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This season, the Kansas City Royals have suffered through some major disappointments concerning their rotation. Pin a healthy portion of the responsibility for it on the health, or lack thereof, of Danny Duffy and Felipe Paulino, each of whom is out for the season after undergoing elbow-ligament reconstruction surgery.
The Royals, now known as an organization that has stockpiled young talent, figured that they would get a look at one of the jewels of their system, Mike Montgomery, at some point in the second half, too. That appears unlikely because of the left-hander's struggles this year in the Pacific Coast League, which led to his demotion to Double-A Northwest Arkansas on Wednesday.
It was becoming apparent to the club that Montgomery was far from ready for a promotion and perhaps getting further away from one. In 17 starts (91 2/3 innings) for Class AAA Omaha, he was 3-6 with a 5.69 ERA, a 6.58 K/9 and a 4.22 BB/9. His last three starts were disastrous - 12 1/3 frames, 28 hits, 24 runs (17 earned), five walks and 14 strikeouts.
The 2008 first-round pick (36th overall) was also thoroughly unimpressive for the Storm Chasers last season, when he went 5-11 with a 5.32 ERA, a 7.71 K/9 and a 4.12 BB/9 in 150 2/3 stanzas.
In 2010, Montgomery was twice placed on the minor league disabled list, once for elbow soreness and a second, longer stretch for a forearm strain. Dayton Moore indicated to the media that these ailments weren't a long-term concern, and the southpaw didn't require surgery. To make up for lost time, he played in the Arizona Fall League after the season.
Montgomery seemed to be fine in spring training of 2011, and reports that he'd added a little velocity to his fastball in the AFL helped to keep his star on the rise. Since then, however, he's pretty much been fighting an uphill battle. In particular, according to reports, he's really struggled with his command; the numbers certainly back that up.
It's been suggested that the Royals may have pushed the hurler up the ladder too quickly following his bouts with elbow-related maladies. Moore alluded to Montgomery's apprehension as a result of dealing with that pain but seemed to chalk it up as part of the development process.
Perhaps, to some extent, the left-hander has carried some of that uneasiness with him since. It might help to explain his command issues, and it might also suggest that he's still at risk for long-term elbow problems.
That's all speculation, of course, but what else could be responsible? Montgomery, who turned 23 at the beginning of this month, pitched only 59 2/3 innings for the Northwest Arkansas Naturals in 2010 around his DL stints. He's been at the Triple-A level for a year and a half without demonstrating an iota of noteworthy progress.
Another possibility, however, is that the organization and prospect hounds simply overrated Montgomery. Experts nowadays are downgrading his MLB ceiling. Perhaps they were too quick to project greatness for a pitcher with a lauded fastball that doesn't have great movement, an outstanding changeup and a breaking ball that fails to dazzle.
Whatever the case, although his road has become more difficult, rotisserie players shouldn't label Montgomery a lost cause. Maybe the demotion will serve as a kick in the pants and he'll improve his pitches and preparation in ways that he'd never considered. Perhaps it'll take a serious injury and recovery process to impel his rededication.
In ways, the battle is more mental than physical. How will Montgomery respond? If he turns things around and eventually reaches the majors, chances are, he'll be a better pitcher because of what he faced this year.
Minnix is baseball editor and a fantasy football analyst at KFFL. He plays in LABR and Tout Wars and won the FSWA Baseball Industry Insiders League in 2010.
The University of Delaware alum is a regular guest on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio and Baltimore's WNST AM 1570.