SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- A 6-foot-4, left-handed-hitting shortstop with a sweet swing is manning shortstop for the Glendale Desert Dogs.
But it's not 2013-14. It's 2023, after all.
Montgomery drilled an 111.8 mph triple down the right-field line Thursday night at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick, plating three runs to open the scoring for Glendale in an eventual 10-9 win. Just moments earlier, if you looked quickly, it seemed like he had also swatted a game-tying solo home run in Game 4 of the American League Championship Series. Only, that wasn’t Montgomery, but rather Seager. The Chicago wunderkind has long drawn comparisons to the four-time All-Star for the similarity of their lightning-quick strokes at the dish.
“Just the fact that he's a big shortstop too, you know, and I'm a big shortstop. So just watching the way he pre-sets in the infield and also how he swings and things like that. Especially being a big body, I mean, it's not easy being 6-foot-4 and playing shortstop and also being able to swing. I just look at his game and just try and take little things from it.”
The present often emulates the past. In Montgomery’s case, he’s on a trajectory to potentially supersede it.
Seager spent two seasons donning the black and orange Desert Dogs cap from 2013-14. Although he hadn’t yet turned 21, he combined to hit three home runs in 42 games over that span, a mark Montgomery matched in back-to-back contests last week. After his second stint with Glendale, Seager was just months away from making his big league debut as a September callup in ‘15. Could a similar fate be on the horizon for Montgomery?
When the White Sox nabbed Montgomery with the 22nd overall pick in the 2021 Draft (four picks later than Seager in ‘12) out of Southridge High School in Huntingburg, Ind., they could dream on the offensive impact coiled up within his frame.
The top-ranked player per MLB Pipeline (No. 17 overall) in attendance at the 2023 Arizona Fall League has repeatedly shown when he gets his bat through the zone – particularly to his pull side – he creates some serious thunder at just 21 years old. His third-inning triple stands as the third hardest-hit ball officially recorded this season in the Fall League.
Prior to his sacrifice fly in the sixth, which plated his fourth run of the contest, Montgomery hooked a hanging slider foul, coming off the bat at 110 mph. In his only prior outing at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick (the lone AFL park equipped with Statcast), he recorded two more hard-hit balls, including a 104.7 mph groundout.
While Montgomery eschews doggedly following his advanced metrics, citing a “go up and hit the ball hard” approach, he’s all ears when it comes to slight in-game tweaks or the chess match between batter and pitcher.
“You talk to these other dudes from other organizations, and I mean, a lot of the stuff we talk about is approach and strike-zone discipline,” said Montgomery, “and sometimes [pitchers] give it to you, you know what I mean? And they're human too. It's not like they're gonna throw strikes every single time. So there's times where I get in the habit of being on swing mode all the time.”
An oblique injury that morphed into a mid-back strain robbed Montgomery of half a season of vital development in 2023. But since returning, he’s hit at every stop, culminating in a stint in the Fall League that is at an impressive midpoint. Through 11 games, the Glendale shortstop has an .833 OPS with six extra-base hits in his past five outings. That includes his first multihomer performance since high school.
The Fall League is often considered the place where the stars of tomorrow can embark on their latest challenges. A litany of talent is on hand. For some, the setting might be as close to The Show as they get. But for other gifted stars, it serves as a proving ground showing their willingness to seize on any and every opportunity.