Jordan Montgomery is the Yankees X-factor for 2021

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Yankees fans are focusing on what Corey Kluber and Jameson Taillon can bring to the rotation in 2021. That’s allowing Jordan Montgomery to thrive. 

It’s natural for Yankees fans to focus on what new signings Corey Kluber and Jameson Taillon can do for the team in 2021. Returning starter Jordan Montgomery doesn’t have that new car smell any longer. That doesn’t mean he’s any less to the team’s World Series hopes than the pair of new arrivals in Aaron Boone’s rotation.

In fact, there’s a strong case to be made that Montgomery will end up being New York’s No. 2 starter over the course of the full season. That statement is not just a nod to the massive injury risk that hangs around the necks of both Kluber and Taillon. It’s also a testament to the progress Montgomery has already made during this year’s Spring Training.

The 28-year-old left-hander believes his arm is finally back to 100% after undergoing Tommy John surgery back in 2018. According to Yankees’ manager Aaron Boone, that’s allowed Montgomery’s fastball to become “better” and “more powerful” during his recent outings. Specifically, that improved fastball gives Montgomery an added ability to pitch up in the zone that he didn’t possess last season.

Montgomery’s 2020 numbers weren’t that pretty to look at on the surface, but the advanced stats showed he was pretty unlucky a season ago. His 5.11 ERA in 44 innings is an ugly stat, but his FIP of just 3.87 during that stretch may be a better indicator of how he was throwing the ball. Yankees officials clearly believe better things are in store for the southpaw in 2021.

That begs the question of what Montgomery can realistically be expected to give the Yankees this season. Perhaps the most important thing he can give Boone is a full season of healthy starts. The chances of both Kluber and Taillon staying even relatively healthy over the course of a full season are pretty remote. If Montgomery can take the ball every fifth day and pitch to an ERA under 4.00 the Yankees will classify his campaign as a massive success.

The biggest key for Montgomery will be to prove that he’s worthy of taking up a spot in the team’s postseason rotation if they’re able to make it that far. If he ascends to that lofty plateau, then the Yankees rotation has a chance to be dominant. That’s why Montgomery is the biggest X-factor for the Yankees heading into the 2021 campaign.

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