Montgomery has been embarrassing lower level hitters since making his professional debut last season, but he was downright dominant last month. Pitching 14.1 innings over 11 appearances, Montgomery allowed just one run in that span on six hits three walks while striking out an eye-popping 26 opposing batters. That translates to a 0.64 ERA and 16.7 K/9! For the season as a whole, Montgomery has pitched to a 1.35 ERA and 1.21 FIP with a strikeout to walk ratio of 43:9 in his first 26.2 innings of High-A ball, making it easy to see why most observers expect Montgomery to be on the receiving end of a call up to Double-A sooner rather than later.
Obviously it’s Montgomery’s gaudy strikeout numbers that make you stand up and take notice of his performance to this point in his very young career, but Montgomery’s approach to racking up all of those punch outs is surprisingly simple. “I just try to go at hitters and get ahead with my fastball and then try to get that strikeout or bury them with my slider,” is how Montgomery described his mode of attack to me last week. “I have the mentality that I’m going to make you prove to me that you can hit my pitches.”
So far, not very many hitters have been able to prove that they can hit those pitches, especially Montgomery’s slider, which draws raves from scouts and evaluators for it’s downward movement and has already been described as a major league plus pitch by some. For his part, Montgomery attributes the pitch to his experimenting with different grips in his freshman year of college but, though he does have an “unorthodox” grip of sorts, thinks that most of the execution on the pitch is attributable to arm slot and arm speed, which allows him to get that good late break on the pitch that makes it look almost like a splitter to some.
Obviously it’s hard not to notice the distinct similarities between Montgomery and the Yankees’ current All-Star setup man, David Robertson, and Montgomery does not shy away from those comparisons. “We’re both said to have sneaky fastballs, we both have similar body types,” is how Montgomery relays the similarities between the two, before telling about how he got to spend some time with Robertson in Spring Training. “If I could end up being as good as he’s been pitching, I’d be grateful.”
So far, so good for Montgomery, who has amassed piles of strikeouts everywhere he’s gone in the pros so far, which is good because Tampa is his the third team he’s pitched for in the last three years after brief tours with Staten Island and Charleston in 2011. For his part, Montgomery doesn’t mind all of the changes, and even thinks it may be a positive for his development. “I think if anything it’s beneficial, because you’re learning to adapt and adjust to new surroundings and things like that. So I think it can only help.” From a fan’s standpoint that’s certainly nice to hear, because there’s a very good chance that Montgomery will be adding a fourth stop to his whirlwind tour of the Yankees’ minor league system before long, perhaps even before the next installment of this feature.