Analyzing the Future

Adams, Montgomery the Pitching Fix Yanks Really Need

Chance Adams emerged as a top starting pitching prospect in 2016. (Photo by Martin Griff)

There has been a lot of talk about the Yankees signing Tyson Ross or some other pitcher to fill out their 2017 rotation. A fix for a season, maybe a ground-ball specialist such as Doug Pfister if he is healthy, is a legitimate thought.

The Yankees likely won’t need such a Band-Aid for much longer than 2017, if even that.

The Yankees have a pair of pitchers in the upper minors, righty Chance Adams and lefty Jordan Montgomery, who both, if all goes well, of making from starts in The Bronx before the 2017 season is over. Both are legitimate rotation prospects after excellent seasons in 2016.

Let’s start with Adams, a converted reliever who went 13-1, 2.33 in 25 appearances (24 starts), who was one of the Eastern League’s top pitchers last summer, with an 8-1, 2.07 effort in 69.2 innings. With Class-A Tampa and the Double-A Thunder, the 22-year-old native of Scottsdale, Ariz., struck out 144 and walked just 39 in 127.1 innings.

Adams has a fastball that can hit 98, and he throws a breaking slider and effective changeup for strikes as well. He keeps hitters off-balance and is confident on the mound.

“I know I have good fielders behind me when I go out there,” said Adams during the 2016 campaign. “Even with that, I know a lot of the responsibility to how the game goes is with me. I’m always ready and have a plan.

“When you are pitching, you have to believe you can dominate the hitters. I am confident I can do that every time out.”

Adams was superb with Trenton, and he’ll likely start 2017 with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. If he dominates in Triple-A, the Yankees will be watching and thinking of what he might do in the majors.

It must be mentioned he only became a starter in 2016 after flashing impressive stuff out of the bullpen at Staten Island, Charleston and Tampa in 2015. Coming from a solid Dallas Baptist program, he displayed three good pitches and was switched to starting, as was left-hander Dietrich Enns.

The shame was he reached his 2016 inning limit before he could help Bobby Mitchell’s Thunder club in the playoffs, where they eliminated a powerful Reading club before falling to Akron in the Eastern League playoffs.

“I’m really glad they gave the chance to start,” Adams said. “I plan on making the most of it.”

Montgomery, the native of Sumter, S.C., who will turn 24 two days after Christmas, has always been a starter and a good one. He put together a 14-5, 2.13 record in 25 starts between Trenton and Scranton. His 5-1, 0.97 mark in six starts with the RailRiders ad an excellent effort in the playoffs as SWB won the International League title, shows he is almost ready.

Combined, he had 134 strikeouts vs. 45 walks in 139.1 innings, showing excellent command at a pair of levels. The key to his success in 2016 was two-fold. His fastball velocity increased – he had a few clocked at 96 in April, but sat at 93-94 in Trenton and was in the low 90s at SWB, – and he backed up his fastball by throwing strikes with a biting curve, a hard slider, and excellent change.

“I feel I can throw all my pitches for strikes,” said Montgomery during his Trenton stay in 2016. His mound presence impressed many.

It will be interesting to see where Montgomery’s fastball velocity falls in Spring Training, but he is a pitcher and not a thrower. He has the stuff to keep big-league hitters off-balance.

Perhaps the Yankees will need a pitching fix to start 2017. In the long run, both Adams and Montgomery just might provide a long-lasting fix in Pinstripes.

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