With the battle for the final two spots of the New York Yankees rotation taking center stage, LHP Jordan Montgomery should be in the picture.
The 24-year-old was drafted in the fourth round of the 2014 First-Year Player Draft and was big-time during his collegiate days at South Carolina. He was the team’s No. 1 starter as a sophomore and junior (12-2, 2.53 ERA) and in five career NCAA tournament starts, the southpaw posted a 5-0 with a 0.93 ERA.
Over his four years playing in the Southeastern Conference, Montgomery went 20-7, maintained a stellar 2.87 ERA and struck out 286 over his 44 total games (42 starts).
Since his days of shutting down teams in college, however, he was never considered to have much of a ceiling and has been highly underestimated when compared to the rest of the pitchers throughout the Yankees’ system.
According to MLB Pipeline, Montgomery’s fastball was effective at 88-92 MPH in 2015 because it ran away and sunk with impeccable command as well. Then, in the same year, the velocity jumped to 91-94 with that same dip by August, giving it much needed detachment from his fading changeup. His arsenal also features an effective curveball and cut fastball.
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Overall in 2015, between Charlton and Tampa, the lefty went 10-8 with a 2.95 ERA including 11.3 strikeouts per nine innings in the South Atlantic league.
The following season, after striking out 97 batters in 19 starts at Double-A Tampa, Montgomery earned a promotion to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre where he thoroughly dominated the opposition.
Over six starts and 37 innings of work, Montgomery, who stands at a monstrous 6-foot-6, went 5-1 and registered a 0.91 ERA with 37 strikeouts. In four starts from Aug. 7 to Aug. 25, he went 4-0 and didn’t allow a single earned in during what was a 29.2-inning scoreless streak.
Montgomery capped off his unbelievable step-up in performance with a winning performance in the Triple-A National Championship game after allowing just one run on six hits without a walk in five innings.
Now, with not much left to do in the minor leagues for Montgomery, he enters camp somewhat disregarded as an option out of the gate because let’s be real, he’s not as ostentatious as any of the youngsters around him.
Chance Adams has only seen Double-A Trenton and while Dietrich Enns dominated in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre last season (1.52 ERA in 14 games/10 starts), there’s one aspect of his game that cannot compare to Montgomery: control.
Enns walked 3.7 batters per nine innings and maintained a 2.21 SO/BB ratio over his 135 total innings in 2016. Montgomery’s walk rate was just 2.9 last season. While James Kaprielian and Justus Sheffield have their upside, neither of the two have pitched an inning past High-A ball yet.
When looking at who’s the most major league ready right now, it’s Montgomery all the way.
All the focus is on Luis Severino, Chad Green, Luis Cessa, Bryan Mitchell and Adam Warren this spring, but a strong showcase by Montgomery can earn the lefty a spot when the Yankees open up the season in Tampa Bay on April 2.