Full Scouting Report: Mike Montgomery
Montgomery was outstanding once again on Monday night against the Kinston Indians, as he continued to rack up the strikeouts and carve up Carolina League lineups. The 20-year-old may not make an impact at the big league level in 2010, but Royals fans shouldn't have to wait too long before Montgomery arrives in the show. Here is what I saw from the Royals' top prospect on Monday in Wilmington:
There's nothing like a projectable left-handed pitcher and Mike Montgomery fits into that description beautifully. He has a long, wiry frame, with an extra long lower half. There's also still plenty of room to grow and add some bulk as he continues to mature. If that happens, there will also likely be an extra tick or two to come on his fastball. Montgomery is also a plus athlete and he uses his tall frame and long limbs to his advantage in his delivery.
Montgomery does most of the things mechanically that you like to see from a young pitcher. He repeats his delivery exceptionally well, creates a good downward angle towards the plate and gets very good extension through his follow-through. The strong finish in his delivery and great extension at the end of his arm action are what make his fastball play even harder than the velocity numbers would indicate.
The only concern in terms of mechanics, and it's a very small, is that he throws slightly across his body. There is always some worry with pitchers who throw across his body about the long-term health of their shoulder. But, in Montgomery's case it is not extreme enough to be any legitimate concern at this point. More than anything else, it makes him even tougher on lefty hitters. For the most part, the delivery is very smooth and he has a long, easy arm action.
Deception is another big part of Montgomery's success. Working from a high three-quarters delivery, he holds his hands low, turns his front hip in slightly and hides the ball very well. He also tilts his front shoulder upward as goes into his arm action, giving the hitter a short look at the baseball before he releases it. The ease in which he throws also allows the fastball to get on hitters much quicker than they anticipate.
The fastball is really the biggest part of Montgomery's game. Not only does he have the plus velocity, but as he showed Monday night against Kinston, he is proud of his fastball and attacks the zone with it. It's nice to see young pitchers with a feel for their breaking ball, but one of the most important things for these talented arms when they arrive in the big leagues is having confidence in their fastball and being able to locate it consistently. At the age of 20, Montgomery shows plus command of his heater and the faith in it to the pound the strike zone.
Montgomery is confident in his fastball for good reason; he reached 94 mph on Monday night and lived consistently at 91-93 mph in his six innings of work. There is a distinct hop at the end of his fastball that allows him to miss so many bats. A large percentage of his swings and misses come off the fastball, and that is partially due to the good, late life and also his ability to pitch backwards off his secondary pitches. Right now his fastball grades out as a 6 on the 2-8 scouting scale, and could one day be a 7.
If there's an area Montgomery could stand to improve upon, it would be his breaking ball. To his credit, Montgomery showed a good feel for his curveball on Monday, and picked his spots sporadically to mix it in. On the other hand, it's an easier pitch for hitters to pick up early and the rotation is not always so tight. He'll need to learn to keep his arm action consistent and stay on top. He throws it at 72-76 mph with big sweeping action. He was able to fool some hitters on the big change in velocity, but some of the more patient hitters in the Kinston lineup seemed to be able to recognize the curveball quickly out of the hand.
This is going to be a pitch that Montgomery will need to continue to work on and tighten up, but even now it's a solid pitch. It grades as an average offering, or a 5 on the 2-8 scouting scale. He showed some flashes that it could be a better than average pitch as he threw some tighter, harder breaking balls at 75-76 mph later in his outing. His command and feel for the pitch, however, are above average. He looked to have a sense for just when to mix it in and was able to tease hitters with curveballs just out of the strike zone. The fact that he uses the fastball so much and is consistently in the strike zone makes the slow, sweeping hook on a limited basis a very difficult pitch to adjust to. There's work to be done here on the action on the pitch but it's a very usable third pitch.
The changeup is definitely Montgomery's go-to secondary pitch. He showed an exceptional feel for it on Monday night, throwing it at 80-84 mph and showing some good downward action. He had the confidence to throw it down and in to right-handed hitters and consistently kept it down in the strike zone. This is going to be the key difference between him and many other young pitchers, and having a 6 changeup will be an outstanding complement to his plus fastball at the big league level.
As far as 20-year-old pitchers go, Mike Montgomery is as close to a complete package as you can get. For the most part, his delivery is clean and he's going to be able to repeat his delivery at the next level, which will allow him to be a consistent strike thrower. Montgomery also showed the ability to pitch backwards, doubling up on the changeup on occasion and then finishing hitters off with his fastball. With the plus velocity he brings to the table, good deception and feel for his secondary pitches, he fits the profile of a front of the rotation type starter very neatly.
This is a pitcher that on Monday night showed three at least usable pitches, and he is still just 20 years old and growing into his frame. Given his unique ability, there is not a clear-cut comparison, but his ceiling and skill set are quite similar to another highly touted lefty, Orioles starter Brian Matusz. He is probably another year away, and he does need to refine his curveball but given his fantastic raw stuff and feel for three pitches, he is getting closer to being big league ready.
Frankie Piliere spent the last three seasons working as a scout, most recently in the professional scouting department for the Texas Rangers in 2009. He now serves as the National Baseball Analyst here at FanHouse.