Red-hot White Sox top prospect on his mindset

July 25th, 2023

This story was excerpted from Scott Merkin’s White Sox Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

Colson Montgomery is glad to be out of Arizona.

His move to High-A Winston-Salem around July 4 meant the No. 1 White Sox prospect and No. 20 overall, according to MLB Pipeline, was truly beginning his 2023 season after a mid-back strain slowed his start. It also allowed the talented shortstop to skip the searing summer desert temperatures.

“Exactly,” Montgomery told me during a Friday phone interview. “The week I left it was starting to get like 120 [degrees], something ridiculous.”

Arizona’s harsh heat has nothing on Montgomery’s torrid presence at the plate with the Dash. Through 12 games, the 21-year-old left-handed hitter has slashed .410/.610/.615 to go with two home runs, eight RBIs and 12 runs scored. Montgomery has walked 16 times against just seven strikeouts, and he has 27 walks and 12 strikeouts combined when factoring in his earlier work for the Arizona Complex White Sox.

Those video game-like numbers, coupled with Montgomery’s strong showing with Winston-Salem and Single-A Kannapolis last year, should push Montgomery back to Double-A Birmingham -- where he finished the ’22 campaign -- sooner rather than later. But since arriving with the White Sox as the No. 22 pick overall in the ’21 Draft, Montgomery has done a good job of being where his feet are situated.

“I get asked it all the time with my teammates and stuff, but I’m just not really worrying about all that,” Montgomery said. “If I try to worry about, ‘Oh, I should be here or there,’ it kind of puts unneeded pressure on myself. Wherever I’m at, give whatever I got and go out and compete.

“Just because I was hurt, it didn’t take away my mindset. I’m still going into the box thinking, 'Whatever you throw, I’m going to be able to hit.' Even the work in the offseason that I went through, I still carry that over when I started. I feel really good.”

Montgomery laughed when asked if these big numbers impress him, adding he never looks at his statistics in-season. He’s hunting the right pitches, swinging at pitches he can do damage on and not swinging too frequently at pitchers’ pitches or chasing out of the zone.

“When I do get my pitch, I’m hitting it and I’m hitting it hard,” Montgomery said. “I’m really just trying to put the ball in play and hit it hard. I always say that before a game: Just trying to hit something hard today. If you hit the ball hard, you are giving yourself a better chance of it getting through or it being a hit.

“At the same time, I just have a competitive nature at the plate that I don’t want the pitcher to beat me. Each at-bat is a new at-bat that whatever I did before, it doesn’t matter. The only at-bat that matters is the one I’m getting ready to go into.”

Montgomery’s rehab process, focused on a 100 percent return regardless of the time it took, netted about 10 pounds of muscle mass through nutrition, hydration and workouts once he was cleared in Arizona to go back to action. Montgomery doesn’t let the top prospect status dictate anything baseball- or life-related, but he acknowledges the desire as a competitor to prove this value put on him by others.

That injury, suffered when Montgomery’s back locked up while taking his swing, could have hampered his big league timeline. But if Montgomery performs with the Barons close to what he has done with the Dash, the ‘24 season with the White Sox, at some point, remains a possibility.

“Everybody looks at that stuff to see when they should be there. I feel like that’s normal,” Montgomery said. “All I can really do is show them how I’m doing, show them how I’m playing.

“I feel like I can get there as soon as possible. At the same time, especially coming back from an injury and missing the amount I have, it’s better to get my development down, get ABs, play some games, and learn more about myself.”