Today’s an off day and what better way to spend it then discussing the recent trade between the Chicago Cubs and Seattle Mariners. The Cubs sent off 1B/DH Dan Vogelbach and RHP Paul Blackburn in return for LHP Mike Montgomery and RHP Jordan Pries.
We’ll spend this post focusing on the more prominent name in Montgomery. Mike was drafted out of high school in the supplemental round (36th overall) of the 2008 draft when the Royals lost free agent David Riske to the Brewers (side note: Riske went on to give up 41 runs in 66.2 innings with the Brewers before getting run out of baseball).
Mike progressed quickly through the minors reaching AA by age 20 and AAA by age 21. Here’s how the prospect world viewed him during the those years:
Pre-2010: Rated #39 Prospect
Pre-2011: Rated #19 Prospect
Pre-2012: Rated #23 Prospect
Prospect Ratings by MLB.com:
Pre-2012: Rated #31 Prospect
Prospect Ratings by BaseballProspectus.com:
Pre-2010: Rated #36 Prospect
Pre-2011: Rated #21 Prospect
Montgomery dominated the low minors. While Mike still progressed to AA and AAA, his FIP skyrocketed as he rose through the Royals system. He posted a 4.88 FIP in AAA in 2011 with his K/9 down to 7.71 and BB/9 jumped to 4.12 where we was previously around 8 K/9 and 2 BB/9.
That trend continued in 2012 and the Royals traded him along with Jake Odorizzi and Will Myers to the Tampa Bay Rays for Wade Davis and James Shields. 2013 wasn’t much better in the Rays organization, but things started to turn around a little bit.
*I’d have normally done FIP but BR does have FIP for the MiLB and FG doesn’t summarize by year.
Here’s what Sickels had to say when he saw him back in 2011 (the first year he started to struggle):
In that inning, Montgomery’s fastball was 90-92 MPH, thrown high in the zone with little movement. His slider was flat, and he was telegraphing his curveball; you could tell it was going to be the curve before he released it. He was fooling nobody, his location was off, and he gave up the four runs. However, in the second inning, and for the rest of the game, he looked like a different pitcher. His fastball kicked up to 91-93, with life low in the strike zone. His slider got much sharper, he did a better job selling the curveball, and he mixed in some solid changeups.
For a bigger summation of various scouting reports, the Royals Review blog over at SB Nation did a good job here.
Prior to 2015 the Rays traded Montgomery to the Mariners for RHP Erasmo Ramirez. He broke into the majors in 2015 starting 16 games with a 4.67 FIP. The Mariners put him in the bullpen in 2016 where he’s had much better success to the tune of 7.88 K/9 | 2.63 BB/9 | 3.20 FIP. Specifically, he has a .241 wOBA against left handed batters so far in 20 innings and 78 batters faced.
Baseball America rated his changeup the best in the Royals system in 2011 and 2012. However, so far in 2016 his changeup usage is down to 9.1% compared to 20.4% in his 16 major league starts in 2015. He changeup in 2015 was actually his worst pitch in 2015 with a -3.1 runs above average. He’s throwing more fastballs and curveballs with fewer cutters and changeups. He fastball velocity is up to 93.4 compared to 90.9 as a starter.
This is all to say, well, I have no freaking clue what to expect for him. From the scouting reports I’ve read, no one can put a finger on why Montgomery struggled for years. He doesn’t have an injury history. I’m sure Chris Bosio will get his hands on him and hopefully do his magic. I don’t think he will be Clayton Richard bad which is a plus. He does have some upside and the pedigree. Don’t forget that not too long ago Andrew Miller was a failed starting pitcher. Crazier things have happened.