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White Sox Deep Dive: Rookie League Shortstops

Colson Montgomery enjoyed a solid debut season with the ACL Sox. What’s next?

Colson Montgomery, compared to Corey Seager by MLB Pipeline, is the highest-ranking prospect in the Sox system.
Chicago White Sox

“Deep Dive” focuses on the depth of each position in the Chicago White Sox organization.

Welcome to another year of Deep Dive, where we analyze the past, present and future for each position in the White Sox organization. Each position is broken into five parts:

  1. Depth in the rookie levels (Dominican through Arizona)
  2. Depth in A-ball (Kannapolis and Winston-Salem)
  3. Depth in the higher levels (Birmingham and Charlotte)
  4. Under the Radar-type detail on a White Sox player
  5. Free agent options

It didn’t seem all that long ago when very few shortstops manned the list of top draft prospects. This has now changed due to recent drafts and international signing classes. Four shortstops now are listed in MLB Pipeline’s Top 30 White Sox prospect list — and this doesn’t even include Yolbert Sánchez, who was detailed in in second base deep dive. Without further ado, below is the list of rookie leaguers who played primarily at shortstop.

Ages below are as of April 1, 2022

ACL White Sox

Colson Montgomery
205 pounds
Age: 20
Bats/Throws: L/R

As a three-sport standout from Huntington, Ind., a community of 18,000 a bit southwest of Fort Wayne, Montgomery was the star quarterback who drew attention from Indiana University, and also was established as a hoops star as well. However, as good as he was in those other sports, his better long-term prospects lay on the diamond. Easily a first-round talent, he fell to the 23rd pick due to concerns about his being a bit old for a prep player. However, athletic shortstops of his size don’t grow on trees, so when he was available for the Sox, it was a no-brainer selection for Sox scouting director Mike Shirley to opt for the Hoosiers recruit.

After signing for the slot value of $3.027 million, Montgomery held his own despite playing against competition nearly a year older. In 26 games for the ACL White Sox spanning 111 plate appearances, he slashed .287/.396/.362 with seven doubles, 13 walks (11.7%), 22 strikeouts (19.8%) and wRC+ of 112. While hitting righties fairly well at a .284/.376/.378 clip, he fared even better against southpaws (albeit without power) by slashing .300/.462/.300. Coming on strong in September, Montgomery slashed .382/.447/.441 in September. While he did commit five errors, the majority occurred in the first couple weeks of his debut.

When it comes to strengths, Montgomery’s power instantly stands out. He is able to create great leverage and loft at the plate to generate plenty of pop. As he grows more and gets stronger, the potential for power — which is his top trait — will only increase. He has also built consistency at the plate by pushing baseballs all throughout the park rather than focusing primarily on pulling balls to right field. This will lead to more hits and fewer strikeouts, so it’s certainly something that scouts have been pleased by.

Montgomery, who played shortstop in high school, is also a solid fielder. At 6´4´´, Montgomery has plenty of weight and strength to gain, which could necessitate a move to third base. Still, considering how well he played shortstop, moving to the hot corner does not pose an immediate concern. While not flashy or loud in the field, he has solid glove work and a very accurate arm to first. Ranked first among Sox prospects by MLB Pipeline, his highest grades are power and arm (55), followed by hitting and fielding (50). His only only weakness is running (45), but he does have enough lateral movement to play shortstop. As for his power, he didn’t really show much this year, but that’s often the last asset for young hitters to develop during in-game action.

Having blazing speed isn’t an absolute necessity for playing shortstop. Cal Ripken, Jr. was also a big shortstop who couldn’t run, but was also considered a solid defensive contributor through most of his career. Of course, most comparisons are unfair to young athletes. With that said, MLB Pipeline does compare Montgomery to Corey Seager by stating that his “frame resembles Corey Seager’s at the same stage of their careers and he has the strength and bat speed to develop similar pop.” Seager, who is now 6´4´´ and 215 pounds, was able to stick at shortstop long-term, which is interesting because that seems quite unlikely for Montgomery. Los Angeles Dodgers free agent Seager is a two-time All-Star, three-time National League champion, World Series champion, NLCS MVP, World Series MVP, former Rookie of the Year, three-time MVP candidate, and two-time Silver Slugger. Not bad, eh?

The Sox have no reason to rush Montgomery through 2022, as he turns only 20 during the offseason. Expect him to play much of next season in Kannapolis, but perhaps earn himself a promotion to Winston-Salem by year’s end.

DSL White Sox

Layant Tapia
160 pounds
Age: 20
Bats/Throws: R/R
Other positions played: 2B, 3B

Dominican native Tapia signed with the White Sox organization on Sept. 11, 2019 but didn’t get into his first professional action until this year due to the pandemic. Despite hitting just .208, Tapia contributed a 111 wRC+ by displaying patience at the dish and speed on the base paths. In 49 games totaling 189 at-bats, he slashed .208/.374/.340 with five doubles, four triples, two homers, 39 walks and 54 strikeouts while successfully stealing 16 bases in 20 attempts. His stats would’ve been better if not for a September slump when he hit just .172. Tapia did commit 13 errors, but that’s not unusual due to his youth and the quality of fields he played on. Expect the speedster to begin the 2022 season in the Arizona Complex League (ACL).

Arxy Hernández
170 pounds
Age: 18
Bats/Throws: R/R
Other positions played: 3B

Hernández, like Tapia a Dominican native born in Bani, he slashed .200/.321/.286 in his DSL debut with three extra-base hits, four stolen bases, 10 walks (11.9%), 25 strikeouts (29.8%) and 82 wRC+. As he didn’t exhibit the base-stealing prowess of Tapia in his 24 games this year, it seems likely that Hernández may eventually settle himself into either a second base or utility role in the organization. Regardless, it’s way too early to know, until he plays in more games. Expect Hernández to repeat the DSL in 2022, although the ACL is not entirely out of the question.