Before we get into what Mariners left-handed rookie starting pitcher Mike Montgomery has done this season, let’s look at what his background has been like. Montgomery was originally drafted by the Royals in the 1st round of the 2008 draft, but he had performance issues in 2011 and 2012 when he was in the upper levels of the Minors. In 2011, he had a 5.32 ERA and 1.50 WHIP in 150.2 IP at AA. In 2012, he had 6.07 ERA and 1.62 WHIP in 149.2 IP splitting time between AA and AAA. The extremely poor seasons undoubtedly had the Royals souring on Montgomery, which is likely one of the reasons that they felt it was okay to include him in a trade that sent him along with Jake Odorizzi, Wil Myers, and Jake Leonard to the Rays in exchange for James Shields and Wade Davis.
In the Rays organization, he showed small improvements, but for the most part he was still appearing as a disappointment. In 2013 at rookie-ball, high-A, and mostly AAA, Montgomery had a 4.59 ERA and 1.42 WHIP. In 2014 still with the Rays, he had a 4.29 ERA and 1.31 WHIP in 126 IP at AAA. So now it was the Rays who had seen enough of the lefty and they shipped him off to the Mariners for Erasmo Ramirez one week before the 2015 season began.
Montgomery began the 2015 season at the Mariners AAA affiliate and was showing his best stuff since 2008-09 when he was in the low minors in the Royals organization. To begin the year, Montgomery had a 3.74 ERA and 1.17 WHIP in 53 IP over 9 starts, and was also displaying some of the best that he’s ever shown in strikeout rate (7.98 K/9) and walk rate (2.55 BB/9). So when James Paxton went down with an injury just four short weeks ago, Montgomery was called up from AAA to make his Major League debut for the Mariners.
Over his first four starts, Montgomery had decent performances, but was nowhere near dominating. His 2.73 ERA and 1.14 WHIP were nice, but the 12 K/8 BB in 26.1 IP were far from impressive and suggested that he was getting a bit lucky in the ERA and WHIP departments in his first tour through the league. However, the now 26-year old rookie (it’s his birthday today, July 1), took things to a new level in his 5th start of the season against the team that drafted him, the Kansas City Royals. Despite the fact that the Royals have been the hardest team to strikeout all season long, Montgomery not only struck them out 10 times, but he also pitched a complete game shutout scattering just 5 singles without issuing a walk. Maybe it was the revenge factor against his former organization that traded him away that drove him to the surprise game, but whatver it was, it was certainly something for the baseball community to take notice of.
His very next start came on Tuesday evening at Petco Park versus the Padres, and he ended up tossing a 1-hitter with 7 K/4 BB for his second complete game shutout in a row. So with back to back CGSO, Montgomery has delivered a monumental mound performance, becoming the first Mariners pitcher to complete such a feat since Freddy Garcia in 2001. The first shutout against the Royals could have been passed off as a bit of luck as a once in a lifetime type of game, but to repeat with another shutout has to give him some merit.
What gives Montgomery’s shutout performances some validity is that he had the strong strikeout numbers to go with it, which was a drastic change from his paltry strikeout rate of 4.10 K/9 from his first four starts. And as a former 1st round pick, there was obviously something to like about Montgomery at some point. So even if it took 6-7 years, perhaps this is a situation where a pitcher is finally figuring things out.
Montgomery gets another nice matchup in his next start against an A’s team that performs better against righties and ranks in the bottom half of the league in wOBA and ISO versus lefties. So if he is on the waiver wire, it wouldn’t be a terrible spot to pick him up and start him for. But after that start, it’s going to get tricky for Montgomery because Hisashi Iwakuma is on track to return sometime before the All-Star break, and that could mean that Montgomery will be booted from the rotation. It is also possible that Roenis Elias could be the pitcher to be removed, so Montgomery owners will want to hold onto him until everything is settled.
I am still not entirely sold on Montgomery, but for now he should be picked up in deeper leagues in the event that he does continue to blossom and show that these two shutout games aren’t just flashes in the pan.
Let’s check out the rest of Tuesday’s games.
Kyle Hendricks – 6 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 6 K with the W. Hendricks’ ERA got inflated due to a pounding that the Twins gave him and then from another dud against the Dodgers. But he fell into a great matchup against a Mets team that is still mostly struggling to hit and score runs. I’ve said before that Hendricks can be a helper in ERA and WHIP, but he’s not doing bad in strikeouts either. Hendricks comes recommended in his next two starts versus a couple more poor offenses in the Marlins and White Sox. Scoop him up and fire away with him for those games. He now has a 4.15 ERA and 1.18 WHIP.
