The Call Up: Jordan Montgomery

Jordan Montgomery wasn’t supposed to be the Yankees’ fifth starter. Sure, he was part of the competition in spring training, but others appeared to be more serious and qualified candidates. After all, Montgomery wasn’t on the 40-man roster, had only thrown 37 innings in Triple-A, and there were other options with major league experience. Nonetheless, he overcame those roadblocks and was named the fifth starter this week. Today, he’ll make his major league debut at Yankee Stadium against the Rays. What should we expect this year and down the road?

What the scouts say:

Montgomery isn’t an upper echelon prospect, but apparently a safe bet to be a productive major leaguer. Based on publically available scouting reports on Fangraphs (Eric Logenhagen) and MLB.com (Jim Callis/Jonathan Mayo), the former fourth-round pick has or will have at least four average or better pitches along with average command:

A couple of relevant excerpts (from Fangraphs and MLB.com Yankees prospect lists):

He’s a low-risk No. 4 or 5 starter for me with a chance to be a solid 50 [on the 20-80 scale] on inning-eating volume or if the changeup develops past my projections.
— Eric Logenhagen, Fangraphs
A good athlete, Montgomery repeats his clean delivery well, which allows him to locate his pitches where he wants. He’s a safe bet to become a back-of-the-rotation starter, and if his newfound velocity is for real, he could be more than that.
— MLB.com

That’s pretty good! It’s not an ace profile by any means, but having a safe bet to be a back-of-the-rotation innings eater is incredibly valuable. Clearly, given the arsenal he possesses and impression in spring training, the Yankees don’t feel like he needs any more time in the minors. There's no reason to wait any longer if he is the best option now.

What the projections say:

2017 projections aren’t enamored with Montgomery. Assuming a league average ERA similar to last season (3.99), both systems expect him to be a quite a bit below average. ZiPS foresees a 4.87 ERA/4.76 FIP and Steamer is slightly more rosy at a 4.65 ERA/4.77 FIP. That being said, he projects far better than Luis Cessa and Bryan Mitchell, two hurlers he beat out for the fifth spot:

ZiPS

  • Green: 4.69 ERA/4.53 FIP
  • Cessa: 5.33 ERA/5.12 FIP
  • Mitchell: 5.74 ERA/5.43 FIP
  • Warren: 4.24 ERA/4.31 FIP

Steamer

  • Green: 4.29 ERA/4.27 FIP
  • Cessa: 4.83 ERA/4.80 FIP
  • Mitchell: 4.69 ERA/4.77 FIP
  • Warren: 4.47 ERA/4.57 FIP

He’s not far off from Chad Green either, who he also surpassed. Ultimately, while the short-term forecasts aren’t big fans of Montgomery, it’s not like they project him to be awful. A mid-to-high 4 ERA pitcher, especially a rookie, can survive in the back of the rotation. 

Let’s turn to long-term projections. At 3.6 KATOH and 3.2 KATOH+ projected WAR in his first six seasons, Montgomery falls just outside of baseball's top-100 prospects. I spoke to Chris Mitchell, proprietor of KATOH, to get a better understanding of the system’s evaluation of the Yankees’ newest pitcher. Here's his synopsis:

Montgomery induced a healthy amount of strikeouts in the upper levels last year while also keeping his walks in check [which KATOH likes]. He doesn’t project to be anything special, as 24 year-old pitchers with merely good minor league numbers aren’t exactly rare. But six-foot-four starters who master Triple-A often stick in the big leagues in some capacity.
— Chris Mitchell, Fangraphs

If you're scratching your head at what seems like a low WAR projection from KATOH, I understand. On the forefront, it sounds bearish, but don't get hung up on it just yet. Chris noted that KATOH tends to favor hitters in the KATOH Top-100 prospect list:

Primarily, it’s just that even the best pitching prospects are risky. They get hurt; they lose velocity; they move to bullpen — all with little notice. Even the pitchers who do pan out are less likely to sustain their success over several years than their hitting counterparts.
— Chris Mitchell, Fangraphs

That makes plenty of sense. It's as if pitchers get an across the board demerit just because of the position they play, so keep that in mind for Montgomery's forecast.

