MESA, Ariz. – When Arizona Fall League rosters were unveiled in late September, Colson Montgomery was the highest-ranked player slated to be in attendance per MLB Pipeline’s rankings. Just over a month later, the No. 1 prospect in the White Sox system and No. 17 overall talent in the game is taking home his first autumn superlative -- 2023 Fall Stars Game MVP honors.
The best of the best on baseball’s premier prospect circuit converged at Sloan Park on Sunday night, with the American League Fall Stars topping the National League squad, 6-3.
While the scoring got started an inning prior, the ball began to fly when Montgomery ran into a heater thrown by NL hurler Ronan Kopp (LAD No. 16) to lead off the bottom of the fourth frame. Projected to have traveled 409 feet at 105 mph off the bat, it marked the fourth time that the slugging left-handed shortstop jogged the bases in the desert.
“I mean, I knew he was gonna stay confident with his heater and come back to it maybe with two strikes or whatever,” Montgomery said. “But I did a good job of fouling the one [pitch] off [prior], and then he ended up coming in and kind of everything just took over -- the rest is history.”
The 21-year-old Montgomery was the lone batter to deliver a multihit performance during the contest as the jam-packed rosters featured substitutions early and often. Two innings prior to the wallop to right field that set off a cascade of young fans in pursuit of a home run ball, the Indiana native swatted a single to the opposite field.
Often drawing comparisons to former Arizona Fall Leaguer and reigning World Series MVP Corey Seager, Montgomery has put his precocious talent on display throughout his time with Glendale. The 6-foot-4 shortstop belted a homer in the AFL on the same night Seager teed off in the ALCS. He posted his first multihomer game since high school. His raw power has led to scouts calling him “a monster.”
“When you're out here going against the best pitchers, you learn a lot about yourself, about strike-zone awareness and approach and things like that,” Montgomery said. “And you take away – I feel like – a lot more from kind of a short span by just facing the best of the best.”
For all of Montgomery’s successes this year, it has been far from a linear path to the handshakes and adulation that came along with winning the first Fall Stars Game MVP award in White Sox history. With his 2023 odyssey not setting sail until mid-June, he is in many regards just finding his rhythm after an oblique strain that developed into a mid-back strain cost him valuable development time. Upon returning, he quickly proved his ability had far exceeded the lower levels of the Minors, earning a second call to Double-A Birmingham after posting a .345 average and 1.088 OPS in 17 games with High-A Winston-Salem.
With all the accrued missed time, Montgomery knew he was likely desert-bound as his regular-season contests dwindled. So he’s returned to the White Sox Spring Training home at Camelback Ranch to further put himself in the mix as the team moves into 2024 and beyond. Chicago declined the club option on veteran Tim Anderson, potentially clearing the way for Montgomery's big league debut.
“The experience that I've had here at the Fall League is just awesome,” said Montgomery, “and I'm very happy that I was invited to this and that the White Sox sent me here.”
Last season, Cubs first baseman Matt Mervis parlayed his power-packed performance at the Fall Stars Game into MVP honors before earning his first taste of the big leagues just a few months later. This go-round, it was time for Montgomery – who has had fervent support in the stands for many contests – and the South Side of Chicago to shine.
No MVP performance is complete without a little style. While all Fall Stars representatives showed off their fashion sense when they walked the red carpet earlier in the day, Montgomery brought the heat to the diamond in a new format via his bright orange cleats.
“I knew it was an All-Star Game,” said Montgomery. “You know, you see the big leagues and stuff, everybody wears crazy cleats. So I was like, ‘Well, heck, why not?’ Why can't I do it, you know what I'm saying?
“I guess they had something in them tonight, you know, but I'm glad I wore them.”