In baseball, there has always been a big disconnect between the blue-chip "can't miss" prospects - the Humbertos - and those sad-but-successful, blue-collar tillers of the minor league dirt, which I call the Bootchecks.
It's the grand chasm between experts and fans, between the radar gun Einsteins who get paid to assess talent and we stumble-bums who simply check the box scores every night to see what the hell Cito Culver did.
The first group, of course, is named for Humberto Sanchez, the key treasure in the great Gary Sheffield dump-trade of 2006. The Tigers got Shef, and we received Humberto and three orders of lunch meat. Despite tepid stats in the minors, Humberto's girth and grit gave Yankee scouts sizable erections (though to be fair, he faced a "soft-tissue" arm injury that hurt his chances.) With considerable fanfare, Humberto finally made it to the Yankees in 2008 and pitched 2 (two) innings, yielding one earned run, for his career ERA of 4.50.
His counterpart, Chris Bootcheck won 76 games in the minors, most of them at Triple A. Over 12 years, he generally got the dirty job done, but Bootcheck bounced around and bounced around and bounced around and - hey, I can do this all day - clawed his way up to the Yankees in 2013, when he threw one inning and gave up one run, for an ERA of 9.00. To my knowledge, no scout - not even the late Billy Connor - ever sent him an Old Spice gift basket wrapped around a poem by Lord Byron.
So you've got the Humbertos - the first round picks and big bonus Latinos - (think Andrew Brackman or Ricardo Aramboles) - who are always dancing buck naked in our Yankee wet dreams. And then you have the Bootchecks - (the Vidal Nunos and David Phelpses) - who inch their way through the system, inning by inning, simply by winning games that nobody remembers.
Which brings us to Jordan Montgomery, today's 24 year old Yankee starter, who is - gasp - both a Humberto... and a Bootcheck!
This is Montgomery's fourth year as a pro. The Yankees drafted him in the fourth round out of college, where he was a closer. Thus, he hadn't thrown a shit-ton of innings. The scouts saw something that made their billiards flush. They turned Montgomery into a starter. Ever since, all he's done is win.
Get this: In 2015, between A and AA, Montgomery went 10-8 with an ERA of 2.95. Last year, he started with Trenton and went 9-4 with a 2.55 ERA, then moved up to Scranton and went 5-1 and - gulp - 0.97. Yep, lights out for the year. This spring, he was perhaps the Yankees' greatest pitching surprise. Now, he's making his MLB debut.
And let's be honest: There can be a psychological drawback to being the guy who has dominated everyone over the last two years. If Montgomery gets cuffed around today, will it destroy his confidence? The last time anybody hit him, Donald Trump was a joke. (Insert your own Trump jokes here.) I mean, could Jordan Montgomery be the magical Yankee unicorn for which we've been waiting all these years? We've gone through Manny Banuelos, the Killer Bs, Kai Igawa, all the way to Luis Severino and James Kaprielian. Is Montgomery, who floated both over and under the radar, the answer?
Humberto Bootcheck. Let's see. Keep your juju powder dry.