One of the biggest things that has happened to the Detroit Tigers during this painfully slow offseason has been the thickening of the farm system, specifically the ranks of the position players within it. This process has involved, among other things, acquiring a surplus of outfielders with low-ceiling, high-floor skill sets. Among them is the diminutive Troy Montgomery, a 5'10" center fielder who played his college ball at Ohio State University.
The main draw of the the trade that sent Ian Kinsler off to Anaheim, Montgomery played across three levels of the minors and finished in Double-A. His best numbers were the ones he put up in Low-A, where he posted a cool 151 wRC+, but that was a small sample of only 15 games. The bulk of his work came in Advanced-A, where he still managed a 113 wRC+ while playing well in the field. He finished with a brief stint in the high minors, where his bat played poorly, but he didn't commit any errors.
Montgomery's strongest tool is his speed. He makes good use of his plus wheels, bunting regularly and coming out of the box quickly to beat out defenders. In fact, 49.24 percent of his career hits have come on balls hit to infielders. That number is probably going to go down as he climbs the organizational ladder and the competition gets quicker and more skilled. Aggressive on the basepaths, Montgomery pushes for extra bases on drives and steals when he gets the chance.
He also uses his speed in the field, patrolling the outfield with plenty of range. With the defensive acumen to play in center and an above-average arm that slots nicely into the corners, Montgomery has played all three positions.
His value as a batter is derived mainly from his patience at the plate. He walked more than he struck out in college, and has continued to draw free passes as a professional. It is difficult to gauge exactly how well he has done because of the small sample of plate appearances. Montgomery's longest stint at a single level of the minors was 65 games played at High-A in 2017. There, he walked 8.8 percent of the time, and the number only gets higher in smaller samples.
Despite having to wait until the eight round of the 2016 draft to hear his name called, Montgomery rushed through the lower levels of the minors to reach Double-A in his first full season of pro ball. His advanced approach to the game is a good foundation for a player who hopes to get to the MLB quickly, and the speedy outfielder likely will.
One of the most elusive skill sets in baseball is the famed power/speed combination, and... well, Montgomery has speed. His swing isn't geared to hit home runs, and he isn't able to muscle drives over the wall. He posed a higher slugging percentage than expected in High-A, but he only hit six home runs there. His slugging percentage was boosted by seven triples in 296 plate appearances.
Not only does Montgomery lack the power that one likes to see in a corner outfield prospect, his batted ball profile doesn’t help. He hits more ground balls than any other type of batted ball, and it isn't close.
Unlike players with a defense-first profile, offensive prospects require a lot of moving parts to all work perfectly together. Nearly any festering imperfection or flaw in that player’s game will destroy his value. Fortunately, the bulk of Montgomery's value rests in what he can do when he isn't putting balls in play. He was never advertised as being a player with a respectable bat, so perhaps discussing this at all is a fool's errand altogether.
I'm not sure that this final point is a weakness as much as it is the end result of everything in both categories, but Montgomery's ceiling isn't really very high at all. He has a good shot to play in the majors — which is more than can be said for most eighth rounders — but his upside is very limited. His defense is above average, but his skill at the plate isn't. That doesn't combine to create a very valuable player, and it probably never will. Neither side is likely to improve to a point that it will raise his ceiling very much. He could be a decent fourth outfielder, but probably will not see regular playing time on a winning team.
Projected Team: Double-A Erie SeaWolves
Although he did reach Double-A in 2017, Montgomery only played there for 20 games. He also performed poorly in that limited playing time. Detroit will probably look to pick things up where they left off when the season ended, continuing his development with the SeaWolves. If all goes well, he may see time in a crowded Triple-A outfield later on in the year.