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The first two months of this season, Mike Montgomery was a solid option out of the bullpen for the Cubs. In those initial 36 2/3 innings, he held a 2.21 ERA and struck out 26 batters. While he was getting opportunities to pitch, he wasn’t going to get save chances. Thus, Montgomery wasn’t on the radar of many fantasy owners. Montgomery’s situation changed June 9.

The Cubs were looking for a pitcher to fill a spot in the starting rotation due to Kyle Hendricks' stint on the disabled list, and Montgomery ran with the opportunity. In his first start, he gave up two earned runs against the Rockies in four innings. He surrendered two earned runs in his next start. Montgomery hasn’t given up an earned run in his past two starts, and he’s struck out 10 over the course of those 12 innings. That’s the kind of production that will get the attention of fantasy owners.

Montgomery was one of the most-added players in fantasy baseball over the past week. He was the tenth-most added player in ESPN leagues, and his ownership rate jumped from 5.1 to 20.8 percent. Montgomery had the seventh-largest change by ownership rate at CBS this week (29 percent to 46 percent). In Yahoo’s latest “Transaction Trends,” he was the third-most added player.

So, is it time for you to invest in Mike Montgomery if he’s available in your league? There are several factors to consider. The biggest question might be whether he has an opportunity to hold a spot in the rotation once other options get healthy. If so, is he a valuable fantasy piece moving forward?

Let’s take a deeper dive into Montgomery’s number in this week’s Buyer’s Guide.

The Good

Montgomery has always been a ground-ball pitcher, but he’s pushed that even further this season. He currently has a 61 percent ground-ball rate, which has coincided with a greater reliance on his sinker. Montgomery’s sinker usage has jumped from 8 percent to 21 percent since stepping into the starting rotation. For all the Cubs struggles this season, they’re still one of the best defensive units in baseball. This can be a huge boost to a pitcher like Montgomery, who can get the ball on the ground.

His sinker hasn’t been his only effective pitch in this regard. He’s also induced many ground balls with his fastball. This season, Montgomery has kept his ground-ball rate above 53 percent every month on pitches when his fastball is put in play. Montgomery has lived in the bottom part of the zone throughout his career, and it’s been no different during this run. Below, you’ll find Montgomery’s zone profile by raw number of pitches since the beginning of June:

As a starter, Montgomery has thrown five different pitches at least 10 percent of the time, and he uses that diversity to help keep hitters off balance. What he lacks in overpowering stuff, he makes up for with his ability to give batters different looks. Deception has been a huge part of his success up to this point.

The Bad

A glance at Montgomery’s numbers raises some red flags for interested fantasy owners. First, let’s get the obvious warning signs out of the way. Montgomery is benefiting from a .254 BABIP that is likely to come up. He’s also currently stranding 81 percent of base runners which is unlikely to hold. These two metrics suggest that, at the very least, Montgomery has been a bit lucky during this run. His 4.66 DRA seems to agree with that assessment.

However, there are other factors to consider. Montgomery might provide you with a solid ERA, but it remains to be seen how much additional fantasy value he can supply. The Cubs are attempting to stretch him out so he can go deeper into games but, so far, he hasn’t gone beyond six innings.

The bigger concern is with his strikeout/WHIP potential. Montgomery’s 8.6 percent swinging-strike rate is below league average, as is his first-strike rate. His control also can be an issue, as he’s walked at least two batters in three of his four starts. On the surface that total isn’t a major concern, but given his limited innings it could potentially be a problem He’s walked 4.37 per nine over the course of this season.

Buyer’s Guide: Sell (or stream)

There are enough questions about Montgomery’s value moving forward that I’m hesitant to recommend him as a permanent addition to your roster. If you’re able to add him on a start-by-start basis, you could decide based on matchups. His next start should be Friday against the Reds. which is a more challenging proposition than in years past.

If you need to bolster your ERA, Montgomery might be worth a shot. However, he simply doesn’t provide the upside that other starters might, given their potential to contribute in multiple categories. His good fortune in the “luck categories,” along with stats like DRA and FIP, make me skeptical. The good thing for fantasy owners is that is sounds like there is a strong push to keep him in the rotation. Jared Wyllys of BP Wrigleyville noted that Eddie Butler likely will be the first to lose his rotation spot as others get healthy. The opportunities will be there for Montgomery, but it’s hard to expect the same kind of results.

Thank you for reading

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