were Brian Cashman I would have to think long and hard about giving Montgomery a taste of the majors to see if he could be an asset on the postseason roster.
Over at ESPN in an Insider-only blog post, former Yankees intern Kiley McDaniel penned a piece with scouting notes on several players with High-A Tampa. He wrote at length about OF Mason Williams — who he compared to Jacoby Ellsbury — and C Gary Sanchez, but also chimed in on OF Tyler Austin, RHP Jose Ramirez, RHP Mark Montgomery, and some other power arms on the staff. Pretty much the only negative thing he had to say was that Sanchez tends to struggle with fastballs in on his hands.
McDaniel praised scouting director Damon Oppenheimer for landing such quality prospects (Austin and the pitchers, specifically) with low-round draft picks, which is pretty neat. “Opposing clubs’ scouts covering this Tampa squad were simultaneously commending the Yankees for their deep staff and wondering why their teams didn’t draft these talents,” he wrote. Anyway, like I said go check it out. It gets RAB’s highest level of recommendation.
The minor league season is a little more than halfway complete, with the four full-season affiliates having already played at least 74 games out of their 144-game schedules. That means promotions should be upon us, and in fact this week’s Dellin Betances demotion might represent the start of a wave of player moves. Josh Norris recently spoke to someone who said to expect some movement in about a week, and last night the Yankees bumped righty reliever Nick Goody up from Short Season Staten Island to Low-A Charleston. He’ll be the first 2012 draftee to appear in a full-season league.
The Yankees have already made some very minor promotions, like Mikey O’Brien to Double-A Trenton and Chase Whitley to Triple-A Empire State, but the most notable moves should come very soon. Here’s a preview of what could be in store in the next week or two…
C Gary Sanchez to High-A Tampa
This one seems like a total no-brainer. Sanchez is repeating Low-A Charleston and doing so in a big way — .304/.357/.534 with 13 homers and 11 steals (!) in 277 plate appearances. He’s also played ten fewer games behind the plate than last year and has 16 fewer passed balls. A move up to Tampa would force Sanchez to split catcher and DH duties with J.R. Murphy, which they did for the first few weeks of last season. Murphy is having a great June — .316/.354/.494 with three homers — but his overall performance (.260/.324/.374) has been underwhelming. Splitting catching duties is not ideal, but Sanchez needs the promotion and it will help keep both guys from wearing down in August and September. As an added bonus, Francisco Arcia and his .305/.393/.495 batting line would get a chance as the full-time catcher for the River Dogs once Sanchez is promoted.
OF Tyler Austin to High-A Tampa, OF Rob Segedin to Double-A Trenton
Moving Austin up is another no-brainer. He’s been the best hitter in the farm system this year, with a .328/.408/.621 batting line to go with 14 homers and 17 steals in 292 plate appearances for Low-A Charleston. It’s pretty clear that he isn’t being challenged enough at the level, so move him on up. In a corresponding move to clear an outfield spot, Segedin can move up to Trenton. He’s hitting .291/.359/.446 in 312 plate appearances this year after finishing last season in Tampa. The Thunder outfield is pretty packed with the Almontes (Abe and Zoilo) and Melky Mesa, but Cody Johnson’s injury and Neil Medchill’s general non-prospectness free up the DH spot. Segedin can also play third on occasion.
RHRP Phil Wetherell to High-A Tampa, RHRP Mark Montgomery to Double-A Trenton
Wetherell’s numbers are not eye-popping — 5.05 ERA with 38 hits allowed in 35.2 innings — but he’s missing bats (9.3 K/9 and 23.3 K%), limiting walks (3.3 BB/9 and 8.2 BB%), and keeping the ball in the park (just one homer allowed). As a 22-year-old college reliever, there’s only so much to be gained from facing Low-A hitters. Montgomery, on the other hand, has the huge numbers — 1.54 ERA with 53 strikeouts (13.6 K/9 and 38.1 K%) and 12 walks (3.1 BB/9 and 8.6 BB%) in 35 innings — and the wipeout slider to back them up. A short reliever with a breaking ball that good should overwhelm Single-A competition like Montgomery has, and now it’s time to get him up to the next level.
