By JAY LeBLANC
Kansas City Royals prospect Mike Montgomery became the advanced Class A Carolina League‘s second-youngest pitcher upon his promotion last month, and the 20-year-old southpaw has wasted little time in establishing himself as one of its best. Montgomery has allowed just eight earned runs total in his first five starts for the Wilmington Blue Rocks, averaging nearly a strikeout per inning and limiting opposing hitters to a .208 batting average in the process. The Royals knew Montgomery was advanced for high school hurler when they made him the 36th overall pick in the 2008 draft, but he has exceeded even their wildest expectations by posting a 2.11 ERA in his first 128 pro innings.
Montgomery entered his senior year at Hart High School in Newhall, Calif., ranked by Baseball America as the nation’s 43rd best high school prospect, then shot up draft boards when his velocity climbed into the low- to mid-90s that season. The 6-foot-5, 180-pounder signed quickly for a $988,000 bonus and emerged as the top prospect in the Rookie-level Arizona League in his pro debut by posting a 1.69 ERA and fanning 34 batters in 43 innings. Assigned to the Class A Burlington Bees to begin the 2009 season, Montgomery posted a 2.17 ERA and racked up 52 K’s in 58 innings spread over 12 starts, prompting the Royals to challenge him with the promotion to advanced Class A.
I had a chance to speak with Montgomery - who entered the season ranked by Baseball America as the fourth-best prospect in the Royals organization - last week when he and his Blue Rocks teammates were in Woodbridge, Va., for a series against the Washington Nationals-affiliated Potomac Nationals.
Q: Could you talk a bit about the different pitches you throw and how you like to use them?
A: I throw a fastball, circle changeup, palmball and a curveball, and I try to pitch off my fastball. My palmball is like a curveball; sometimes I’ll struggle a little bit with my command of the curveball, so I’ve got two different pitches that break like a curveball. I just try to pitch off my fastball, and [use] whatever else is working that day.
Q: Do you consider yourself a strikeout guy, a guy who pitches to contact, or some mixture of the two?
A: Definitely a mixture. I don’t strike that many people out, and I like to get first-pitch outs. I like to strike out people when I need it, but not all the time.
Q: The Royals aggressively promoted you to advanced Class A halfway through your first full pro season. Do you think the challenge of facing older, more experienced hitters so early in your pro career will help you in the long run?
A: Yeah, it definitely will. It’s a better challenge where I’ve got to make better pitches and learn a little bit quicker. That, I think, in the long run, will help me progress faster.
Q: What are some of the things you do off the field to help prepare you to succeed on it?
A: You’ve got to rest your body but you’ve got to work out certain days, and mentally prepare yourself to pitch before you get to the field. And you’ve just got to stay healthy - rest, and mentally prepare.
Q: What are some of the things you’ll need to work on in order to be a successful big league pitcher?
A: The biggest thing for most guys is consistency, and that’s what I’m trying to work on and do every outing - have a consistent delivery and pitches, throw strikes and all that kind of stuff, because that’s all you can really control. The rest, whatever … it’s just fate.
Q: Is there any pitcher, past or present, that you either look up to or try to model your approach after?
A: You look at all the big league pitchers and what they’re doing, but in particular … I grew up a Braves fan, looking at Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux, pitchers like that. They were two of the best pitchers ever, so I looked up to both guys - what they did, and how they went about their business.
Q: How soon do you think you’ll be ready to help the Royals?
A: I’m trying to get there as fast as I can. It’s up to them really; I don’t have much say in that. I’ll finish this year up strong and see what happens next year.
Jay LeBlanc is an assistant news editor at The Washington Times. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Be sure to check out our previous National Pastime Prospect Q&A’s:
2009 - Jack McGeary, Nationals; L.J. Hoes, Orioles; Jordan Danks, White Sox; Mike Moustakas, Royals; Danny Duffy, Royals; Kyle Skipworth, Marlins; Xavier Avery, Orioles; Ryan Kalish, Red Sox; Derek Norris, Nationals; Zach Britton, Orioles; Pedro Alvarez, Pirates; Robbie Grossman, Pirates; Brandon Waring, Orioles; Casey Kelly, Red Sox; Michael Taylor, Phillies; Brandon Snyder, Orioles; Kyle Drabek, Phillies; Drew Storen, Nationals; Nick Hagadone, Red Sox; Matt Moore, Rays; Madison Bumgarner, Giants; Eric Hosmer, Royals; Mike Minor, Braves.
2008 - Matt Wieters, Orioles; Ross Detwiler, Nationals; Adrian Alaniz, Nationals; Jake Arrieta, Orioles; Greg Golson, Phillies; John Shelby III, White Sox; Brandon Erbe, Orioles; Chris Marrero, Nationals; Jason Donald, Phillies; John Ely, White Sox; Nolan Reimold, Orioles; Michael Burgess, Nationals; Wes Hodges, Indians; Colton Willems, Nationals; Chris Tillman, Orioles; Dominic Brown, Phillies; Brandon Hicks, Braves; Jordan Zimmermann, Nationals; Nick Weglarz, Indians; Gorkys Hernandez, Braves; Beau Mills, Indians; Stephen King, Nationals; Brad Bergesen, Orioles; Fernando Martinez, Mets; Derrick Robinson, Royals; David Hernandez, Orioles; Jason Castro, Astros; Bobby Parnell, Mets; George Kontos, Yankees; Brian Matusz, Orioles; Matt LaPorta, Indians; Austin Jackson, Yankees; Jeff Bianchi, Royals; Cole Rohrbough, Braves; Pat Venditte, Yankees.