Jason Motte – 1 IP, 0 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K with the SV. Motte collected his 3rd save of the season as manager Joe Maddon is still fiddling around with his bullpen. As I have mentioned before, there’s probably not going to be a real long term solution to this closing situation for the Cubs in the immediate future, and it’ll get even more complicated when Rafael Soriano is ready to join the team after the All-Star break.
Jon Niese – 7 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 4 BB, 5 K with the L. Niese is staying in the Mets rotation for the time being despite the addition of prospect Steven Matz last week because the Mets are going to use a 6-man rotation of sorts. However, Niese is probably going to be dangled as trade bait as the Mets search for someone to impact their offense. If indeed he is being shopped around, this was a nice showcase for the southpaw Niese who worked around some walks to limit a potent Cubs offense to 1 run. Niese isn’t much more than an average pitcher though for fantasy purposes.
Manny Machado – 1 for 4, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 R. Machado extended his hit streak to 11 games by blasting his 16th HR of the year. The kid is oozing with machismo.
Chris Davis – 2 for 4, 2 HR, 4 RBI, 2 R. Back on his adderall this season, Davis is having a more productive year. He’s still far off from his MVP caliber 2013 season, but he is on pace for a .238 AVG with 38 HR and 103 RBI. The AVG is dragged down by his high strikeout rate, which we knew would happen. So it’s just nice to see him rediscover his power this year.
Mitch Moreland – 2 for 3, 2 HR, 4 RBI, 2 R, 1 BB. That’s two double dong games in a row for Moreland. Gosh golly gee. He is red hot right now and has more HR than teammate Prince Fielder. For DFS, Moreland would be the guy to use right now if choosing a Rangers first baseman as he’s being more productive and is cheaper. He’s now batting .305 with 14 HR and 43 RBI in 58 games. However, as I keep mentioning, his batting average should eventually come down to the .270 range I would imagine. But the power is for real.
Joey Gallo – With Josh Hamilton being activated from the DL, Gallo has been sent down to AAA. It appears as though my initial instinct that Gallo would hit a handful of home runs while striking out a ton with a low batting average before getting sent back down was a correct belief. Gallo impressed early on with his power, but he was just overmatched by Major League pitching in a lot of instances. He had a .218 AVG with 5 HR and 13 RBI in 25 games, and he also had an absurd 43 K’s in 87 AB. He should be back before the season is over, but he’s got a lot of work to do to become a mainstay on a Major League club.
David Ortiz – 1 for 4, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 R. It seems as though the only hits that Papi is getting lately are home runs, and indeed that is almost the case with 4 of his last 7 hits leaving the park. So the home runs are nice and all, now up to 13 HR for the season, but he’s still hitting just .228 as his hard hit rate is down nearly 10% from the previous two seasons. It’s hard to get on board for a “buy low” on Ortiz if he’s just not hitting the ball hard that often.
Eduardo Rodriguez – 6 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 4 K with the W. Rodriguez got bombed by the lefty killer Blue Jays last time, but the rookie put his foot down against them this time to keep them pretty quiet for 6 innings. It was a nice bounce back effort from E-Rod who ran into a troublesome inning in his last start versus the Orioles, but those types of growing pains are to be expected from any rookie pitcher. What is more defining of him is his ability to come back the next time and shut down a team that pounded him for 9 runs previously. He improved to 4-2 with a 3.92 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, and 36 K/13 BB in 41.1 IP. He is a recommended option for any type of league, but he will have another tough test in his next start versus the Astros.
Jose Reyes – 2 for 4, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 1 R. Reyes making his final effort to be included on the All-Star team out of a shallow pool of American League shortstops. He’s now hitting .267 with 4 HR, 27 RBI, 25 R, and 10 SB, and he makes for a fine play for any fantasy squad as long as he is healthy.
Marco Estrada – 2.1 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, 4 BB, 1 K with the L. How does Estrada follow up an outing where he had a no-hitter through 7 innings and then an outing where had a perfect game through 7.1 innings? He walks 4 batters in the 1st inning and then gets pulled in the 3rd inning of course. The jig might be up for Estrada after this game and then upcoming starts at Detroit and Kansas City. However, he still can make for a decent fantasy option in the right spots.
Gerrit Cole – 6.2 IP, 9 H, 2 ER, 0 BB, 6 K. Cole went up against a good Tigers offense on Tuesday, but he was able to avoid any big damage despite scattering 9 hits. It was a solid performance against a good team and a nice bounce back after his arch nemesis, the Reds, knocked him around last week. Cole is 11-3 with a 2.20 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, and 108 K/25 BB in 102.1 IP. He’ll meet the Indians and Cardinals in his final two starts before he heads off to Cincinnati for the All-Star Game.
J.D. Martinez – 3 for 6, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 2 R, 3 K. Just Dongs for J.D. That puts him at a .275 AVG with 20 HR and 48 RBI.
