Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Scouting Report on Mike Montgomery

Royals' prospect Mike Montgomery has had a disappointing year. After posting an above average strikeout rate and below average home run rate in AAA Omaha last year, Montgomery struggled with a below average strikeout rate and above average walk rate and home run rate. Montgomery was then demoted to AA and it has been the exact same story.

In watching him, I saw nothing in his delivery looked too messy, even though that is one explanation for why he is struggling. His fastball looks relatively straight, but he can throw it both low and high. It has slight downward movement when he throws it low, but he prefers to throw it high. That should be okay as a lefty with a above average velocity. He should easily be able to get lefties out with it. He got whiffs on his fastball from both lefties and righties when I saw him.

The change has pretty good speed differential along with quite a bit of late dip. He actually threw it for some strikes against righties, and it is good enough that he can do that without risking it being hit 400 feet. He can throw it in the dirt for swings and misses (and like most good changeups, it breaks like a splitter at that point). It is a well above average lefty changeup that will allow him to get out most righties.

The curveball has slow break and what is really nontraditional break for a curveball. It doesn't have the loop you usually see, but it doesn't have the sharp break you would expect in a slider either (not to mention that everyone calls it a curveball). It doesn't appear to be a very good pitch and is obviously inferior to his changeup.

The pitch selection is somewhat predictable. Against righties, it is fastball and change (although he can use the change early in the count and throw it for strikes) while against lefties it is a lot of fastballs with an occasional curve. I would recommend throwing his change more to lefties. It may not work, but it seems to have enough break that he could get them out with it. I saw him try it a couple of times, but he couldn't get it near enough to the zone for it to be tempting. Montgomery was just barely missing the zone most of the time with his fastball. It wasn't like when I saw Johnny Hellweg earlier this year when he was just all over the place. The control issue are troublesome, but one could imagine him fixing them. He is a tall pitcher at 6-4, and sometimes it takes longer for those pitchers to develop. He showed the ability to get grounders as well.

As far as Pitch F/X data goes, we only have data from 2 spring training outings, one from 2011 and one from 2012. In 2011, he averaged 93.9 MPH on his fastball and reached 95.5 MPH. In 2012, he reached 94.9 MPH and averaged 92.77. Interestingly, he showed not only a more inconsistent release point in his 2012 outing, but it was also different in angle and height:

2011:


2012:






At this point, Montgomery is basically a reverse split reliever:

If he can't get lefties out, there really isn't any way he can start. The walks and bouts of control issues are also concerning. Perhaps in relief those things will be ironed out, it wouldn't be the first time a wild starter turns into a strike throwing reliever. With that in mind, he is just 23. There is time for him to improve his breaking stuff to be able to get out lefties. His fastball command is also spotty enough that I wouldn't feel confident putting him in a big league bullpen right away (at least not in high leverage situations). I can't imagine the Royals bringing him up in September to get a shot at the bullpen, so sticking as a starter has to be the plan. A lefty with an above average fastball will be given plenty of shots, just because they are pretty rare. By my count, out of the 91 qualified starters in the big leagues this year, only 8 are lefties with fastballs over 91.7 MPH on average.

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