Mark Montgomery is putting on quite the display in the minor leagues right now. Since signing quickly after the 2011 draft, Mark Montgomery has pitched 50 innings in the minor leagues. He has a robust 1.62 ERA, slightly below average 3.6 BB/9, and has still yet to allow a home run. But the real story here is about strikeouts. Montgomery has an insane 15.3 K/9 in the minor leagues.
The obvious comparison to draw is David Robertson. He took the minor leagues by storm five minutes after being drafted. But even still, he was never as dominant with strikeouts as Montgomery has been so far. Robertson’s had career rates of 3.6 BB/9 and 12.7 K/9 – borderline pedestrian compared with Montgomery – and was consistent across all minor league levels. David Robertson is a special pitcher, but what Montgomery is doing is definitely unique.
Montgomery’s scouting report is similar to Robertson’s as well. Like Robertson, he owns a low-90s sneaky fastball with a little cut to it, plus a nasty breaking ball. Unlike Robertson, Montgomery’s breaking pitch is a slider. Its a little harder than Robertson’s curveball, but works to similar effect. Its been called an “unhittable” pitch since he was in college. I haven’t had a chance to see a good video of the pitch, but I’m sure its impressive.
If he even keeps up 80% of his pace, it won’t be long until Montgomery is in the major leagues. The Yankees moved Robertson up two levels per minor league season. Montgomery actually has a head start over Robertson – he was at low-A Charleston instead of High-A Tampa this time of year. If Montgomery follows the same pattern, he will finish 2012 playing for Double-A Trenton, start 2013 for Triple-A Scranton, and sit poised for a major league call up some time that season.
How much of that pace will he keep up? It is difficult to say, but we should note that Robertson himself maintained his K/BB numbers all throughout the low minor leagues and the major leagues. Its hard for hitters to adjust to pure stuff in such short appearances.
Getting excited about relief prospects is tough. Mark Melancon and David Robertson were the two biggest relief prospects in the Yankee system over the past decade. Many, many other relievers also showed major league potential, but few really stuck out as something special. Mark Montgomery clearly sticks out. It might not be all that long before we get to see a 1-2 punch of David Robertson and Mark Montgomery striking out batters in the late innings. That’s something to get excited about.
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