The Rockies created a vacuum at shortstop with the trade of Troy Tulowitzki this past summer. In return Colorado brought in veteran Jose Reyes, but the former Met is now facing a possible suspension due to domestic abuse charges and Major League baseball has placed him on administrative leave to start the year.
The loss of both veteran players leaves a black hole at the shortstop position without established veterans to fill it. Fortunately, the organization has plenty of talented players and a couple who may be future All-Stars. At the moment, it's hard to believe there's a player who is thought of with higher regard than Trevor Story, but Brendan Rodgers brings a lot to the table and has scouting experts drooling over him.
This is a subjective list of the five best Rockies shortstops on the farm based on a mix of overall rankings from our own PuRPs list, Baseball America and MLB.com. In the absence of a ranking, then I used ceiling or relative closeness to the major leagues as a determining factor.
1) Brendan Rodgers, (PuRP-4, BA-3, MLB-1)
6-foot-0, Weight 180 lbs, 1st round (3rd) of the 2015 draft
Ranked as high as No. 9 by MLB.com, Brendan was considered the premier position player in the 2015 draft stable, but fell to the third slot behind more experienced college level players. Baseball America was one of the highest publications on the young shortstop prior to the draft and had the following to say about him.
Rodgers has plus raw power and an advanced hitting approach that gives him a chance to be an above-average hitter with above-average power. Rodgers has more present strength than most top high school shortstops. As one scouting director explained. his body looks like that of a college shortstop.
It's likely the Rockies will take their time moving Brendan through the organization as even the most talented high school shortstops need seasoning before they're ready for the big leagues. Houston's Carlos Correa as an example, spent three years in the minors playing at five different levels before he cemented himself in the Astros everyday lineup.
2) Trevor Story, (PuRP-7, BA-8, MLB-11)
6-foot-1, Weight 180 lbs, 1st round (45th) of the 2012 draft
Announced prior to the season as the Rockies Opening Day starter, and then blasting seven home runs and winning NL Player of the Week honors in his first seven games. Or as former minor league teammate Matt Carisiti put it, Story is on pace to hit a ton of home runs.
Story was drafted to be the heir apparent to Tulo, but no one could have predicted the early success he's had in filling Troy's shoes. Selected in the later portion of the first round out of Irving High School in Texas; Trevor was considered highly by experts in the scouting community throughout his path in the minors and was ranked as high as No. 34 by Baseball Prospectus in their top 100. The Texas native has shown tremendous power for his position, blasting 70 home runs in his minor league career and a .263/.348/.469 slash line.
Contact issues have plagued Story throughout his minor league career however-- he has only one season batting above .300-- and high strikeout totals have limited his ceiling to this point. Story will be given every chance to succeed at the keystone infield position and the Rockies are lucky to have a prospect of his caliber to fill in while a veteran with an annual salary of $22 million is suspended.
3) Cristhian Adames, (PuRP-15, MLB-20)
6-foot-0, Weight 185 lbs, International Free Agent
Perhaps the best defensive infielder in the system, Cristhian Adames brings a lot of value to the Rockies for his soft hands and quick reflexes with the glove. The 24-year-old Dominican has spent eight seasons on the Rockies farm and for now appears to be more of an insurance policy for the club than anything else. Offensively the switch hitter has been average in many areas, but not really exceptional in one. In his career Adames has a .281/.348/.375 slash line while averaging eight steals and four home runs per year.
4) Carlos Herrera, (PuRP-30, MLB-28)
6-foot-0, Weight 145 lbs, International Free Agent
A highly regarded latin prospect who the Rockies signed out of Venezuela for $1.2 million in 2013. Carlos Herrera has shown a high defensive IQ with the ability to play short, second and third base. Carlos really showed strides as an 18-year-old in the DSL last year when he batted .340/.386/.377 and earned a mid-season promotion to the United States. Playing in a notoriously pitcher friendly league, Herrera hit a respectable .267 with a 100 wRC+ in 53 games for Boise to finish the year. Herrera's age and signing bonus gives him a higher value than many prospects and at just 19-years-old in the South Atlantic League he is currently two years younger than the league average.
5) Jonathan Piron, (MLB-29)
6-foot-0, Weight 175 lbs, International Free Agent
The young infielder raised a lot of eyebrows when he launched 11 home runs in Grand Junction last season. Piron has good size for a middle infielder and a smooth left handed swing. At 21 Piron is age appropriate for the SAL and his combination of power and speed, including 46 career stolen bases, makes the Dominican an enticing prospect to watch. Piron is part of a loaded middle infield for the Tourists and will likely spend time at all the infield positions besides first base just to balance out the playing time. The lefthanded batter tends to strike out a lot, so contact will be a big part of his development in Low-A Asheville this season.
Max George, 5-foot-9, Weight 180 lbs, 6th round of the 2014 Draft
A member of the high school team coached by Walt Weiss at Regis, George drew a lot of attention his senior year due to his athleticism. The Rockies took a flyer in the sixth round on the Colorado native who was already committed to Oregon until the Rockies made an offer of $625,000, well above slot value, to lure him away from school. George worked through injuries last season which limited his production, but was a stand out in Grand Junction in 2014 when he posted a .301/.433/.463 line in 46 games. George began the year at Low-A Asheville where, at 20-years-old, he'll be a year younger than the average hitter.
Pedro Gonzalez, (28-PuRP, 20-MLB) 6-foot-3, 160 lbs, International Free Agent
Although a position switch was confirmed by his former DSL teammates, Pedro still draws consideration for shortstop because of his age and the fact that it's possible in the future he could always go back. Carlos Herrera confided to me that he was surprised about the position switch and thinks Pedro is athletic enough to be a good infielder. Likely the Rockies saw his 25 errors last year and tall lanky frame as a good reason to switch him to the outfield.
Pedro had a torrid start to the 2015 season, blasting six home runs and posting an OPS above 1.000 to start the season. The Dominican's size and arm strength are a bonus wherever he plays and his eight home runs were a DSL Rockies record. The DSL is a notorious pitchers park and in fact, his eight homers were higher than the 2014 and 2012 DSL Rockies did as an entire team combined in those respective years.
Patrick Valaika, 5-foot-11, Weight 200 lbs, 9th round of the 2013 draft
Patrick fell off the radar for many prospect watchers as he struggled in his first attempt at Double-A New Britain where he batted .235/.281/.361 with a 82 wRC+. It's good to remember that Valaika was 2.5 years younger than the competition at that time and even though he's repeating AA this year, at 23 he's still younger than the average Eastern League hitter. The California native was part of a national championship in UCLA during the 2013 season which prompted the Rockies to select him in the ninth round. His best season was in Single-A Asheville where he posted a .270 average with a 168 wRC+. Valaika is a darkhorse to contend for a utility position next season and could be on the radar for more if the circumstances dictate it.