One has to wonder when Joe Girardi will use this signal to bring out Mark Montgomery someday. (Image: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports)

Mark Montgomery: The Future Closer of the Yankees?

If there’s anything that the Arizona Fall League had shown us, it’s that the New York Yankees should have confidence in finding a closer. Once Mariano Rivera decides to call it quits, the Yankees hopefully will have bred Mark Montgomery for that role. What we’ve seen from Montgomery, not only in the fall league, but in his two years in the minor leagues, have been nothing but impressive results. At 22, Montgomery has saved 30 games between A, A+ and Double-A and the highest his ERA has been is 2.25. He’s been spectacular in his relief role in the minors, so it makes you wonder what he’ll be doing up here someday. 

Montgomery was ranked the number one relief prospect inside the Yankees organization just a few days ago; so that right there tells you he’s good.  Montgomery has shown promise in nearly all aspects of pitching. The fact that he’s flying by Double-A and will more than likely be in Triple-A sometime in 2013 gives the Yankees more to work with, especially with a bullpen that tailed somewhat off this season.

Obviously Montgomery is not major league ready, but may soon find himself on the 40-man roster. What’s the most impressive thing about him is his increased K/9 (13.61 to 14.25) and his decreasing BB/9 (3.57 to 2.25) between A+ and Double-A. He’s been compared heavily to David Robertson in most regards, but will eventually find his own identity once he’s up in the bigs.

His slider has been marked as one of his best pitches, if not one of the best in the minors. Montgomery has a pretty decent four-seam fastball that touches up to 95 mph and a two-seamer that he’s been working with. Also, Montgomery features a change-up, which remains to be a work in progress. Much like Rivera’s distinction with his cutter, perhaps someday batters will fear Montgomery for his slider.

In 2012, Montgomery got his first taste of Double-A baseball. In his time there, he pitched 24 innings in 15 games while retaining a 3-1 record with one save, an ERA of 1.88 and had 38 strikeouts. It’s not inconceivable to say at some point they may have him start in Double or even Triple-A, but once he gets to the majors, I think he’ll see a more definitive role.

What the Yankees want to avoid doing to Montgomery is what they did to Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain – starting, then relief, then starting or vice versa if we’re talking about Chamberlain. These changes in a short amount of time really messed with these guys in the sense that they didn’t have a solidified job in either the rotation or bullpen, but they’ve been able to bounce back after some rough times. What the Yankees are currently doing with David Phelps, however, seems to be working as he is that spot-start stopgap guy. I’d recommend we avoid this road with Montgomery.

When it’s all said and done, is Montgomery going to usher in a new age of closing someday in New York? I’d like to think so because the chances of it happening are actually rather high. He’s shown us nothing but impressive appearances and even his time in the Arizona Fall League this season just backed up his outings during the regular season. He’s definitely someone the Yankees may have struck gold on, at least in terms of the future of this bullpen.

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