Jason Kipnis – 1 for 5, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 R, 3 K. Just when I said after Monday’s game that Kipnis hadn’t homered all month of course he hits a homer in the very next game. The guy has been super hot for two months now and there’s no signs of slowing down at the moment.
Giovanny Urshela – 1 for 4, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 1 R, 1 K. Urshela came up a few weeks ago to be the Indians new starting third baseman. I said back then that he should be about league average for a third baseman on the offensive side of things, and that’s exactly pretty much what he’s been. With a HR on Tuesday, he is now hitting .271 with 2 HR and 7 RBI in 19 games — not doing much to impress, but not doing much to complain about either. Unless he gets hot, then he’s safe to leave on most league’s waiver wires.
Danny Salazar – 7.2 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 2 K with the W. Salazar has been battling some bouts of inconsistency this year, and even though he was able to limit the Rays so well on Tuesday, it was a start where he had an uncharacteristically low strikeout total of 2. It’s probably an anomaly and it was just nice to see him limit the hits and runs and get back in the win column. The young righty is now 7-3 with a 3.80 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, and 101 K/24 BB in 85.1 P. He should be able to improve if he can limit the long ball better (1.27 HR/9).
Erasmo Ramirez – 5.2 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 7 K with the L. Erasmo Ramirez has missed some time after he left his last start with a groin injury, but he came back on Tuesday to pick up right where he left off. I am going to once again cautiously recommend him for fantasy leagues due to the change in his pitch arsenal that has given him renewed life since coming over to the Rays mid-season. However, with starts at Yankee Stadium and then versus the Astros before we get to the All-Star break, Ramirez has a couple difficult tasks ahead of him and those are tough spots to use him.
Dee Gordon – 1 for 5, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 1 R. Gordon flew around the bases for an inside the park home run for his 1st HR of the season. He’s now in a dead heat with Ben Revere in the HR category.
Buster Posey – 2 for 4, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 2 R, 2 K. Posey hit his 12th HR of the season on Tuesday, and as I alluded to last week, he is slowly creeping his way up the ranks. He is easily the top and most reliable catcher in fantasy.
Jordan Zimmermann – 7.2 IP, 6 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 6 K with the W. Zimmermann got the luck of facing a miserable Braves offense two starts in a row and he made it count once again on Tuesday. His stats now look a lot better after having faced the Braves, as he is 6-5 with a 3.16 ERA and 1.27 WHIP. However, I have been saying all season long that he’s had diminished velocity from last season and that he isn’t missing as many bats because of it. So this may be a good opportunity to sell high if you own him. He gets the Giants and Orioles before the All-Star break and he may not be as fortunate against those teams who have more punch to their offenses.
Shelby Miller – 5 IP, 8 H, 4 ER, 3 BB, 10 K with the L. Ironically, Miller’s start on Tuesday was the most runs he’s allowed in a game this season (5 runs, 4 earned), but it also was his best strikeout performance of the year. So we take the good with the bad in this one. As I’ve said all along, Miller will continue to regress but I don’t think that he will completely implode because his two new pitches that he’s added this year are what’s helping him succeed. He’s now 5-4 with a 2.20 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 80 K/32 BB in 102.1 IP. He gets an excellent matchup against the Phillies in his next start, but then should be benched universally in his final start before the All-Star break at Coors Field.
George Springer – 1 for 3, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 2 R, 1 BB. Springer evened out his HR and SB totals at 13 by hitting a home run on Tuesday. He’s been doing it all this season in what is developing into a pretty good breakout performance on both sides of the field. It would be a disappointment if he isn’t selected for the All-Star Game.
Dallas Keuchel – 8 IP, 7 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 7 K with the W. Keuchel doing more Keuchel-like things. He’s now 10-3 with a 2.03 ERA, 0.96 WHIP, and 102 K/31 BB in 124.1 IP. Keuchel will be one of three guys along with Chris Archer and Chris Sale to be considered to start the All-Star Game for the American League.
Ryan Braun – 4 for 5, 2 R. The 4-hit game on Tuesday along with a 3-hit game on Monday has pushed Braun’s average up from .259 to .275. This will make him look a lot more attractive to Bruce Bochy when it comes to the All-Star selection and he should be the Brewers lone representative.
Chris Sale – 8 IP, 6 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 12 K. Sale became only the 2nd player in Major League history to record 10 or more strikeouts in 8 consecutive starts (Pedro Martinez had 10 consecutive games). This streak that Sale is on is phenomenal and he’s in a decent position to tie Pedro at 10 consecutive games when he takes on the Orioles and Cubs before the All-Star break. Unfortunately, Sale’s offense is very bad so he came away with the no-decision, but he improved his stats to a 2.87 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, and 141 K/22 BB in 103.1 IP.
