CHICAGO -- The story of Colson Montgomery, the top pick for the White Sox in the 2021 Draft at No. 22 overall, has a vaguely familiar feel.
Montgomery, a 19-year-old left-handed hitter who is committed to Indiana University, comes from Southridge High School in Huntingburg, Ind., as the basketball program’s all-time leading scorer. According to Maxpreps.com, Montgomery averaged 20.9 points, 7.1 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game over four years.
At 6-foot-4, 205 pounds, Montgomery was listed as a shortstop by the White Sox on Draft night. Some pundits see Montgomery changing defensive spots in professional baseball, but Montgomery told MLB Network on Sunday that he’s a shortstop.
If White Sox fans have heard this previously, it’s because Tim Anderson’s tale of being drafted and developed was very similar, aside from Anderson hitting right-handed and coming from East Central Community College. Anderson’s convictions not only have turned him into one of the best Major League shortstops, but also one of the game’s most charismatic and impactful presences.
White Sox director of amateur scouting Mike Shirley sees similar attributes in Montgomery, whose slot value at No. 22 checks in at $3,027,000 of the team’s $6,618,600 total bonus pool.
“A left-handed bat ... he has both [average] and power,” said Shirley of Montgomery on a Draft night Zoom session. “He has a presence on the field. He’s made so much defensive improvement. He’s the one that screamed, ‘Hey, I’m your guy.’ He’s the one who took the step forward to do the defensive work. You see the athlete unfold. He separated himself into being the baseball player he is now.”
“I’m just very confident in what I can do, and I’m very confident in myself in everything,” Montgomery said. “I like standing out in unique ways. I’m a unique person, a very unique athlete. I’ll back it up, for sure.”
To back up his statement Sunday, Montgomery wore a polka dot shirt and a bowtie as he celebrated the White Sox selection with seven family members in Denver.
“Just a wave of emotions coming in, especially with all the hard work, everything I’ve put into this sport, it all paid off,” Montgomery said. “It’s not the end, either. It’s just the beginning, too. I’m very honored and blessed to have this opportunity to continue my next chapter with the White Sox.”
“We feel lucky,” Shirley said. “We feel like we got the right guy. We are very excited to have this young man. This guy has impact talent.”
This selection of Montgomery, who was the 25th-ranked Draft prospect per MLB Pipeline, marked the first time the White Sox took a high school player with their first Draft selection since outfielder Courtney Hawkins in 2012. Hawkins made news by doing a back flip during an interview on draft night in full suit and dress shoes, but he was gone from the White Sox after the 2017 season.
Shirley stressed how pitching depth was a theme in last year’s abbreviated five-round Draft, with the White Sox taking five pitchers, including Garrett Crochet in Round 1 and Jared Kelley in Round 2. He spoke recently about top-flight high school infielders being the theme in ’21, with Montgomery emerging as their top target.
“I’ve said all along, if there’s impact talent on the Draft board, the White Sox are going to be active in it,” Shirley said. “We felt like this was the piece of the puzzle that was going to be a difference-maker for us. This kid comes with a lot of upside, a lot of significant talent.”
Seven of the last eight top picks for the White Sox have been part of this team’s stellar first half, leaving them eight games ahead of the Indians in the American League Central and with the best record in the AL at 54-35. Anderson (2013, 17th overall) and left-hander pitcher Carlos Rodón (2014, No. 3) are two of the White Sox four All-Stars this season.
Anderson’s selection was the last time the White Sox picked below No. 11 in the first round, and the last time they picked a shortstop with their first pick. The 2009 Draft, where outfielder Jared Mitchell was taken No. 23 overall, marks the last time the White Sox first pick was in the 20s.
Mitchell was a football and baseball standout at LSU, and along with his basketball and baseball prowess, Montgomery played quarterback for two seasons at Southridge. He batted .333 with nine doubles, seven home runs, 23 RBIs and 42 runs scored during his senior season, guiding the Raiders to the IHSAA Class 3A state championship.
Sunday’s pick by the White Sox reinforced Montgomery’s pick to stay with baseball.
“It was tough, especially Indiana being a huge basketball state,” Montgomery said. “But it kind of goes back to the basketball coaches, they weren’t really showing much interest because they pretty much were saying I was too good at baseball to go play basketball at college, and they thought I would just go play baseball.
“Once the clock starting ticking down and running into the White Sox pick, I kind of got pretty confident that was where I was going to land. Just knowing Shirley, I get a really good idea what the White Sox organization is all about … . I could tell how passionate he was and how confident he was with me and my abilities.”