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Chicago Sun Times
Chicago Sun-Times
21 Oct 2023

NextImg:White Sox prospect Colson Montgomery is a budding tall star at shortstop

PHOENIX — Colson Montgomery knows what’s being discussed inside the baseball offices at Guaranteed Rate Field, about 1,800 miles away from his temporary home at Camelback Ranch.

The topic is Tim Anderson, and team officials must decide shortly after the conclusion of the World Series whether to pick up the

$14 million option on their puzzling shortstop, move him to second base, trade him or give him a $1 million buyout.

“You see all that stuff, but at the same time, you can’t worry about it,” Montgomery said Monday night. “You’d just put pressure on yourself other than just staying in the moment, especially in the game of baseball.

“You just don’t know what’s going to happen, whether it’s at Birmingham or in Chicago. You don’t know where you’re going to go. I’m going to take it one day at a time, get better here and hopefully next year see the bigs.”

Montgomery, 21, isn’t ready for the major leagues. But playing for the Glendale Desert Dogs in the Arizona Fall League has enabled him to play against tougher competition that will prepare him for an inevitable promotion to the majors — maybe next season.

“As a competitor, I’m going to say I feel ready, but that’s not my call,” Montgomery said with a laugh. “I feel comfortable with myself, I believe in my abilities and I feel that playing here and having a good AFL season is going to help me.”

The 6-3, 205-pound Montgomery is a consensus top-25 major-league prospect, giving Sox fans much-welcomed hope after two years of falling short of expectations that included an injury-plagued, power-shortened 2023 season by Anderson.

But Sox general manager Chris Getz isn’t about to accelerate Montgomery’s timetable.

“There’s no reason to rush him,” Getz said, “and force him into a situation to learn on the fly.”

Montgomery has drawn comparisons to Rangers All-Star Corey Seager because of their similar large frames for shortstops and left-handed hitting abilities. He showcased his power by hitting two home runs in an Oct. 13 game, and he produced a 128 wRC+ at Double-A Birmingham.

But the reality is that Montgomery has played only 37 games at the Double-A level. A mid-back sprain sidelined him for the first 2½ months of the season, causing him to regain the lost at-bats in the AFL.

“He understands the big picture and puts in the work,” Getz said.

Montgomery’s frame has led some to believe he eventually will shift to third base. He let a grounder skip past him for a hit after third baseman Rowdey Jordan ranged to his left Monday against Peoria.

Getz believes Montgomery merely needs to get better reactions off the bat and take cleaner angles on grounders. He believes his size benefits him at the plate and on the field.

“We’ve heard the whispers about him moving to third, but what a better way to develop him than in the middle of the diamond,” said Getz, adding that Montgomery’s strong arm and soft hands are assets at shortstop. 

Through all this, Montgomery welcomes the opportunity to improve against tougher competition in the AFL.

“Especially when you look at a lot of guys’ careers, great guys’ careers,” Montgomery said. “They went through the Arizona Fall League. They had their troubles there, but they learned a lot.

“That’s what I’m most excited about being here. I can learn a lot about myself, learn my strengths and weaknesses, but I’m checking off another box. It’s been awesome.”

One longtime talent evaluator thought it might be too extreme to compare Montgomery’s potential to Seager at this point, mentioning that Seager’s swing is more level.

But he believed Montgomery has the range and strength to remain at shortstop and be a steady middle-of-the-order batter.

“[Receiving] a comp to Seager is very awesome,” Montgomery said. “Being able to see what he does every day, looking at videos of how he works on his swing and defense while being a bigger shortstop, you can learn a lot.”

The back injury was a blessing in disguise because Montgomery performed his rehab work at the Sox’ spring-training facility in Glendale and worked on strengthening areas needed to remain at shortstop.

“Just having that explosive energy, that explosiveness from lateral to vertical, translates nicely,” Montgomery said.

Montgomery’s lateral movement brings to mind his basketball career at Southridge High School in Huntingburg, Indiana, where he averaged 24.3 points and would’ve been invited to join the Indiana basketball team as a preferred walk-on had he not signed a $3.027 million bonus to join the Sox’ organization.

“Playing basketball my whole life keeps you athletic,” Montgomery said. “If you’re not athletic in basketball, you shouldn’t be playing basketball.”

When asked about the last time he played basketball, Montgomery smirked.

“My senior year,” Montgomery said. “That’s the business-decision answer.”

Meanwhile, Montgomery said he crossed paths with Anderson in spring training, hearing advice that he said Anderson spreads to every youngster in the organization:

“Just do what you can do. Be you. Don’t try to be anyone else. Once you try to be someone else, you’re not playing your game.”