Randal Grichuk – 3 for 5, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 R, 1 K. Grichuk was the one Cardinals hitter that Sale could not solve on Tuesday. Grichuk finished a triple short of the cycle against Sale and continues to be a very useful player for the Redbirds. His strong performance is going to go a long ways in earning him playing time even when Matt Holliday is ready to come off the DL, whenever that may be.
Lance Lynn – 6 IP, 6 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 6 K. Lynn’s second start back from his forearm injury went just as well as his first one, even though they were both against poor offenses. It’s still a nice sign and it’s definitely going to be safe to deploy him against yet another struggling offense in his next start, the Padres.
Torii Hunter – 3 for 5, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 2 R, 2 K. Not much else to say about Hunter besides that he keeps producing. He’s hitting .272 with 12 HR, 44 RBI, 40 R, and 1 SB. Hard to believe that he will be 40 years old in a couple weeks.
Phil Hughes – 6.2 IP, 7 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 4 K with the W. It wasn’t as good as his previous two starts, but Hughes turned in another quality start and he may have turned a corner in his season over the last few starts. I mentioned after his last start that his manager has been liking his increased usage of his changeup, so that could certainly be a factor in getting Hughes back on track here. He is now 7-6 with a 4.10 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, and 64 K/10 BB in 105.1 IP. He may not be good for the type of strikeout rate that he posted last year because of his diminished velocity, but he might be figuring out how to get hitters out now in other ways. He gets the Orioles next, which isn’t the best of spots, but he’ll look to keep it rolling.
Eugenio Suarez – 2 for 4, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 R, 2 K. I mentioned Suarez after he had 3 hits and stole 2 bases on Monday, and on Tuesday he hit a home run. He’s got some decent pop and decent speed, so at a shallow shortstop position he should be given consideration in fantasy leagues. He was once an organizational top prospect with the Tigers before he came over to the Reds in the trade for Alfredo Simon.
Anthony DeSclafani – 6.2 IP, 11 H, 6 ER, 2 BB, 7 K with the L. DeSclafani got battered on Tuesday by the Twins to push his ERA up to 3.68 and WHIP to 1.35. He’s also been below average in both walk and strikeout rates, so there’s not too much to like about Disco right now. The silver lining is that he did prove to be much better in the walk and strikeout areas in the Minors, so he does have some upside. But as a rookie pitcher, he’s going to run into these types of struggles.
Albert Pujols – 1 for 4, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 R, 2 K. Pujols finishes the month of June hitting .303 with 13 HR, 26 RBI, 22 R, 8 K, and 13 BB. Vintage Pujols. We’ll have to see if he begins to wear down after the All-Star break with that aging body of his, but so far so good in 2015.
Andrew Heaney – 7 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 7 K with the W. Heaney has now had two tough tests in his first two starts as an Angel. First going up against the Astros last week and then the Yankees on Tuesday, and he showed great potential in both starts. He is now 1-0 with a 1.38 ERA, 0.69 WHIP, and 12 K/3 BB in 13 IP. I said after his first start that Heaney could deliver a Jose Quintana like performance (I of course meant the pre-2015 Quintana before he had a lousy defense behind him), but I think a better comparison may be to fellow top prospect rookie Eduardo Rodriguez. Both are young lefties with good control and some decent strikeout potential. Heaney should run into some rookie struggles along the way just like Rodriguez has, but he has the potential to be a successful Major League pitcher and should be given a chance in fantasy leauges. Unfortunately, his next start is scheduled to come at Coors Field, but perhaps manager Mike Scioscia will rearrange the rotation to avoid hurting the confidence of the prized rookie. If Heaney continues to pitch well, then it should be Matt Shoemaker who gets the boot from the rotation once Jered Weaver returns from the DL.
Yasmani Grandal – 2 for 5, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 1 R, 3 K. Grandal went yard for the second time in as many days as he seems to like hitting at Chase Field. It was his 12th HR of the season and he should be an All-Star unless Bochy screws him over.
Jorge De La Rosa – 7 IP, 4 H, 0 ER, 4 BB, 4 K with the W. De La Rosa has probably had the most success out of any starting pitcher in recent years at Coors Field, but undoubtedly, he probably would be better off on any other team besides the Rockies. He pitched a gem in Oakland on Tuesday to improve to 5-3 with a 4.59 ERA and 1.48 WHIP, but he should be left alone in fantasy leagues for the simple reason he pitches his home games in Coors Field.
LaTroy Hawkins – 1 IP, 0 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 0 K with the SV. With John Axford put on the inactive list to attend to a personal issue, Hawkins closed out his 2nd game of the year. If for any reason the Rockies have to go to Hawkins at closer for an extended period of time then it will be sad times in Colorado. If extremely desperate for saves, give Hawkins a whirl. But I mean extremely.