Last week we found out the 2019 injury woes were not done. Just like the pain in James Paxton’s back/glute, they returned with a vengeance, and the Yankees #3/4 starter is out until at least the end of May.
This injury puts a serious dent into the Yankees rotation depth, and make it clear why the team opted not to trade J.A. Happ and his $17 million salary for this season. Take a look at the current pitching depth chart:
Gerrit Cole (yes, still a Yankee :D)
The #5 starter, the ??? above is what we’re going to look at today and explore the different internal options the Yankees have to fill that role.
The most likely option
Jordan Montgomery missed nearly the entire 2018 and 2019 season recovering from Tommy John surgery which makes it easy to forget he was great in 2017 pitching to a 3.88 ERA in 155 innings with a 22% K rate. Monty is known as a young crafty lefty who keeps hitters off-balance with nearly identical over the top release points on all of his pitches:
You can clearly see the huge overlap in release points on all of his pitch types there with a high overhand release point which is unique for a lefty. That combination makes it difficult for batters to pick up the baseball which helps him be successful.
After briefly returning last season, the hope is Montgomery is ready to slot back into the rotation this season, and the Paxton injury gives him the opportunity to do so. According to Bryan Hoch, Aaron Boone had the following to say about Montgomery:
“Monty has proven himself at this level. For him to get back last year was big, just for his frame of mind. We weren’t expecting him to necessarily pitch for us last year, but we felt like he was doing so well that it would be good for him to get out there and pitch. The fact that he was able to get back, get some work done and get into some games was big for him and his mindset moving forward. I feel like he’s had a really good offseason.” That sets Montgomery up as the favorite for the 5th starter hopefully ready to hit the ground running.
The hot prospect
Some of you may remember Montgomery didn’t come into 2017 as the likely candidate for the 5th starter role – he won the job out of camp beating out Chad Green, Adam Warren, Bryan Mitchell, and Luis Cessa. Montgomery had not really pitched above AA which made the decision surprising. Does that sound like anyone currently in the 5th starter competition to you? I’ll give you a hint:
Deivi Garcia could drop himself into the 5th starter spot faster than the drop on that curveball if he has a standout spring and Monty still shows some signs of rust. Garcia tore through AA last year with a 37% K rate and slightly faltered in his first stint in AAA. However, with a newly developed slider Garcia could be ready to start the season in the big leagues. Montgomery only had 3 AAA starts under his belt before winning a rotation spot and Deivi has twice that number. I wouldn’t be shocked if Garcia beats out the competition in spring training for the 5th spot.
There are a few other guys who warrant some attention here. First is the boring pick of Luis Cessa, last year’s long man extraordinaire. Cessa has operated as a longman/swingman for the past few seasons, and I expect him to continue in this role this year. Cessa was burned by the juiced ball last year allowing 1.56 HR/9 which is well above his career average.
The other two options are more intriguing. There’s Rhode Island boy Michael King who made 8 starts last year around injury. He’s seen as more polished than Garcia which could make a call-up more likely. He also recently joined Andrew on the BP Show which gives him points in our book.
The last choice is also the most interesting one in my opinion: Jonathan Loaisiga aka Jonny Lasagna. The dude has electric stuff, but he just can’t pitch deep into a game. Here’s his Statcast profile…
…which is amazing. He throws hard with great spin rate on both his fastball and curveball. Yet he has never thrown more than 5.1 innings in a start, and averages under 5 IP per start. That isn’t good enough, even from your 5th starter. The only way I can see him winning the job is if the team decides to go with some sort of tandem starter – Loaisiga followed by Cessa or something. And that scenario will only happen if none of the other guys are ready for a big league rotation spot.
As far as 5th starters go you could do a lot worse than Jordan Montgomery or an exciting prospect like Deivi Garcia. Spring training is right around the corner (report date is this week!) which means we are so close to grown men throwing baseballs as Scott likes to say. It’s an exciting time of year, and even though James Paxton’s back put a damper on last week, there is plenty of reason to be optimistic, even about the last spot in the rotation.