DENVER -- Going for a tall high school athlete with speed for the second straight year in the first round, the Rockies selected right-handed-hitting outfielder Benny Montgomery from Red Land HS in Lewisberry, Pa., with the eighth overall pick Sunday night in the MLB Draft.
Montgomery, 18, is listed at 6-foot-4 and 200 pounds. He signed with the University of Virginia, but those plans are expected to change because of the Rockies’ selection, valued at $5,176,900.
"I had meetings with some of their top guys a few weeks ago, and I knew that they liked me -- and I liked them, as well," Montgomery said. "And the thought of playing at Coors Field, where the ball flies, can't be cooler to me."
Last year, the Rockies took Zac Veen, listed at 6-foot-4 and 190 pounds, from Spruce Creek HS in Port Orange, Fla., ninth overall. MLB Pipeline established Veen as the team’s top prospect because of his growth potential and the leverage he can gain with his left-handed swing. Veen is hitting .249 with a .366 on-base percentage, 26 stolen bases and four home runs at Low-A Fresno in his first pro season.
Rockies interim general manager Bill Schmidt, who has run the club's Draft since 2000, said the Rockies liked "his tool package -- athleticism with the size, the strength and speed combination. Those are hard to find that come together. Despite being 6-foot-4, he's a well-above average runner, and there's a power combination.
"We think going forward, he's going to be a very productive Major League outfielder for the Colorado Rockies," Schmidt said.
Montgomery has a similar build to Veen, with his unique quality being speed. Some scouts have gone as far as to rate his speed at 80 on the 20-80 scouting scale.
As he developed, Montgomery was compared often to lanky outfielders such as Hunter Pence, Jayson Werth and Rocco Baldelli. But as his swing has matured, he has set his sights on imitating a power hitter from a few years back.
"As I progressed, it's gotten much better and I would say Gary Sheffield is a good one to say that I've got a lot of," he said.
One question about Montgomery: his swing. However, Montgomery turned heads in showcases by making solid contact against top national competition. In fact, Montgomery won the Perfect Game All-American Classic Home Run Derby. MLB Pipeline rated Montgomery the 15th-best prospect in the 2021 Draft.
Schmidt and Rockies scouts saw Montgomery last summer through work his advisors arranged with Casey Smith, a Chelsea, Ala., hitting expert, and in showcase events. He carried those adjustments through his senior year at Red Land under head coach Nate Ebbert and increased his Draft profile.
"We saw that he had a little hand movement that he toned down as the summer went along, and I think that helped," Schmidt said. "We saw adjustments and refinement of the approach as the summer went on in a lot of different events from last July through into October, then carrying over into this spring."
The key actually was much lower than his hands. At times, his legs and his upper body were out of sync.
"My skeptics would talk about a hitch or where I was really coming out of the ground," Montgomery said. "Both my upper body and my lower body are connected, so Casey realized that and said, 'Hey, we're going to try to get you connected with the lower half and really stay on the ground, and we'll make you feel like your hands don't have to do as much. We did a ton of drills to stay anchored on the ground and use the ground to my advantage."
The Rockies like his frame, which has room for strength. He agrees.
"As I continue to grow, the power [will] only keep coming and coming and coming," he said. "And then we'll be hitting balls out of Coors Field in two years."