With Colson Montgomery, White Sox finally return to high school in first round

The trades of this past winter, most of which exchanged top talent for precocious teenage prospects, signaled that the White Sox needed to go younger and more athletic with their amateur talent acquisition. The Sox made steps toward that end with a focus on prep talent in the second rounds and second days of the previous two drafts,

Colson Montgomery, the first White Sox first-round pick out of high school since Courtney Hawkins in 2012, is a much larger step toward that end.

PERTINENT: White Sox select Colson Montgomery in the first round of the 2021 MLB Draft

The White Sox selected Montgomery out of Southridge High School in Huntingburg, Ind., with the 22nd overall pick. If everything goes their way, they get an athletic left-handed hitter who can cover both positions on the left side of the infield, and with plenty of power in his bat:

“We think this guy is going to continue to flourish,” [White Sox scouting director Mike] Shirley said. “I think the most transformative piece in the bat this year was every time this kid, when we were in the park, struck the ball, the power was real. When he delivers the barrel, he gets to his power.

“That was the thing offensively that jumped out at us. You think about a plus bat in terms of the hit tool plus power, that was the exceptional piece. You have an easy-moving athlete, graceful, does the part defensively, gets to the impact of the bat. That jumped out at us as well.”

The White Sox were tied to Montgomery for the entirety of the mock draft process, to the point that it’s fair to wonder if tunnel vision came into play. Shirley makes his home in northern Indiana, so it was geographically easy for Montgomery to establish himself on the White Sox’s radar from the Evansville area. The White Sox picked him even though a guy like Texas flame-throwing righty Ty Madden slid from a projected top-half pick to the Tigers at No. 32, which evaluators have heralded as one of the first-day steals.

Montgomery didn’t get that kind of heat, partially because of a late-developing profile with questions about his hit tool, partially because he might not stick at shortstop as his 6-foot-4-inch, 190-pound frame fills out, and partially because he’s already 19 years old.

None of these is a fatal flaw, and the White Sox think Montgomery’s athleticism can answer these concerns.

Late bloomer? Well he didn’t focus solely on baseball until late in high school, because he could have walked on for the Indiana university basketball team.

Size? Montgomery told MLB Network he’s a shortstop, and the White Sox have no designs on moving him.

As for his age, Montgomery said he didn’t consider baseball as a serious path until high school, and didn’t select it as his main option until his junior year, so he may not be as ahead/maxed out as that age often indicates.

While the White Sox used to be knocked for their predilection for football-playing baseball players who couldn’t turn tools into skills, Tim Anderson provides a positive example of such a background. He turned to baseball late in high school, where he starred as a basketball player. He just chose the junior college route to shore up his baseball bona fides, and made his pro debut at age 20 after the White Sox picked him in the first round of the 2014 draft.

Anderson’s path to stardom was neither smooth nor guaranteed, but his athleticism is a big reason why patience paid off. The White Sox are banking on the same with Montgomery, and this comment from Montgomery’s high school quote to James Fegan shows how it pays off.

If you want to know why it’s important that Montgomery is a well-rounded athlete when his job will be to be a professional baseball player, well, it’s all about feel. All good athletes have it. The special ones have a little something extra.

“He knows,” Mattingly said. “We always go back to what your body feels like when it was right. He can go back and re-create that. He can make his adjustments instantly. For his age, he has body control and body awareness that is ridiculous. I’ve never been around someone that had that kind of body awareness. So, he’s a feel guy, but he understands the rest of it, which makes him dangerous.”

Perhaps Montgomery nearly needs singled-minded reps to answer his doubts, but the emphasis on athleticism means he’ll be pliable enough to incorporate tweaks without throwing off his entire equilibrium. If his hit tool never quite comes around, the Sox are left to hope that 1) he can still play a decent shortstop or a very good third, and 2) at least shows enough discipline to access his power on a regular basis. When it all lines up, it looks something like this:

There’s a lot of risk in this profile, but there didn’t seem to be much in the way of surer bets among position players (Jud Fabian gave me Jeren Kendall vibes). The collegiate pitching path is the one worth following, including East Carolina righty Gavin Williams to Cleveland at No. 23, Wake Forest righty Ryan Cusick to Atlanta at No. 24, and Detroit getting Madden in the comp round. Max Muncy had appeal among other prep position players, although it’s only fitting to let Oakland get a second shot at one of those.

(Photo by Macabe Brown / Courier & Press via Imagn Content Services, LLC)

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Jim Margalus

Writing about the White Sox for a 16th season, first here, then at South Side Sox, and now here again. Let’s talk curling.

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MrStealYoBase

The trades of this past winter, most of which exchanged top talent for precocious teenage prospects, signaled that the White Sox needed to go younger and more athletic with their amateur talent acquisition.

Not to be lost is how many of those prospects were acquired via the international amateur market. A real change in philosophy regarding talent acquisition would be if they were finally willing to give significant bonuses to international guys younger than 20.

Still, it’s nice that the draft strategy has finally gotten to the point where they can go with a guy they believe they can take their time developing into a real star, rather than trying to find the most polished college player who they can rush to the majors to fill a void on the active roster.

ParisSox

The Max Muncy thing is cool. Speaking of which, Muncy is a fan of Derek Jeter.

“Jeter was someone I admired on and off the field. He was a great guy. Don’t know him personally, but from the looks of it, he seems like a really good guy,” he said.

Oh the innocence of youth.

asindc

I wonder if Montgomery’s HS coach Mattingly is related to Don Mattingly, who is also from Evansville.