Scouting Report: LHP, Jordan Montgomery

The Yankees drafted left-handed pitcher Jordan Montgomery in the fourth round of the 2014 MLB Draft out of the University of South Carolina. One of the most consistent pitchers in the heralded SEC Conference during his three-year college career, he enters the professional ranks with advanced pitch-ability and with some ceiling left in his game too.

[Photo by Robert Pimpsner]

Vital Statistics:
Name: Jordan Montgomery
Position: Pitcher
DOB: December 27, 1992
Height: 6'4"
Weight: 225
Bats: Left
Throws: Left

All he did at the University of South Carolina was post a career 20-7 mark with a 2.88 ERA for the Gamecocks and allow less hits than innings pitched, and followed it up with a solid professional debut in Staten Island, posting a 3.38 ERA in seven games for the Yankees.

"It was a good summer," he said. "I kind of settled in to a new system and a new rotation, [learning] how to bounce back in five days instead of seven. Basically the days was the hardest to get used to, the time needed to recover caught me a little off-guard."

Like any new situation it was a process. But standing 6-foot-4 and weighing 225 pounds, and not being a max-effort pitcher at all, he quickly adapted to the quicker turnaround time in between starts. He also instantly learned some differences between the collegiate and professional game from a nuance standpoint.

"I learned a lot but probably not getting into any pattern pitching where the batter knows what I'm doing, not going to the same pitch over and over in the same situations, mixing it up a bit more, that's the biggest thing I learned," admitted.

Translation? It meant not going to his plus changeup nearly as often as he did in college.

"My go-to pitch is my changeup," he said. "I've got pretty good feel with it, it's got movement, it's a good 12 mph slower than my fastball, and I'm pretty good at putting it where I want. It's more arm-side [movement] and it drops off a little bit."

Depending on which scout one talks to in regards to Montgomery's changeup, it either grades out as a plus pitch or a plus-plus pitch, it's that good and he has that much faith in it. But as any burgeoning professional pitcher has learned over the years, to become an impact pitcher at the highest level you have to have a consistent breaking pitch too.

"I just learned my slider recently, maybe at the beginning of the summer," he revealed. "I was throwing a cutter and it wasn't where I wanted it to be so I switched to something with a bigger break so I have an extra tool to lefties. It's something that will move away from them instead of going in. It's still kind of hard, I just wanted a bigger break."

He was throwing his cutter in the 86-87 mph range but it wasn't all that effective against lefties. His new slider, one that hasn't really been game-tested just yet, sits 82-85 mph so it has the desired velocity and Montgomery is hoping he has found the biggest piece in his developmental puzzle.

"Be better against lefties, definitely," he listed as his biggest goal for the 2015 season. "I think the slider is going to help me out this year. For some reason I've always been more comfortable throwing against righties than to lefties.

"I love throwing my changeup to righties but I think being able to pinpoint the slider and throw [more] lefty-lefty changeups -- I've always been told if a lefty can get a lefty out then you aren't doing much. I feel that I should do a lot better against them going forward."

If he can find that elusive consistent breaking ball and make it even half as effective as his great changeup he could begin to tap some of his considerable ceiling. Also, as big as he is and not one to muscle up in his delivery, there is some thought he could eventually add a tick or two to his current average big league fastball.

Averaging 88-92 mph with his fastball, he mirrors current Yankee left-handed pitching prospect and former University of South Carolina alum Tyler Webb, albeit Montgomery being the starting pitching version.

"Yeah definitely," Montgomery said of the comparison. "When I came into school as a freshman he was definitely one of the guys I picked the brain of and kind of learned his mentality. I got his mentality from his pitching coach who gave it to him basically. We definitely go after batters the same."

With nearly identical repertoires and physical traits, he has seen Webb's meteoric rise through the minor leagues despite not being a true power pitcher and it gives Montgomery a lot of faith that he too could have a lot of similar success going forward.

