Yankees: Why Jordan Montgomery’s improved fastball could be key to success of rotation

TAMPA, FLORIDA - MARCH 07: Jordan Montgomery #47 of the New York Yankees (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images)
TAMPA, FLORIDA - MARCH 07: Jordan Montgomery #47 of the New York Yankees (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images) /

The New York Yankees are entering the season as one of the favorites to emerge out of the American League, but if anything will keep the Bronx Bombers from reaching the MLB’s pinnacle in 2021, it will be a starting rotation that features a ton of question marks aside from Gerrit Cole. one of the few semi-know commodities in this rotation is left-hander Jordan Montgomery.

Last year, Montgomery didn’t look like the same potential ace he did during the 2017 season, as the COVID-19 shortened season and inability to really get into a groove contributed to an unsightly 5.11 ERA in 10 starts last season.

Montgomery has chosen to reinvent himself as more of a power pitcher this Spring Training, and the results have been astonishing. Montgomery, who used to sit in the low 90s despite a towering 6-6 frame, sat at around 92.5 mph on his fastball in a win against the Toronto Blue Jays, even touching as high as 94.5 mph.

Montgomery’s mentor, Joe Ross, detailed how Montgomery has improved from a 2018 cameo that saw him sit at around 90 mph, showing that he has almost completely put his Tommy John surgery behind him.

Jordan Montgomery will have a huge role in the Yankees’ rotation

“One, his arm is healthy,” Ross said. “Two, he’s probably in the best shape he’s ever been in. He looks really good right now.”

The Yankees’ high-risk, high-reward rotation has been discussed ad infinitum, as both Corey Kluber and Jameson Taillon are All-Star level talents that have been saddled with injuries over the last few years.

Montgomery, who posted a 3.88 ERA in 29 starts during the 2017 season, has also struggled with his health, making just 17 starts over the last three seasons. However, if Montgomery has emerged from that season with a wipeout fastball he can pair with a lethal slider, the sky is the limit for him.

With the impeccably consistent Masahiro Tanaka pitching in Japan once again, Montgomery suddenly becoming a strikeout artist on the back of his fastball might give him an inside track on the No. 2 starter job. From a purely meritocratic point of view, Montgomery’s numbers warrant consideration for that role.

Montgomery had always been effective at deceiving hitters thanks to his janky windup, but changing his whole repertoire around and pitching better than he ever has up until this point has to get Aaron Boone thinking about making the 28-year-old one of the key pieces the Yankees will lean on in terms of innings and importance in 2021.