The first round of the 2021 MLB Amateur Draft is over and the Colorado Rockies selected high school outfielder Benny Montgomery from Red Land High School in Lewisberry, Pennsylvania, which is just outside of Harrisburg, PA.
After the pick, Rockies interim general manager Bill Schmidt and Montgomery himself spoke with the media, including Rox Pile, about the pick and the night.
Here’s what we learned from Schmidt and Montgomery.
Why did the Colorado Rockies decide to draft Montgomery?
Colorado Rockies interim GM Bill Schmidt was asked about what the Rockies like in Montgomery and why the Rockies decided to draft Montgomery with the eighth overall pick of the draft. Here’s what he had to say:
“First and foremost, probably what he stands for as a person,” Schmidt said. “But the tool package, with the athleticism, the size, the strength and speed combination, (all of it combined is) something that’s hard to find. Benny is a kid that, despite being six foot four, is a well-above-average runner, and there’s a power combination that we think that going forward, he has a chance to be a very good outfielder for the Colorado Rockies.”
How long have the Rockies been looking at Montgomery?
Schmidt said that they have had their eyes on him for a while. Last summer, he and some of the Rockies scouts saw him in Alabama.
Montgomery said that he has been taking frequent trips to Alabama from Pennsylvania to work with Casey Smith, a renowned hitting instructor in Chelsea, Alabama, which is a suburb of Birmingham.
Smith has worked with some MLB players, such as current Boston Red Sox infielder Michael Chavis and NL MVP candidate, Cincinnati Reds outfielder Nick Castellanos. But also, Smith has worked extensively with former Colorado Rockies infielder DJ LeMahieu.
Montgomery got connected to Smith through his advisors and agents.
The Rockies top brass spoke with Montgomery at the Draft Combine in North Carolina a few weeks ago where Montgomery said “I knew that they liked me — and I liked them, as well.”
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What does Montgomery need to work on most?
According to Montgomery, who has been compared to Hunter Pence and Jayson Werth by some experts and himself (particularly with Werth), he needs to work most on his swing.
“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.”
On a scouting scale, per MLB.com, they also agree that Montgomery’s hit tool is the weakest (45 on a scale of 20-80) all of his other tools are ranked above-average, with his running tool being best at a 70.
Bill Schmidt says that, last summer, he and the Rockies “saw that he had a little hand movement that he toned down as the summer went along, and I think that helped.”
“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,” Schmidt said.
But his new and improved swing, Montgomery’s comparison, at least for his swing, is a bit different.
“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,” Montgomery said.
Montgomery, who’s 6’4” but only 18 years old, hopes that his swing will put him on the fast track to Coors Field.
“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.”
“And the thought of playing at Coors Field, where the ball flies, can’t be cooler to me.”