Further, Chris sent me Mahalanobis comps for Montgomery. This list contains past pitchers with similar statistical profiles to Montgomery in the minor leagues and shows how those pitchers performed. It's not a precise comp, as no one would compare Kevin Correia (a righty) to Montgomery (a lefty). It's meant as an exercise that depicts an array of potential outcomes for pitchers with similar historic projections. Note: the smaller the “Maha distance”, the closer the comp.

No, there aren't any sexy names in this group, but a couple of them carved out a few solid seasons in major league rotations, particularly Shawn Estes and Wade Miller. I'd sign up for what either of those two did in their early careers. Take a look at their player pages; what they did might surprise you.

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Montgomery probably won’t be a stud according to both traditional scouting and analytics. Nonetheless, it’s evident that he’s capable of being a reliable number four or five starter, potentially right away. And with a low risk profile, it doesn’t sound like his odds of failing are high. It should be fun to watch his debut this afternoon in the Bronx.

Game 7 Quick Recap: A sound victory in the home opener

Glorious would be the best way to describe the weather in the Bronx for today's home opener. It would also be an apt description of how the Yankees played this afternoon. Thought it was a close score for much of the game, the Yankees soundly defeated the Rays, 8-1. I didn't have as much time as I thought I would to recap this afternoon's affair, so I'm going to have to keep this one short. Too bad I can't do today's weather or performance justice, but alas, bullet points will have to do:

  • Michael Pineda was outstanding this afternoon. He was perfect two outs into the seventh inning when Evan Longoria's double broke up his bid with history. Pineda would finish the game with the following line: 7.2 IP, 2 hits, 1 run (a Logan Morrison homer), 0 walks, and 11 strikeouts on 94 pitches. Big Mike lived up to his moniker, that's for sure. Per Game Score, this was Pineda's best outing of his career (84). More of this please, Pineda. 
  • #TooManyHomeRuns. Aaron Judge, Chase Headley, and Starlin Castro all went deep this afternoon. Judge's was a majestic arching blast to left against Cobb that I actually thought he got under a tad. Statcast dictated otherwise, but regardless: his power is absurd.
  • Brett Gardner swiped two bags today and now has five already this season. After stealing only 16 bases last season, this is a nice development.
  • Other Notes:
    • Kyle Higashioka made his big league debut, replacing Austin Romine in the field.
    • Gary Sanchez will be out for 4 weeks. If all goes well, we'll see him again in early May.
    • Chasen Shreve was optioned to Triple-A after the game to make way for Jordan Montgomery, who will start on Wednesday in his major league debut. Exciting!

The Yankees are off tomorrow. They have another matinee on Wednesday against Tampa Bay. As noted, Jordan Montgomery will make his major league debut. Blake Snell will be his opponent.

Podcast Episode 82: Gary Sanchez Injury, Jordan Montgomery

Domenic and EJ discuss a busy first week of the 2017 season. They discuss the injuries to Gary Sanchez and James Kaprielian, Michael Pineda's stellar Monday performance, Jordan Montgomery's impending call-up, and Aaron Judge's start. 

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Game # 7 -- HOME OPENER -- Rays (5-2) vs Yanks (2-4)

So far this season the Yanks are responsible for half of the Rays losses!

RAYS                                    YANKS

Dickerson, DH                      Gardner, LF

Keirmaier, CF                       Ellsbury, CF

Longoria, 3B                        Holliday, DH

Miller, 2B                              Carter, 1B

Souza, Jr, RF                        Castro, 2B

Morrison, 1B                         Headley, 3B

Norris, C                              Judge, RF

Smith, LF                             Romine, C

Beckham, SS                       Torreyes, SS

Cobb, P                                Pineda, P

TV on YES and MLBN -- probably some juicey station in Tampa, FL
 

 

 

 

Games # 6 -- Yanks (1-4) vs Os (4-0)

It's hard to imagine the Yanks playing worse without Sanchez. So far the offense, defense, SP, and relief pitching have all been sub-par and must improve immediately. Today we'll see if Hundred Hundred can be the stopper again!  Bird sits. Ells sits. Judge stands! Romine squats.

