After dealing with shoulder problems throughout most of last summer, Yankees starter Frankie Montas will need to go under the knife. The Yankees confirmed that Montas will need shoulder surgery, which could knock the right-hander out for most, if not all, of this season. It’s a tough blow for a team that needed Montas to fill out what should be a deep rotation, but also one that includes several pitchers with significant injury histories.
A Look at Montas
The 2022 season was an interesting one for RHP Frankie Montas, who pitched very well for the A’s before a deal to The Bronx. The 30-year-old — a subject to trade rumors throughout much of the spring and summer — went 4-9 with a 3.18 ERA last season in Oakland, and struck out 109 over 104.2 innings.
When healthy, the righty does boast very good stuff on the mound. Montas recorded a well-above-average Chase% rate (33.2%) last season, thanks in large part to his mid-90’s fastball, a reliable slider, and his ace in the hole: a splitter. The righty’s split-change is a mid-80s MPH pitch — about a 10 MPH difference from his fastball — and one that flutters out of the zone late. The movement and speed difference makes it a tough pitch to square up.
One red flag that popped up prior to Montas’ move to New York was a bout of shoulder inflammation, involving the same shoulder that is set to keep the 30-year-old out for most of 2023. The ex-Athletics pitcher missed a start in July due to the issue, but came back before the Trade Deadline.
Montas’ post-Trade Deadline numbers were unspectacular, to say the least. The Yankees right-hander recorded a 6.35 ERA over 39.2 innings, and saw his strikeout and walk numbers go in the opposite direction. Montas wound up on the IL in late September due to shoulder inflammation, but would come back just before the start of the playoffs. The righty, though, only pitched one inning of relief in the MLB Playoffs this past October.
The Yankees spent a lot last summer to get Montas, but it may be a while before New York sees the right version of him. As things stand right now, Montas is set to undergo surgery on February 21. Yankees manager Aaron Boone stated that it possible that Montas comes back at some point during the second half of the 2022 season. If not, it may be the end of Montas as a New York Yankee. The 30-year-old is eligible to hit the free agent market after this season.
What it Means
The Yankees picked up Frankie Montas to be a key difference maker down the stretch last season, but that didn’t happen. Not to mention, the addition of Montas made it much easier for the Yankees to move Jordan Montgomery — who dominated in the last two months of the regular season with the Cardinals — to St. Louis for Harrison Bader.
The Yankees won’t complain with Bader on the roster, especially given what the New York native delivered in the postseason. No Montgomery or Montas, though, is a blow.
We mentioned in our projection of the 2023 Yankees rotation that RHP Domingo German was already in a good position to win the fifth spot in the rotation. Montas was already set to miss at least the start of the season, and a depleted farm system doesn’t offer much in the way of competition. After all, former Yankee starting pitching prospects Hayden Wesneski, Ken Waldichuk, and JP Sears — all prospects on the cusp of becoming MLB regulars — were dealt last summer to bolster the Major League roster.
Getting back to German, the former 18-game winner posted a 3.61 ERA over 72.1 innings last year. The 30-year-old can throw a good fastball that has above-average spin and movement, as well as a strong curveball. However, German did have issues with leaving the breaking ball over the plate too much in 2022. Command of the curveball will be key to his success, as German derives a lot of weak contact and whiffs of the pitch.
One last note: the injury of Montas makes it much more important for the rest of the Yankees rotation to stay healthy. If another significant injury does arise, names like Tanner Tully or Matt Krook — both of whom don’t have much in the way of MLB experience — could be thrust into a starting role.