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Rockies incumbent Trevor Story looks to bounce back in 2018

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Story has demonstrated great offense and good defense, but not yet in the same season

It has only been 945 short days since Troy Tulowitzki was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays —barely shy of three years. Since then, the Rockies have had a few guys step into the role of “Tulo’s Replacement,” but Trevor Story seems to be solidifying himself as more than that. He had a huge (but shortened) rookie season with the bat, but he took a step back in 2017. He’ll be looking to rebound in 2018. If he is unable to replicate the magic of 2016, the Rockies have plenty of young guys knocking on the Major League door who might be able to help, including one of the best prospects in all of baseball.

The Starter

Story made quite a splash in his rookie season in 2016. Here were some of the highlights of just his first month in the bigs.

  • Hitting 2 home runs off Zack Greinke in his major league debut — only the seventh player in MLB history to hit two home runs off Greinke
  • Becoming the sixth player in MLB history to hit two home runs in his major league debut — the only NL Player to do so and the only player to do so with his debut being on Opening Day
  • Becoming the third player to ever hit three home runs in his first two games
  • Becoming the first MLB player to hit a home run in each of his first three games
  • Becoming the first rookie to hit home runs in his first four games
  • Becoming the first MLB player in to hit six home runs in the first four games of any season
  • Setting an MLB record for most home runs (7) in a team’s first six games — the previous record (6) was held by Larry Walker, Mike Schmidt, and Willie Mays
  • Winning National League Player of the Week for the first week of the 2016 season
  • Tying José Abreu’s rookie record of 10 home runs in the month of April
  • Winning National League Rookie of the Month in April 2016

Story had his rookie season cut short by an untimely thumb injury, limiting him to play only 97 games. However, in those 97 games he was able to post a .272/.341/.567 line with 27 home runs. He also finished fourth in Rookie of the Year votes behind winner Corey Seager, Trea Turner, and Kenta Maeda.

After having surgery to repair the torn thumb ligament, Trevor Story came back in 2017 ready to roll but hit a major sophomore slump. After playing 145 games, he finished with a disappointing .239/.308/.457 line with 24 home runs and an NL-leading 191 strikeouts. But, there’s a but. Story was much better on defense in 2017 than 2016. He only committed 11 errors (only one more than 2017 but in 45 more games) and saved 11 runs compared to for, according to DRS. So even though his bat went a little quiet, his defensive improvements are something to take solace in.

Story has some pretty lofty expectations placed upon him going into the 2018 season. After his remarkable rookie campaign and uneven sophomore season, he will have to bounce back to justify his spot as the long-term shortstop. He absolutely has the capability to be a major piece in this roster, it was just the offensive consistency that was lacking last year. Maybe having Brendan Rodgers knocking on his door will give Story the push he needs to make his third chapter a combination of the best parts of the first two.

Depth Options

Just like last year, the backup shortstop role is intriguing. Currently, Pat Valaika and Ian Desmond sit second and third on the depth chart. Last year, Valaika showed his ability to be a power bat off the bench if necessary. This year, he is listed as the second or third option for the entire infield, probably for that reason. He will most likely maintain his position as infield utility man unless something horrible happens and he is needed to take on a bigger role. Desmond has played shortstop until 2016, so he’s capable of filling in if needed. The Rockies would probably rather have him in left field or first base though.

On the Farm

Brendan Rodgers (No. 1 PuRP) is once again the best prospect in the organization. Not only is he ranked as the Rockies top prospect, but also as the 22nd best prospect in baseball, according to Baseball America. Last year alone, he averaged .336/.373/.567 between High-A Lancaster and Double-A Asheville as a shortstop. At 21-years-old, Rodgers is still quite young, but he seems poised to be ready for major-league action in 2018. If Story isn’t able to bounce back, Rodgers might be the man that the Rockies turn to later in the season.

The Rockies also have Garrett Hampson (No. 9 PuRP), Ryan Vilade (No. 7 PuRP), and utility options Daniel Castro, and Shawn O’Malley in their farm system. Hampson’s on a similar path as Rodgers, though he’s not as good and is unlikely to see the majors in 2018. The Rockies kept Vilade at shortstop in his first pro season with Grand Junction, but he’s far away from the majors.

If Catastrophe Strikes

If all nine of these guys aren’t able to keep the Rockies season afloat—whether they are injured, don’t play well, or just simply aren’t ready—there are still some decent free agents available, namely Mike Avilés, Stephen Drew, and JJ Hardy. The only downside is that they will all be 35 or older during this season and haven’t played very well recently for a variety of reasons, so they would definitely just be a signing for the season in hopes that they don’t make things worse.