When pitchers and catchers reported to Tampa last month, Jordan Montgomery wasn't a serious candidate for the back of the Yankees rotation. He was expected to get a few looks in camp, but eventually make his way back to Triple-A to begin the year. The former fourth round pick was seen as an option for later in 2017, considering that he had thrown only 37 innings at the minor league's highest level last season. Of course, they were 37 dominant innings (0.97 ERA and 1.90 FIP) after excellent work in Double-A (2.55 ERA and 3.21 FIP in 102.1 innings), but the Yankees entered spring training with seemingly more advanced arms. Luis Severino, Luis Cessa, Chad Green, Adam Warren, and Bryan Mitchell were clearly ahead of Montgomery in the pecking order.
Over the last month or so, Montgomery has put himself on the map. Joe Girardi has made it clear that Montgomery has left a strong impression, and this past Friday, Montgomery showed why. He threw four perfect innings against the Tigers to complete a combined no-hitter. Now, the Yankees are planning to give him a start on Thursday, which seemingly makes him a serious candidate for one of the open rotation spots. What are the odds that the 6-foot-6 southpaw is on the opening day roster and in the rotation?
There's more to Montgomery's candidacy than his ability, which is unfortunate from his standpoint. Although the fourth and fifth starter roles have been up for grabs, the Yankees won't need a fifth starter until April 16th, assuming good weather. The Yankees have three days off in the first two weeks of the season, which could allow the rotation to shape up as follows:
Not only do the Yankees not need a fifth starter until the 16th, they also will only need a fourth starter twice through that date. That alone should be enough to squash Montgomery's chances, as the fifth spot would have been his most likely path to the big league roster. There's more to Montgomery's odds than the schedule, though. The others in the rotation competition and roster machinations will probably doom Montgomery's chances to join the Yankees at the season's outset.
As much as Girardi and company like Montgomery, it's not like the other pitchers in the rotation competition have faltered. Severino, Mitchell, and Green have all held their own in Grapefruit League action. Warren has been very good this spring too. Cessa is the only pitcher of the group who has had poor results. With that in mind, I doubt that Montgomery is ahead of all five of his counterparts. Maybe he has the inside track on the fifth starter role, but again, that spot isn't needed until mid-April. If he's the fifth starter, he can take a couple of turns in Scranton before coming up to the big leagues.
Montgomery might not be able to win the fourth (or fifth) starter roles on merit, anyway. That's not merely because of the schedule, either. The 24 year-old is not on the 40-man roster at the moment, so someone would have to be cut to make space. Montgomery will be added to the 40-man at some point in 2017 because he'll be eligible for the Rule 5 draft in the winter, but that doesn't mean the Yankees need to do so just yet. With so many other options for the back of the rotation, the Yankees probably don't feel the pressure to open a spot for Montgomery yet.
Though it's probably the least of the Yankees concerns as it pertains to Montgomery, service time is going to be considered as well. Usually, this is an issue reserved for upper echelon prospects, but that doesn't mean it'll be ignored in this case. An additional two weeks in the minors would grant the Yankees an extra season of control over Montgomery's rights. Of course, that assumes that Montgomery never gets sent down to the minors again, which is probably a faulty assumption. Again, this isn't a major factor, but something to keep in mind.
Despite an extended look in camp, Montgomery is a long shot for the opening day roster. That being said, it isn't a question of whether or not we'll see him in the Bronx this summer. It's only a matter of time, really. Whether it's April, June, or September, we'll see Montgomery before season's end. In fact, it wouldn't be a surprise to see him end the year settled in to the back of the rotation.