2017- 9W- 7L, 3.88 ERA (4.07 FIP/ 4.45 xFIP), 8.34 K/9, 1.23 WHIP
Jordan Montgomery or self-nicknamed “Gumby” was, fortunately (for us fantasy players) held out of the limelight due to his fellow Yankee superstar Aaron Judge. While Judge unanimously won the Rookie of the Year award, Montgomery finished a measly 6th with only 1-second place vote and 1 third place vote. Despite the lack of love from voters, Montgomery was one of the top AL Rookies in 2018. He finished with a pitching line of 3.88 ERA (4.07 FIP/ 4.45 xFIP) and his 2.7 fWAR led all rookie pitchers. He finished with a respectable K/9 of 8.34 and WHIP of 1.23. His current Fantrax ADP is currently 232, and SP67, while NFBC ADP seems a bit lower on Montgomery with a 250 ADP. All-in-all, he will not be an expensive option on draft day.
According to Brooks Baseball, “Montgomery relies primarily on his curve (81 mph) and sinker (92), also mixing in a changeup (85), fourseam fastball (92) and slider (86).” Among his vast repertoire, there is no one pitch that truly shines for him, but instead, he excels with his secondary pitches all being above average. Montgomery’s Curveball (+10.3) was his best pitch according to FanGraphs Pitch values (0 is average), followed by his slider (+8.2) and then his changeup (+2.4). The 8.2 value on his changeup would rank it as the 10th best among pitchers with 150 innings, directly ahead of Chris Sale and Corey Kluber, while his +10.3 value curveball would place him 5th, in front of Clayton Kershaw and Carlos Carrasco.
While his fastball needs work still (-8), the secondary stuff played extremely well for the rookie. His batting average against on his secondary stuff was .205 vs. the change, .184 vs. the slider, and .172 vs. the curve. Even when they managed to get a hit vs his secondary stuff, none of his pitches had over a .350 SLG% against.
The 25-year-old lefty kept the hitter off balance and posted a 12.2% SwStr, which was 1.8% above average, which is a great sign for a rookie. He has potential to push his K/9 up to 9+ next season. Along with an above average SwStr rate, he posted an above average O-Swing% at 33.2% (3.3% above league average) and a contact % of 73.9% (3.6% above league average). Hitters struggle to make contact with Montgomery and when they finally manage to, it is typically not hard contact. Hard Contact% vs. Montgomery was the 6th lowest in the league (26.5%) and tied him with the great Max Scherzer.
While Montgomery lacks an ideal situation by playing within the confines of the homer-filled Yankee Stadium, I think it is important to point out that the AL East offenses are truly not what they use to be. In 2017, only the Orioles (10th) finished within the top 15 of team SLG%. The Red Sox were a shadow of themselves, finishing with a SLG% of .407 (26th). If you look at wRC+, you still have no team other than the Yankees in the top 10. The Rays are the closest at 13th with a 98 team wRC+.
While I love Montgomery, we still have some concerns, and what may immediately jump out is his tendency to allow fly balls. His 41.6 FB% is a touch more than I am comfortable with, and especially in a hitter’s paradise like Yankee Stadium. He allowed an alarming 11.2% FB/HR%, which conflicts with his minor league career in which his highest HR/FB% in a season was 5.2%. In Quality Starts leagues you may run into the issue with Montgomery regarding his stamina. In his 29 starts last season, Monty lasted 6+ innings in just 12 of them. This can perhaps be attributed to the Yankees elite bullpen, and Montgomery looking gassed as his pitches get to 90+. You’ll also need to keep an eye on the Yankees free agent moves; if they acquire another starting pitcher, it may leave Montgomery in the bullpen.
Overall, Montgomery looks to have the potential to post a 9 K/9 while securing a handful of wins in one of the AL’s best teams. This alone should give him a solid floor to build around. He has shown the stuff and tools to keep an ERA around 3.50-4.00 and a WHIP around 1.10-1.20, and we could even see him surpass those number if he can work on his fastball this off-season. I’m excited to try and acquire as many shares as possible with Montgomery, and especially at the 200+ ADP price.