If the Yankees are good at developing one type of prospect it is relief pitchers. There have been several recent success stories, and there are a few good relief prospects on the brink of a promotion to the major leagues. One guy who is closer than you might think is Mark Montgomery. He has only made nine appearances in Double-A so far this season, but he has mowed down batters ever since being drafted. Montgomery has already drawn comparisons to David Robertson, not so much because of his stuff but more because of his utter dominance of the minor leagues thus far in his career. Like Robertson, he also gets great extension on all of his pitches.
Montgomery was drafted in the 11th round of the 2011 draft, last year. Since being drafted he has already moved across four levels in two years, and trust me he has earned every promotion along the way. Last season he struck out a whopping 51 batters in just 28.1 innings pitched. Thats good for a 16.1 K/9 rate. It’s not just strikeouts either, as his ERA was just 1.91 for the season. He did walk 13 batters, but his K:BB ratio was about 4:1, so I think I can forgive him. He gave up 20 hits and recorded 15 saves.
This year, if you can believe it, Montgomery has actually improved his performance. He’s gone 54.1 innings and struck out 83 batters. His K/9 is a measley 13.8, a ridiculous sum. Better yet, he’s cut his walk rate from 4.16/9 innings to 3.1/9 and his ERA for the season is just 1.66. His K:BB rate this season is 4.4:1. He was named to the High-A FSL midseason all-stars for his strong work.
Usually we start the scouting report with the fastball. In Montgomery’s case, his best pitch is far and away his slider so we’ll begin with that. So far in his career, no on can touch it. Scouts feel that this will continue on into his major league career, because the slider is that good. He sits at around 85 mph with this pitch and he commands it well. He throws it different ways as well. He is actually able to control the break. If he wants to get someone to swing at a pitch outside the zone, he increases the break.
It’s funny to talk about a fastball in the secondary pitches, but that’s Montgomery for you. The fastball is a perfect complement to the slider. He throws a four-seamer at 93-95 mph with some good late movement on it. His command with the fastball isn’t as good as the slider, but he’s gotten better in just one season. He also throws a two-seamer but his control is spotty with it. He’s developing a changeup as well, but doesn’t use it in games yet.
The ceiling and floor are actually pretty easy. His ceiling is a major league caliber closer. The floor is a Mark Melancon-esque flame out. He will at the very least play in the major leagues though, and that alone is a big deal for any 11th round selection.
His estimated time of arrival with the Yankees would be next season. Some are calling for a promotion in September, but I think that would be a bit hasty. In fact it may not be until next September that he gets his chance. If he pitches as well in Triple-A next season as he has this season all bets are off though. Depending on Mariano’s leg, Soriano’s contract, and Joba’s health, he could be an integral piece of the bullpen.
Mark Montgomery has been a fantastic late round find for the Yankees. He has soared above and beyond all possible expectations, and he’s looking ready for the next level. Yankees fans can look forward to seeing him as soon as next season, and hopefully that slider will be making knees buckle and backs break all across the AL East in the near future.