Mike Montgomery expects to make the pitching rotation for the 2020 Kansas City Royals. Can he make that a permanent home?
The Kansas City Royals acquired LHP Mike Montgomery from the Chicago Cubs last July in exchange for Martin Maldonado. He went 2-7, with a 4.64 ERA, but he’s expected to improve as he’s given another chance in the starting rotation. Montgomery avoided arbitration and signed a one-year, $3.1M contract for the 2020 campaign.
Few pitchers understand pressure situations the way Mike Montgomery does. He closed game seven of the 2016 World Series in extra innings for a franchise that hadn’t won it in 108 years, in one of the wildest World Series games in baseball history.
Montgomery is entering his sixth season in the majors, but he has been tested in the postseason. He’s only 30 years old, and his best years are still ahead of him.
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He had an up-and-down couple of months with the Royals last year. His best start was truly solid though, as he went seven innings without allowing a run, and struck out 12 against the Detroit Tigers.
He started all 13 games with the Royals, whereas he had been a middle reliever with the Chicago Cubs. It’s safe to assume he’ll earn a spot in the rotation as the team looks to deploy two left-handed pitchers with Danny Duffy going at the top of the rotation.
Montgomery is another player the Royals have acquired who’s played for manager Joe Maddon. Typically, these players tend to thrive in Kansas City after their tenure with the “mad scientist” with few exceptions in Jason Hammel and Travis Wood. James Shields, Ben Zobrist, Jorge Soler, and Wade Davis certainly shined as Royals. Will Mike Montgomery follow in the latter’s footsteps? Let’s hope so.
He had his worst statistical year in 2019 as he posted his first major league season with a 4.00 ERA or higher since his rookie season in 2015. He gave up 18 Home Runs (he had never given up more than 11 in a season) in 33 game appearances, good for a Home Run to Fly Ball (HR/FB) ratio of 23% (astronomical in comparison to league average).
Montgomery has a diverse pitching arsenal which he utilizes rather evenly. His low-90s fastball is thrown at a 43% rate, but he mixes his secondary pitches with the cutter (15% rate), curveball (21%), and changeup (21%).
Here are Baseball-Reference, and FanGraphs projections for Montgomery going into next season, with my own projections below under the APO initials (Baseball-Reference projects him as a reliever):
BR: 4-7, 4.45 ERA, 1 Save, 79 Ks, 36 BBs, 14 HRs, 1.43 WHIP
FG: 6-9, 4.75 ERA, 93 Ks, 43 BBs, 18 HRs, 1.48 WHIP
APO: 11-9, 3.70 ERA, 121 Ks, 49 BBs, 12 HRs, 1.33 WHIP
As seen from my projections, great things are ahead for the Royals left-hander. He can become a respectable starter in a rotation that may seem unrecognizable to the casual fan as they begin making positive strides in the American League.
Perhaps FanGraphs may be closer to reality, but Montgomery has a real chance to turn his career around, and in turn help out the up-and-coming Royals commence their journey towards contention.