LHSP Vidal Nuno to Triple-A Empire State
The Betances demotion as well as the Adam Warren recall thinned out the Triple-A rotation in a hurry. They still have D.J. Mitchell, Ramon Ortiz, and John Maine in their regular spots and could pull Nelson Figueroa and Mike O’Connor out of the bullpen, but moving Nuno up should also be a serious consideration. He’s an older guy (25 next month) the Yankees plucked out of an independent league last season and he’s done nothing but dominate since joining the organization: 154 strikeouts (8.1 K/9 and 22.8 K%) and just 32 walks (1.7 BB/9 and 4.7 BB%) in 171 innings. Nuno has been stellar since moving into the Double-A rotation last month, allowing just four earned runs in 40.1 innings across seven starts. The Yankees lack left-handers in the system and moving Nuno up gives them a chance to evaluate him at the highest possible level.
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Last month I wrote about the idea of promoting Mason Williams based mostly on his insane contact rates, though I could see it going either way. I would understand if they bumped him up to Tampa or kept him in Charleston, there are viable reasons to do both. Sanchez and Austin are the definite promotions though, ditto Montgomery. The four (really six) moves listed above seem like the most logical ones to make this July.
Mark Montgomery | RHP
A standout player at Bruton High School in Williamsburg, Virginia, Montgomery set a school record by striking out 107 batters in 60 IP as a senior. He was named to the All-District Team his final three years with the Panthers, and was also named to the All-State and All-Region Teams as a senior. Team MVP and Player of the Year honors from the Virginia Gazette and All-Daily Press followed his final year. He also ran track. Montgomery wasn’t much of a pro prospect at the time though, so he went undrafted in 2009 and headed to Longwood University.
Baseball America posted some Draft Report Cards today (subs. req’d), including the Yankees. It’s not a report card in the sense that they hand out grades, instead they run through different categories like Best Pure Hitter (Dante Bichette Jr.), Best Fastball (Zach Arneson and Phil Wetherell), and Best Late-Round Pick (Dan Camarena).
Mark Montgomery, this year’s 11th rounder, is said to have the Best Secondary Pitch, “a slider that grades as major league plus already.” A college reliever from Longwood University in Virginia, Montgomery struck out 51 of the 124 batters he faced in his pro debut this summer (41.1%, a 16.2 K/9), and even whiffed five in one inning at one point. The Yankees have done a really nice job of turning double-digit picks into bullpen fodder in recent years, and Montgomery looks to be the next in line. He needs to jump to Double-A relatively soon though, you’re not going to learn anything about him against Single-A kids with that slider.
I cut back on the trade deadline stuff this morning, we’ve spent enough time discussing it already this week so I tried to mix things up a bit. Remember to use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar if you want to send in your questions.
Anthony asks: Would you hesitate to trade Phil Hughes? He’s been on the Yankees since 2007 and hasn’t really been the starting pitcher that was hyped to be the next Roger Clemens.
Wasn’t it Jorge Posada that called him the next Clemens? Maybe it was Jason Giambi. Whoever it was, it wasn’t me. Just kinda reaffirms my stance that players generally have no clue what the hell they’re talking about, they’re terrible when it comes to analysis.
Anyway, no I wouldn’t hesitate trade Hughes but I wouldn’t just give him away. He’s struggling and just doesn’t look right physically, but I wouldn’t cut bait entirely out of frustration. That’s how you wind up with a bunch of middle relievers and two months of Edwin Jackson. The problem is that Hughes’ value is down, way down, so you’d be selling low on him. He’s not cheap ($2.7M salary this year) and he’s only under team control for two more years, so all that stuff that made him so desirable two or three years ago doesn’t really apply anymore. I’d trade anyone, but I’m generally opposed to selling low on young players.
Matt asks: What’s the deal with Jordan Parraz? Is he a legitimate prospect? He seems to be having a good year. What puts him behind Dickerson and Golson?
Parraz is a legitimate prospect, though he’s not any kind of future star. He’s the kind of guy you’ll find just outside a typical top 30 list. When Baseball America ranked him as the Royals’ 19th best prospect before last season, they said he was a “gap-to-gap hitter with below-average usable power, even though he shows above-average power in batting practice.” They lauded his defense, citing his 70 arm and ability to play center fielder. He’s having a very nice year with Triple-A Scranton, a .367 wOBA with 8.6% walks and a .146 ISO, showing that he can more than hold his own against upper level pitching.
Chris Dickerson and Greg Golson are ahead of him on the depth chart right now only because they’re on the 40-man roster. Both of those guys (as well as Justin Maxwell) will be out-of-options next year and likely gone, so I figure Parraz will step in as the up-and-down outfielder. He’s fringy, but he’s on par with Dan Brewer and a useful piece in moderation.
