Saturday, May 17, 2014

Collecting the Durham Bulls: Mike Montgomery

I have been excited to put up my Mike Montgomery post on my Collecting the Durham Bulls thread for a weeks now since I saw him throw a no-hitter.  I had thought about jumping the gun a little bit, switching around the order I had scheduled my posts to appear, but stuck with my original schedule after taking a few deep breaths. 

On the Field 

The Bulls picked up Mike Montgomery from the Kansas City Royals in the James Shields/Wil Myers trade.  I love James Shields, but this trade is the gift that just keeps giving.  Myers won the Rookie of the Year Award last year, Odorizzi looks like a solid Major League starter, and now Montgomery is starting to put it together for the Durham Bulls.  By the way, there was a fourth player in the trade too, Patrick Leonard, who has a .947 OPS in the Florida State League.  Montgomery is now in his second season with the Bulls and is still a pretty good prospect for the Rays at 24 years old. 

Last season the left-handed starter had his struggles at times in his first season in the International League and first full season in Triple-A.  He did spend half of a season in the Pacific Coast League with the Omaha Storm Chasers.  The knock on Montgomery has always been that there are too many base runners and too few bats being missed for him to be a serious Major League pitcher.  It's actually why he's having a good season this year.  Let's take a look. 

In Montgomery's first go around in AAA in the Royals system you can see where he had a low K's per 9 and his walks per 9 ratio was high compared to his strikeout ratio.  Add in a high hits per 9 and you have a recipe for trouble.  Montgomery ended the 2012 season with 90 innings at the AAA level and an ERA of 5.69.  Montgomery has since improved in his two years in Durham.

Looking back at his numbers in Omaha, his 2013 line in Durham generally improved.  His strikeouts dropped slightly, but so did his walks and his hits.  His ERA improved to 4.72 in 108 innings pitched, but there was still room for more improvement.  I'm not sure what the Rays did during Spring Training to work on producing more strikeouts with Montgomery, but it has been awesome to watch.  His walks per 9 and his hits per 9 have continued to trend downward, while his K's per 9 have almost jumped 2 per 9.  Really good improvement.

Montgomery has a good selection of cardboard floating around out there.  He's had several cards in different Bowman and Topps Minor League products.  His cards are generally very affordable and should be an easy find in the cheapy bin at your local card shop.  If you are going to frequent Ebay or COMC to find a copy of some Montgomery cardboard I would guess that most of his base cards will cost you a dollar or less.  If you are really looking for one or two nice Montgomery cards for your collection I would suggest chasing down one of his autographs.  He has several. 

My favorite is his 2012 Topps Heritage Minor League autographed card. Yes, he's in a Storm Chasers jersey, but I love the look of the card.  Maybe minus the silver autograph sticker.  I am actually guessing that the silver autograph sticker is a leftover from his 2010 Bowman autograph signing, which also used a silver autograph sticker.  The vast majority of the autographs in this set are on clear stickers, but style wise you can never go wrong with adding Topps Heritage cards to your collection.  This card tops out around $5, but with patience can be found for $0.99 plus shipping on Ebay. 

If you are looking to just simply add a Montgomery autograph I would try to track down a copy of his Topps Pro Debut signature from 2010.  The card is not the most attractive, but is very inexpensive, often settling on Ebay for $2 to $3.  He does have a few non-licensed autographs from 2008 with TriStar, Playoff, and Donruss Elite, but this card looks much better.  The Donruss Elite isn't bad since it shows the back of his jersey and you cannot tell it's a non-licensed card. 

As mentioned before, Montgomery does have a 2008 Bowman autograph which is both a true rookie card and a certified autograph issue, but I do not have a copy of the card.  Hard to fathom, but it's true.  The card has almost always been a consistent seller around $10.  I am not saying that Montgomery is not worth $10, but I just have not put a ton of effort into finding a copy of the card.  Someday I will get there. 

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