"Yeah, he's been giving me some pointers and some tips as to what to expect at each level, and telling me not to freak out too much and that I can definitely get the hitters out, that I'm good enough to get them out basically."

While the temptation could be to put Montgomery in a similar bullpen role and let him advance through the system quicker, Montgomery wants no part of it. He has a starter's mentality and he's not about to relinquish control on the mound.

"Definitely I'm a starter," he reiterated. "I like having control of the game. If a starter goes bad more than likely the game is not going to go good for that team and I like having that pressure, and knowing I'm going to be facing the batters three or four times and I get to get them out that many times."

He realizes that adding a consistent breaking pitch will absolutely be needed in order to stick to that kind of role long-term and he can't wait to get back to work to do just that.

"I've been doing pretty well without it [the breaking ball] but I think it's going to take my game to a whole new level, help me mix up batters even more.

"I'm sick and tired of twiddling my thumbs at home and working out everyday. I'm ready to get going," he concluded.

Year

Team

W-L

SV

IP

H

BB

SO

ERA

2014

Staten Island

1-0

0

13.1

11

4

15

3.38

2014

GCL Yankees2

0-1

0

5.2

5

2

5

4.76



Repertoire. Fastball, Changeup, Slider.

Fastball. Montgomery throws two quality big league fastballs, a solid sinking two-seamer and a four-seam fastball, both of which will average anywhere from 88-92 mph. He basically throws the four-seamers into right-handed batters and uses the two-seamer to paint the outside corner against them. He has excellent control of his fastball and he gets some deception with his fastball with a loose delivery from a rather large frame. Able to hit 94 mph with his four-seamer at times, there could be some untapped power potential too given his size so it would not be surprising to see another tick or two added in the coming years as he throws more.

Other Pitches. Montgomery's success stems from his plus-plus changeup. Forgetting for a moment that it is a full twelve miles per hour slower than his fastball and that it shows a lot of late movement and depth, the fact that it mirrors his fastball delivery-wise and that he can throw it wherever he wants makes it one of the better pitches around. He will throw it to righties and lefties alike, it doesn't matter. As good as his changeup is, however, his breaking ball arsenal is nearly the polar opposite. He throws both a curveball and a slider, neither of which grade out remotely close to average at this point. The curveball is more of a show-me pitch right now just to give batters a look at something different and the slider is so new that he can count on one hand how many times he's thrown it in games. The slider shows the better potential right now given it's depth and 82-85 mph velocity.

Pitching. Montgomery defines the term 'crafty lefty' because he can paint the strike zone with an array of big league average fastballs and changeups, and he's all about mixing up speeds and locations. With a very easy pitching motion and given his natural size and stamina, he is also one who can pitch deep into games [he hasn't yet because of his innings limit in his debut season], especially given his efficiency due to his strike-throwing ability, and he is adept at limiting walks. He is a very good athlete too, one who can field his position well and repeat his delivery consistently, and hold down the running game. Throw in great makeup and a high level of competitiveness that is a signature trademark of SEC pitchers, he has the inner fire and work ethic desired by coaches.

Projection. With stellar fastball command and one plus-plus pitch in his changeup, as well as great size and innumerable intangibles, Montgomery has nearly all of the makings of a future starting pitcher someday, one who could slide in nicely in the middle to back-end of a big league rotation. However, fulfilling that kind of potential is also nearly entirely predicated on him further developing his slider into a reliable big league weapon, one that can help him against left-handed batters. If he can do that he will shoot up the prospect rankings and begin tapping some of his considerable ceiling. If he can't master the breaking ball though, he could struggle to find a role at the professional level long-term.

ETA. 2017. Montgomery will only move as fast as his slider develops. Should the breaking ball come quicker, he could really move up the minor leagues in a hurry since the rest of his game is big league ready right now. For now though, the Yankees may initially take it slower with him. Like Caleb Smith a year ago, the temptation may be to send Montgomery right to high-A Tampa to begin the season but the slower developing breaking ball might have him in Charleston to start and then begin to move up as the developing slider dictates.


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