Anonymous asks: How legit of a prospect is Mark Montgomery, the “K” machine?
The Yankees’ 11th round pick this year, Montgomery is a righty reliever from Longwood University in Virginia. He struck out 48 in 30.1 IP for the Lancers this spring, and so far as a pro he has 28 strikeouts in 14.1 IP. Although he’s just 5-foot-11 and 205 lbs., Montgomery misses bats with two power pitches: a 91-92 mph fastball that has touched 94 in the past, and a low-to-mid-80′s slider that’s allergic to bats. That’s the pitch he uses to rack up all those whiffs.
The best case scenario, I mean if you really squint your eyes and dream, Montgomery does have some David Robertson in him as a short power reliever, though his slider is unlikely to be as effective against lefties as Robertson’s curve. Relievers with power stuff that have a history of missing bats are prospects, for sure, but we’re not going to know much about him until he gets to Double-A. Single-A hitters have no chance against a college reliever with that kind of stuff.
Louis asks: Given the fact that Clayton Kershaw is younger than Felix Hernandez and a lefty, would he theoretically be worth more in a trade? His peripherals this year are insane and even in the past have been pretty comparable to King Felix.
Yeah, I think Kershaw has more trade value than Felix right now. He’s considerably cheaper at the moment since he has yet to hit his arbitration-eligible years, and he’s under team control through 2014 compared to 2015 for Hernandez. The lower cost (Felix gets $18M+ starting next year) pretty much offsets the one fewer year of team control.
A case can be made that Kershaw is the best pitcher in baseball right now, especially since he’s chopped his walk rate from 4.79 BB/9 in 2009 to just 2.36 this year. He’s just 23 years old and strikes out more than ten men per nine innings with two elite pitches (mid-90′s fastball and power curve) and two other very good offerings (slider and changeup). If I’m building my rotation from scratch right now, he’d be the guy I’d build it around. And no, the Dodgers aren’t going to trade him. Even with their uncertain ownership and financial situation, Kershaw is still so cheap that’ll be able to afford him for at least another year or two.
Reggie asks: Jon Heyman played mouth piece for Boras again Tuesday morning by reporting that Carlos Pena will almost assuredly get traded. Do you think the NYY are a fit for a clear salary dump? Posada hasn’t hit for power or contact, and though Pena has contact issues, he does hit for power. Pena could hit 10-12 homers down the stretch. But that Montero guy…
Pena had a brutal start to the season, missed some time with a hand injury, and since May 3rd he’s hit .236/.346/.516 with 20 homers. That’s pretty much the guy we’ve seen over the last few years, a dead pull hitter that will draw a lot walks and hit the ball out of the park while failing to hit for average. He’s legitimately a platoon guy, with a .371 wOBA against righties this year but just .247 against lefties. That split is pretty typical of his entire career.
I’m certain the Cubs would love to unload him and whatever money is left on his $10M salary, and he’s definitely an upgrade over Jorge Posada. I highly doubt anything will happen though, and as you alluded too, the Yankees do have a big bat waiting in Triple-A if they want a change at DH. Jesus Montero isn’t a lefty like Pena, but he might as well be with the way he drives the ball to right field. The Yankees need to focus on pitching, the offense will score plenty of runs.
Robbie asks: With Manny Banuelos struggling with his command this year, is it reasonable to assume that he won’t be in the starting rotation in 2012? I remember reading a while back that you had hoped him to come into the ML rotation next year.
Assuming he finishes out the year the way he’s been pitching all season, I still think we’ll see him at some point in 2012. Without having the slightest idea of what the starting rotation will look like eight months from now, I assume Banuelos (and Dellin Betances) will get long looks in Spring Training like Chien-Ming Wang did in 2005. They’ll probably head to Triple-A to start the year, but like Wang back then, they’ll be first in line for a call-up whenever a starter is needed. That’s assuming neither one is traded between now and then.
Banuelos hasn’t had a great year but his situation is like Montero’s, he’s basically a victim of his own talent. He was so good last year and the year before that when he didn’t perform to that level this year, it was considered a disappointment. Remember, Banuelos is still just 20 years old, and he’s striking out a batter an inning in Double-A. If he had been born in the U.S. and had gone to college, he’d be a sophomore and draft-eligible next summer. He’s way ahead of the development curve, and the “down” year doesn’t change much as far as expectations going forward. Maybe it just slows the fast track slightly, but that’s it.