By Jon Weisman
With many young pitchers, the Dodgers take their time to decide whether a starting or relief role is best. With newly acquired Frankie Montas, it will be no different.
“Our scouts feel like his fastball-slider combo is one of the best in the minor leagues, and we feel like he’s got a great chance to develop as a really good Major League starting pitcher,” Dodger president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said Wednesday.
“As we go through it and get a chance to be around him on a daily basis, it’ll be interesting to get a better feel for where he is with the changeup and his ability to manipulate the slider. But (we) feel like he’s got a really good chance to be a really good Major League starting pitcher, and if not, we feel like he can be an impact bullpen arm.”
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Montas, who turns 23 on March 21, struck out 108 in 112 innings with a 2.97 ERA for Double-A Birmingham, before striking out 20 in a 15-inning trial with the White Sox. A six-run, three-inning start against Detroit on September 23 inflated his ERA from 1.12 to 5.73, before he struck out seven in four innings of one-run ball October 4.
Upon joining the Dodgers, MLB.com inserted him as the No. 4 prospect in the Dodger system, behind only Corey Seager, Julio Urias and Jose De Leon and ahead of Grant Holmes. Here’s the comment:
Originally signed by the Red Sox for $75,000 out of the Dominican Republic in 2009, Montas began turning heads by hitting 100 mph with his fastball when he made his U.S. debut three years later. But he also struggled to refine his secondary pitches and his command, and Boston shipped him to the White Sox in July 2013 as part of a three-team trade that sent Jake Peavy to the Red Sox and Jose Iglesias to the Tigers. Despite missing two months in 2014 after having meniscus surgeries on both knees, Montas took a huge step forward in his development. He pitched well at Double-A in 2015 and made his big league debut in September before being traded to the Dodgers as part of the three-team deal that sent Todd Frazier from Cincinnati to the White Sox in December.
Montas continues to bring the heat, working at 93-97 mph, peaking at 102 and imparting some sink and cut on his fastball. His mid-80s slider can reach 88 mph and be a well above-average pitch at its best, though it also flattens out and gets hittable. Likewise, he can show feel for a changeup with fade at times but have the pitch look like a batting-practice fastball at times.
Built more like a young Bartolo Colon than his generously listed weight of 185 pounds would suggest, Montas has cleaned up his delivery and done a better job of throwing strikes since changing organizations. Provided that he continues to make improvements and gains more consistency, he could be a No. 2 starter. If he doesn’t, he could wind up as a reliever, albeit with the upside of a closer.
As of now, the expectation would be for Montas to begin the 2016 season in the Triple-A Oklahoma City starting rotation, but that definitely doesn’t mean he’ll end the year there.
“He was a guy that was very high on our list of young minor-league pitchers, and we’re excited to add him to the stable of really good young arms that we have,” Friedman said.