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Scouting report: White Sox infielder Montgomery

Athletic shortstop can help restore Chicago system’s prominence
Top White Sox prospect Colson Montgomery batted .287 in 26 games in the Rookie-level Arizona Complex League last year. (Jerry Espinoza/MiLB.com)
@Gerard_Gilberto
9:51 AM EST

MiLB.com's Scouting Report series spotlights players who are just starting their professional careers, focusing on what the experts are projecting for these young phenoms. Here's a look at top-ranked White Sox prospect Colson Montgomery. The White Sox farm system fell from prominence for all the right reasons, and now it

MiLB.com's Scouting Report series spotlights players who are just starting their professional careers, focusing on what the experts are projecting for these young phenoms. Here's a look at top-ranked White Sox prospect Colson Montgomery.

The White Sox farm system fell from prominence for all the right reasons, and now it needs players such as Colson Montgomery to restore its shine.

After an 11-year drought, Chicago reached consecutive postseasons with major contributions from homegrown talent, but now finds itself one of two teams without a player on MLB Pipeline’s Top 100 list. Montgomery, the club’s top prospect, has the best chance to break into that group.

Montgomery had his first professional at-bats in the Rookie-level Arizona Complex League last year, hitting .287/.396/.362 with seven doubles, 16 runs scored, seven RBIs and 13 walks. He played all 26 games at shortstop.

Last week, the No. 22 overall pick in last year’s Draft reported to White Sox Minor League camp at Camelback Ranch in Glendale, Arizona. The group of about 60 Minor Leaguers is receiving more instruction from Major League staff than usual due to the lockout.

Montgomery was even surprised by a video that captured a lot of attention online. The clip shows the 20-year-old taking a couple hacks during batting practice in a cage at the facility and ends with a smiling Tony La Russa emerging from off screen, clearly pleased with what he just saw from Montgomery.

“When the video came out, I saw me hitting, so I just thought it was that,” Montgomery told reporters during a Zoom call last week. “I really didn’t read the caption on it. So, at the very end, I was pretty surprised to see Tony coming in.”

Montgomery has been joined by Yoelqui Céspedes, the younger brother of Yoenis Céspedes and the top-ranked prospect in the 2020 international class, and Wes Kath, another high school infielder the Sox selected in last year’s Draft.

Montgomery and Kath, the third-rounder out of Desert Mountain High School in Arizona, are trekking a similar path to the Majors and have become fast friends while rooming together at camp.

“It was easy to kind of create a bond with him. As we have gone and played together, it’s also easy because he’s right next to me in the infield,” Kath told MLB.com last week. “We get to talk about everything. We are both left-handed hitters, so what we are feeling at the plate, how to make adjustments and kind of go from there. We have formed a good relationship. It’s kind of cool to rise up with him.”

As a taller infielder who swings from the left side, Montgomery has drawn comparisons to Corey Seager, but he’s played less baseball than most at this stage in their careers. Montgomery was a three-sport star and Indiana’s male high school athlete of the year for 2020-21 at Southridge High School in Huntingburg, Indiana. He was good enough to walk on the basketball team at Indiana University and was also the starting quarterback on the football team at Southridge.

“Once the Draft stuff got serious, that’s how my mind-set switched, knowing [baseball] was going to be my long-term sport,” Montgomery told MLB.com after signing a slot-value bonus of $3,027,000 in July. “My next step is getting bigger, stronger, faster with my frame too. And staying athletic and wanting and knowing I can stay at shortstop. I’m going to have to put a lot of work in with my footwork and all that stuff. Just want to develop to be the best.”

He shifted his full-time focus to baseball during his senior year, doing more winter baseball work than usual, but had just 27 games to prove himself before the Draft. Montgomery did more with less in his final high school season, batting .333 with seven homers and 42 runs scored while leading Southridge to a Class 3A state championship.

At 6-foot-4 and 205 pounds, Montgomery is viewed as a power-over-contact-type hitter and draws better grades for his power than what he was able to show during his short time in the complex last year. But there’s still a lot of work to be done at the plate, and most of his praise from scouts comes from his incredible athleticism, plus arm and slick fielding -- especially for his size at a premium position.

"Obviously if you watch Colson play basketball, you see explosion. ... On the baseball field we just saw such gradual progress in his defensive prowess and how he handled shortstop,” White Sox amateur scouting director Mike Shirley told the Indianapolis Star in August. “I thought you saw his effort start to calm down, you start to see his athleticism sync up in positions that are unique and that was the most appealing part."

Montgomery struck out 22 times, which was nearly 20 percent of his 111 plate appearances last season. And he’s still looking for his first career homer. But with his first professional at-bats out of the way and a full offseason of instruction from the White Sox, there’s a good chance he can maximize his impressive tool set and crack the Top 100 prospects list this season.

Here's what the experts at MLB Pipeline have to say about Montgomery:

Scouting grades (20-80 scale)

HIT: 50
POWER: 55
RUN: 45
ARM: 55
FIELD: 50
OVERALL: 50

"Indiana's 2020-21 male high school athlete of the year, Montgomery set the career basketball scoring record at Southridge High (Huntingburg, Ind.) and had the opportunity to walk on the hoops team at Indiana if he had gone to college. But his future is brighter in baseball, where he made continued improvement on the showcase circuit before his senior year, when he led Southridge to its first state 3-A championship. One of the more physical athletes in the 2021 prep class, he went 22nd overall to the White Sox in the first round and signed for $3,027,000.

As a 6-foot-4 lefty-hitting shortstop, Montgomery repeatedly draws Corey Seager comparisons and has the strength and bat speed to develop similar power. Though his pop stands out more than his hitting ability, he has a smooth stroke and should be able to hit for average as well. He's at his best when he uses the entire field rather than trying to pull pitches out of the park, and his approach has gotten more consistent during the last year.

Because he has fringy speed and figures to slow a bit as he matures physically, most scouts believe Montgomery will outgrow shortstop. He moves well for his size, however, and the White Sox will give him a chance to stick there. If he has to move to third base, he projects as at least an average defender with a solid arm."

Gerard Gilberto is a reporter for MiLB.com.