Benny Montgomery is Flashing His Potential
When the Colorado Rockies drafted outfielder Benny Montgomery out of high school with their first pick of the 2021 MLB draft, it was a mixed bag of reactions. Yes, the kid had potential after a strong performance on the summer showcase circuit before his senior year of high school and going on to win Pennsylvania Gatorade Player of the Year honors, but his unconventional and wonky mechanics led some to believe that it’s too much a risk to bet on him becoming a big leaguer.
In that first stint of professional ball in the Arizona Complex League in 2021, the eighth-overall pick quickly a damper on some of those concerns by batting .340/.404/.383 in 14 games with the ACL Rockies. As far as first impressions go, Montgomery was making an exquisite introduction for himself to professional baseball.
The following season, Montgomery began the year with the Low-A Fresno Grizzlies which became a trying year physically simply because of a quad injury that hampered him for the first half of 2022 season. Looking at his numbers, however, you wouldn’t be able to tell that he lost nearly two months to the injury. He played just 56 games with Fresno that season but batted .313/.394/.502 with six home runs in 233 at-bats with a 132 wRC+. His bat-to-ball skills were impeccable and though he did have a 26.9% strikeout rate, he has shown room for improvement as a guy that can hit in the upper part of the lineup and provide plenty of highlights.
Montgomery’s 2023 season was more nuanced and has shown that there is more growth that needs to happen for him as he continues up the ladder. The concern with his bat is that as he progresses through the minors, he’s going to run into more trouble. There are many moving parts to his swing, with concerns about that leading to too much swing-and-miss. It’s a number he’s going to have to show he can manage and 2023 was a good stepping stone in that department.
Playing for the High-A Spokane Indians, Montgomery appeared in 109 games to the tune of a .251/.336/.370 slash with 10 home runs, 51 RBI, and a 95 wRC+. Again, strikeouts were a notable concern, 27.2%, but it’s at least consistent with the past two seasons. What was encouraging was a 10.5% walk rate, an increase from the season before and showing that while the mechanics of his swing continue to adapt and adjust, his eye at the plate is also adapting.
In conjunction with his bat, Montgomery’s other greatest tool is his legs and speed. As seen in the 2023 season, he stole 18 bases, implementing an aspect of his game absent in 2021 and 2022. An ability to get on base at a high clip helps him utilize that speed to help the offense improve as a whole and give the team more opportunities to score. Montgomery scored a total of 62 runs in 2023, doing his part to help the Indians. What’s more, Montgomery is often viewed as the center fielder of the future for the Rockies.
Currently, Rockies fans are marveling at the spectacular defense of current center fielder Brenton Doyle, and for good reason. Doyle led outfielders in Defensive Runs Saved and has one of the best arms in the game to go along with blazing speed and outfield awareness. Unfortunately for Doyle, his bat was lacking in 2023, but even he has shown signs of improvement in that category. Montgomery isn’t likely to emerge as Doyle 2.0 defensively exactly, but he can still provide a high-caliber level of defense while providing positive offensive output. Offensively he could be like former MLB outfielder Hunter Pence, a player he is often compared to, while defensively could be like George Springer in his prime.
What will be a major defining factor is his ability to hit for power. At just 21 years old, Montgomery is still developing physically and growing into his body. He’s learning how to take care of his body and build up strength in order to improve his slugging prowess. Montgomery has the potential to hit 20+ home runs, but it will depend on some mechanical things along with his physical form.
This brings us to the Arizona Fall League. Montgomery was one of several Rockies prospects headed to the finishing school league alongside Drew Romo and Sterlin Thompson. Thus far, Montgomery has been showing more of his potential against some quality competition. Entering Monday’s slate of games, Montgomery is batting .375/.488/.375 across 32 at-bats. He is often seen hitting at the top of the lineup and it appears that he is working on his plate discipline skills In eight games, Montgomery has 11 strikeouts to seven walks, showing that limiting swing and misses are an area he is actively focusing on. An organization that already strikes out too much needs to continue fostering this type of philosophy of drawing more walks, cutting down on strikeouts, and putting the ball in play.
He has yet to have an extra-base hit, but that isn’t as much of a concern while he is playing in the league. It’s a space for him to continue to grow, and with him getting on base and stealing bags (5) he is flashing more of the potential of what the Rockies need from him going forward. Montgomery is worth believing in and rooting for because he has a special talent within him. While he doesn’t have to make wholesale changes to himself, both he and the Rockies need to find a way to make necessary changes so that he can tap into and harness his incredible offensive potential. The flashes of greatness he has shown are encouraging and I can’t wait to see more.