Name: Frankie Montas
Height/Weight: 6’2’’, 255
How Acquired: Acquired from the Los Angeles Dodgers in July 2016
The Oakland A’s have yet to see Frankie Montas throw a regular season pitch as a member of the organization, but there is plenty of excitement surrounding the hard-throwing right-hander. However, after a season ruined by injury, can Montas stay healthy enough to be a force in the big leagues in 2017?
The theme for Montas’ career thus far could be “big arm, will travel.” The burly right-hander is on his fourth organization since July 2013. Over that four-year period, he has been involved in trades for Jake Peavey, Avisail Garcia, Jose Iglesias, Todd Frazier, Rich Hill and Josh Reddick, among others. It is rare for a player with such little big league experience (15 innings going into this season) to be involved in so many trades this early in his career, but the reasons behind Montas’ travels aren’t hard to understand. Montas has the kind of arm that scouts dream about and the kind of injury history that keeps teams from building around him. The A’s hope to be the team that finally unlocks Montas’ full potential.Montas began his career as a teenager with the Boston Red Sox. He made his US debut in 2012 and opened some eyes early in 2013 with Low-A Greenville before being traded at the deadline in the deal that sent Peavey from the White Sox to the Red Sox. Montas threw 111 innings between Low-A Greenville and Low-A Kannapolis that season, posting a 5.43 ERA but striking out 127 as a 20-year-old.
Montas began the 2014 season on the disabled list while recovering from a meniscus injury. He returned to the mound on May 5 but landed back on the DL with a meniscus injury to his other knee on June 29. He would finish the year with just 15 starts, but he was very impressive in those outings, posting a 1.44 ERA and striking out 80 in 81 innings, mostly at the High-A level. Montas moved up the prospect charts within the White Sox’s organization and was added to their 40-man roster that off-season.
In 2015, Montas put together a season without any trips to the disabled list. He made 23 starts for the Double-A Birmingham Barons, putting up a 2.97 ERA in 112 innings. In one of his starts, he threw a seven-inning no-hitter. Montas also participated in that year’s MLB Futures Game. At the end of the season, Montas earned a call-up to Chicago, and he would make seven appearances – two starts – for the White Sox. In 15 innings, Montas had a 4.80 ERA and a 20:9 K:BB.
Montas would find himself on the move again that off-season, this time as part of a complicated three-team deal that sent Frazier from Cincinnati to Chicago and prospects to the Dodgers and Reds. Montas was one of the prospects to land in Los Angeles. At the time of the deal, Montas was considered part of the mix for the Dodgers’ 2016 rotation or bullpen. However, on February 12, the team announced that Montas had a rib injury that would require surgery. He didn’t make his 2016 debut until May 22, with Double-A Tulsa. Montas made three appearances with the Drillers and four appearances with Triple-A Oklahoma City before the rib injury flared up once again. Montas would be shutdown for the season, having thrown just 16 innings.
Despite the fact that Montas was on the disabled list, the A’s were happy to acquire him in the deal that sent Reddick and Hill to LA. Montas rehabbed at the A’s Arizona complex for much of the rest of the regular season and got himself healthy enough to be included on the A’s Arizona Fall League roster. There, Montas got to show off his talents to his new organization. He finished third in the league in ERA with a 0.53 mark and he allowed just seven hits in 17 innings. Montas was part of a combined no-hitter and he pitched well in the championship game, helping Mesa to clinch the title.
A’s minor league pitching coordinator Gil Patterson had several set goals in mind for Montas when he pitched this fall, and Patterson was pleased with what he saw from the right-hander.
“The biggest thing that [we] have tried to get him to do step-by-step and game-by-game is first, stay healthy – which is the main thing – but second, work on fastball command. And that command has been there,” Patterson said. “Third, was working on a change-up. We’ve been having him throw more change-ups this fall. And fourth might be the ability to pitch in a little bit so hitters aren’t comfortable looking away. One is working on the change-up and the other is to pitch more inside so as to not allow the hitters to get too comfortable looking for 99 away all of the time.”
Montas has only 398.2 career innings over seven minor league seasons because of the injuries, but the A’s are still interested in seeing if they can develop him as a starter. Montas has two above-average pitches in the four-seam fastball that can touch 101 and regularly sits 95-98 and the slider that sits in the low-90s and gets plenty of downward movement. To make it as a starter, Montas will need to get comfortable enough with his third pitch – the change-up – to be able to use it regularly. Montas could also stand to use his two-seam fastball a little more. He can throw his four-seam fastball for strikes and he has elite velocity on the pitch, but he doesn’t get a ton of movement on it. During the AFL season, Montas was extremely effective despite not missing a lot of bats. He struck-out only nine in 17 innings.
The biggest barrier to Montas remaining a starter might simply be time. He is in his final option year and is coming off of a season with less than 40 innings pitched between the AFL and the regular season. The A’s will need to monitor his innings this season while also determining whether Montas will be ready for a full-time roster spot in 2018. Oakland may not want to use up all of Montas’ innings as a starter in Triple-A before getting a look at him either as a reliever or a starter in the big leagues.
Patterson still thinks Montas has a shot to be a starter.
“If he can maintain what I have seen in those three-inning stints over the course of six, seven or eight innings, then I certainly don’t see why he couldn’t remain a starter. His stuff is very firm,” Patterson said.
Even if Montas can’t remain a starter, he still could bring plenty of value to the A’s as a late-inning reliever. Montas’ fastball-slider combination should play up very well in short stints and if he grows comfortable with the change-up, he could be a dominating late-inning option for Oakland. Montas will turn 24 before the start of the regular season. Since he is out of options next year, Montas should get a look in the major leagues at some point in 2017.
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