While the A’s don’t necessarily have a stellar rotation, the club has some young starting pitchers that could find themselves at the top of the rotation someday. One of them is hard-throwing right-hander Frankie Montas.
Montas, the 26-year-old hurler from the Dominican Republic, is beginning to turn some heads in Oakland. He first signed with the Red Sox as an international free agent prior to the 2010 season, then was dealt to the White Sox in 2013. He debuted with Chicago two years later, pitching in seven games before being traded again; this time to the Los Angeles Dodgers. That wouldn’t be the last time he was traded though, as he was later dealt to the Athletics at the 2017 Trade Deadline.
From there, Montas immediately became one of Oakland’s top prospects. Despite posting a 5.22 ERA over nine outings at AAA in ’17, he earned his first call-up to the big leagues since 2015. He didn’t fare too well, struggling to a 7.03 ERA, 1.84 WHIP, 5.63 BB/9 and 2.81 HR/9 in 23 relief appearances. However, he would begin to find his stride when being relied on as a spot-starter in 2018.
Montas pitched in 13 games (11 starts) last season for the A’s, going 5-4 with a 3.88 ERA, 1.46 WHIP, 3.90 FIP, 0.69 HR/9, 43.7 GB% and 2.91 BB/9. While the WHIP was elevated, it can partially be explained by hitters’ .325 BABIP against Montas, suggesting he was on the unlucky end at times.
Besides the elevated WHIP, his numbers were solid across the board, which helped earn Montas a spot in Oakland’s starting rotation to start the 2019 season. This time around though, he’d developed a new pitch to mix in with his upper-90s fastball. Montas came into spring training with a new splitter in his aresenal, which has certainly helped the right-hander in the early part of this season.
Through five starts in 2019, Montas has gone 4-1 with a 3.10 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 4.15 FIP, 2.48 BB/9, 57.8 GB% and 1.24 HR/9. Despite giving up homers at a higher rate, that trend very likely won’t continue. His ground ball rate has flown through the roof, and his fly ball rate has dropped to 24.1% after a 31.5% mark last year.
Along with getting more ground balls, Montas’ strikeout rate has also risen from just 5.95 K/9 in 2018 to 8.07 K/9 in the early part of this season. He’s been able to put hitters away more often, something he struggled with last season, which has helped him to a terrific 85.0 LOB%. Montas posted just a 70.0 LOB% last season, but has stepped up his game with runners on base so far this year.
With a new splitter added to his arsenal, Montas has found a way to get outs more efficiently, and it’s worked thus far. At the age of 26, the former top-prospect is beginning to settle into the big leagues, and has provided hope for A’s fans in a starting rotation that is most definitely a makeshift one. He doesn’t hit free agency until 2024, so Frankie Montas could be a staple in the Oakland rotation for years to come if he’s able to continue his success.
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