Who is Andre Lamontagne?
An 11th round pick by Milwaukee in 2009, Lamontagne was drafted after four years of college; he spent his first two years with Long Beach State and his last two at Oral Roberts University. His last season with ORU he struck out 72 batters with a 2.97 ERA in 75.2 innings pitched. Lamontagne was named first team all-summit league as a Senior.
So far, he's been fast-tracked a bit by the Brewers, likely because of his time in college and the fact that he will be 25 at the start of 2011. In 2009, his first professional season, he spent the entire year with rookie league Helena, both as a starter and in relief. Last year he opened the season in relief with Wisconsin (Low A) where he pitched to the tune of a 2.36 ERA. Lamontagne pitched his way all the way to Double-A Huntsville and finished the season in the starting rotation.
Lamontagne is 6'5" and 208 lbs, a right-handed pitcher and enjoyed success as both a starter and a reliever in 2010. He has a big frame, which can lend itself to velocity but most reports indicate that he operates best in the low-90's with his fastball. From what I could find he has a decent cutter and an improving changeup.
He's a solid pitcher that has performed well at every level he has pitched at. Lamontagne has done a pretty good job striking batters out, with 79 K's in 86.2 innings. Not bad for a guy who doesn't have a true power arm or a plus breaking ball.
Lamontagne also performed well in the closer's role last season. He saw time finishing games for all three teams he played for, recording saves at Wisconsin, Brevard County and Huntsville. While closing at the minor league level and the major league level are vastly different, versatility is never a bad thing.
When he first moved to the starting rotation, Lamontagne was dominant as well. In his first 11 innings as a starter he struck out eight and gave up only two hits. Not bad for a guy who spent the first nearly four months of the season in the bullpen.
One area that Lamontagne will need to work on is his walk rate. Last season he walked 44 batters, essentially one every other inning. Whether his future is as a reliever or starter he will need to cut down on the walks. Good relievers post 1-2-3 innings and good starters limit their walks to keep the pitch count down. Lamontagne's walks will be one number to keep on eye on in 2011.
The other area that will be watched is his transition back to starting. He wore down at the end of 2011 after being moved into the rotation but that is something that can't happen again. In two of his last four starts he gave up more than four runs. Consistency as a starter is an area that Lamontagne will require attention.
This will be an important season for Lamontagne's development as a player. He should start the year with Double-A Huntsville and in the starting rotation though his ultimate future will probably be as a relief pitcher. The Brewers need to gain a larger sampling size of what he can do as a starting pitcher before relegating him to the pen.
The reason that he would seem to have more of a future as a reliever is that walk rate. He's had his best successes so far in relief and although he deserves every opportunity to prove he can start right now that just doesn't look like his best fit.
But that comes back to why 2011 is such an important year in Lamontagne's development. If he can establish himself as a starting pitcher great, but if he performs well in relief he will earn his way to Triple-A either late this season or to start next, putting him in a position to help the big club sooner than later.