Considering that it was only a year and a half ago that the Rockies traded the best shortstop in their history, the Colorado Rockies have to feel good about their shortstop situation. They have a great young starter who made the transition to the big leagues look easy and also one of the best shortstop prospects in baseball developing in the minors.
When Troy Tulowitzki was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays in 2015, Rockies fan were wondering if the team was headed back to the barren wasteland of shortstop production that had plagued the team since their inception. The Rockies have had some memorable shortstops in their history; however, before last season, the most productive season by a shortstop in Rockies history by someone other than Tulowitzki was 1.7 fWAR by Clint Barmes in 2005 and 2008 and Walt Weiss in 1997.
Trevor Story easily exceeded that mark with 2.8 fWAR in only 97 games last season. Story is already tied for third most career fWAR by a Rockies shortstop, behind only Tulowitzki and Barmes. Story only needs 1.8 more fWAR to have the second most productive shortstop career in Rockies history. Considering the pace with which he earned WAR last season, Story should have no issue reaching that number.
Story showed explosive power last season setting records with his barrage of home runs in the first week of games. After struggling in late April and May due to pitcher’s finding a hole on the outside part of the plate, Story showed that his ability to adjust in the minors translated very well to the majors. June was a very solid month and July was actually the best month of his young career.
Like many young power hitters, Story struggled with striking out. However, he showed gradual improvement through the season. If he can get his strikeout rate down around 25 percent and bump his walk rate up to the 10 percent range, Story’s power will do the rest. Among the league leaders in ISO last season, Story surpassed even Nolan Arenado in raw power.
Defensively, Story showed a solid glove. While he will probably never be the defensive wunderkind that Tulowitzki was, with experience his defense could become an asset rather than a liability.
The biggest question for Story at this point will be his health. Rockies fans have gotten used to having an All-Star shortstop who struggled to stay on the field. While there should be no long-lasting effects from Story’s hand injury. his ability to stay on the field could be the key to him challenging for the title of best Rockies shortstop ever.
The depth at shortstop is an interesting puzzle. While Alexi Amarista will probably be the Rockies backup middle infielder, Ian Desmond could also be a viable backup if Story suffers an injury. Signed as the Rockies primary first baseman, Desmond’s ability to back up Story could be the wild card that helps the Rockies continue to contend if Story misses substantial time again this season.
It’s tough to say anything exciting about Amarista other than he seems like the typical 25th man on a roster. Not really good at anything, but also able to play all over the infield while providing a little speed, the Rockies success this season might be easily determined by how much or little the Rockies need to count on him.
On the Farm
The Rockies have a veritable wealth of shortstop prospects in their system. There were three shortstops in the top 30 PuRPs this year and a fourth who just missed the list.
Brendan Rodgers (PuRP no. 1) is the Rockies best prospect and also one of the top prospects in all of baseball. Ranked number one in the Rockies system by every major publication, Rodgers looks primed to continue a Rockies tradition of bring impressive power to the plate while also playing shortstop. Rodgers should start the season in High-A Lancaster this year and may reach the majors as soon a next September. A more reasonable debut is 2019, but either way the Rockies may soon have a glut of high quality shortstops
The Rockies also had two shortstop dominate for their respective short-season teams. Garrett Hampson (PuRP no. 22) showed off four impressive tools for the Boise Hawks while Jose Gomez (PuRP no. 30) had a successful stateside debut for the Grand Junction Rockies.
Pat Valiaka just missed the PuRPs list, but his presence in Triple-A is a comfort in case the Rockies need to call up some infield help this season. Valiaka had a successful debut last offseason and should be competing with Alexi Amarista for the utility infielder role this spring training.
If Catastrophe Strikes
If the Rockies depth of Story, Desmond, Amarista and Valaika isn’t enough to get through the season, there would always be Rafael “tough out” Ynoa around to man the position while the Rockies season goes down the drain.