YANKS                                  OREOS

Gardner, LF                          Gentry, LF

Hicks, CF                              Jones, CF

Holliday, DH                         Machado, 3B

Carter, 1B                              Trumbo, RF

Castro, 2B                             Davis, 1B

Headley, 3B                           Mancinin, DH

Judge, RF                             Schoop, 2B

Romine, C                             Hardy, SS

Torreyes, SS                          Joseph, C

Sabathia, P                            Miley, P

Game on YES.

 

 

        

 

Game 5 Recap: Two losses in one game

Like yesterday, I'm going to keep this recap short and to the point. Also like yesterday, the Yankees lost a frustrating game to the Orioles. This time, the final was 5-4.

The Yankees blew a lead for a second straight night, but the more worrisome aspect of this afternoon’s matchup was the departure of Gary Sanchez. Sure, Masahiro Tanaka struggled with his command again and Dellin Betances squandered a one run lead, but the health of Sanchez is more important. The Yankees’ catcher was placed on the disabled list with a strained bicep that he suffered on a vicious swing in the fifth inning. While Sanchez is on the 10-day DL, Kyle Higashioka will take his roster spot and presumably serve as Austin Romine’s caddy.

Tomorrow, the Yankees (1-4) look to avoid a sweep in Baltimore (4-0). CC Sabathia can be the stopper in his second start of the year. His opponent will be fellow southpaw Wade Miley. First pitch is scheduled for 1:35pm.

Game # 5 -- Yanks (1-3) vs Os (3-0)

The Yanks need Tanaka to be himself today. Bird & Judge benched!

YANKS                                OREOS

Gardner, LF                        Smith, RF

Sanchez, C                         Jones, CF

Holliday, DH                       Machado, 3B

Carter, 1B                            Davis, 1B

Ellsbury, CF                         Trumbo, DH

Castro, 2B                           Castillo, C

Headley, 3B                         Kim, LF

Hicks, RF                             Scoop, 2B

Torreyes, SS                        Hardy, SS

Tanaka, P                            Gausman, P

Game on FS1 & YES.

Game 4 Quick Recap: Yankees blow four run lead, lose 6-5 to Orioles

It's Friday night, so let's keep this recap short. The Yankees fell to the Orioles at Camden Yards, 6-5.

Up 5-1 mainly due to Matt Holliday and Gary Sanchez home runs, things felt fairly comfortable. Luis Severino was pitching well and the bullpen was fresh. Then, in the bottom of the fifth, Manny Machado launched a three-run homer against Severino to cut the lead to one. You're going to get beat by Machado, that happens. But walking the aggressive Adam Jones right before him, with two outs, is frustrating.

So it was 5-4. Bullpen is still strong enough to handle it, right? Joe Girardi had his formula lined up, but things when awry in the seventh. After a Chase Headley throwing error, Seth Smith took Tyler Clippard deep to put the Orioles on top, 6-5. That would be the final score, as the nasty duo of Brad Brach and Zach Britton shut the door for Baltimore.

The Yankees (1-3) and Orioles (3-0)  are back in action tomorrow at 4:05pm. Masahiro Tanaka faces Kevin Gausman.

Game # 4 -- Yanks (1-2) vs Os (2-0)

Yanks still looking for their first series win of the season. The Yankiddies will break out of their slumps tonight.

Yanks                                     Oreos

Gardner, LF                          Smith, LF

Sanchez, C                           Jones, CF

Bird, 1B                                 Machado, 3B

Holliday, DH                         Davis, DH

Ellsbury, CF                          Trumbo, DH

Castro, 2B                            Castillo, C

Headley, 3B                          Kim, RF

Judge, RF                             Schoop, 2B

Torreys, SS                            Hardy, SS

Severino, P                           Jimenez, P

Games on YES