Welcome to the 2019 edition of Ranking the Rockies, where we take a look back at every player to log playing time for the Rockies in 2019. The purpose of this list is to provide a snapshot of the player in context. The “Ranking” is an organizing principle that’s drawn from Baseball Reference’s WAR (rWAR). It’s not something the staff debated. We’ll begin with the player with the lowest rWAR and end up with the player with the highest.
★ ★ ★
No. 1, Trevor Story (6.4 rWAR)
In last year’s Ranking the Rockies profile for Trevor Story, I argued that we weren’t thinking big enough. Before 2018 incremental gains on offense and defense to become a complete player seemed to be an ideal outcome for Story. He exceeded those expectations by dramatically reducing his strikeout rate and making big gains on offense. It resulted in Story having the best season among position players on the Rockies — yes, even better than Nolan Arenado. He’s done that again in 2019, instead this time he also led the entire team in Wins Above Replacement.
Story did get us to think bigger once again, but it had more to do with the long game. As far as the 2019 season went, Story more or less replicated his breakout 2018 season. His walk rate improved to almost nine percent, which similarly boosted his on-base percentage. While his power numbers were mostly the same, league wide power was up on account of the baseball, which means his adjusted power line was down a bit. He once again played stellar defense and was a finalist for the Gold Glove award at shortstop. Story is one of the best position players in baseball, and probably the second best shortstop in baseball after Francisco Lindor.
It wasn’t Story’s season in isolation that is making us think bigger, but the season in context. of his career trajectory. On May 24th Story hit is 100th career home run. Later that night, he hit his 101st home run — a walk-off to give the Rockies the win. With that, Story became the fastest shortstop in baseball history, doing so in 448 career games (that measuring stick is important, as we’ll see). Later in the season in August the Denver Post’s Kyle Newman wrote: “Story will be enshrined in the Hall of Fame one day.”
I’d say that’s thinking big.
But, is it right? I’m not one to shy away from early Hall of Fame talk. I have a long record of talking up Nolan Arenado’s Hall of Fame case, the first instance appearing in Rockies Magazine prior to the 2015 season. But based on Story’s first four seasons, I don’t see it for him just yet. Part of it has to do with age and a relatively slow start to his career. The “fastest shortstop to 100 home runs” fact is misleading because “fastest” is defined by career games. So, in that sense, Story got to 100 home runs “faster” than Álex Rodríguez. But when we’re talking Hall of Fame and longevity, number of games is less important than age. When Rodríguez was Story’s age, he had 298 home runs (Story has 123).
That doesn’t mean Story’s not in great company. It just means he’s in the company of Hall of Famers and not Hall of Famers. He’s one of 12 shortstops to hit 100 home runs through his age 26 season. Story’s 123 home runs isn’t far behind where Ernie Banks was (136 homers), but neither were Hanley Ramírez (124) and Troy Tulowitzki (122) through age-26.
Wins Above Replacement, which takes defense into account, also puts Story on the cusp. Story’s last two seasons leading the Rockies in position player WAR have given him 17.8 for his career. If we rank Story through age 26 along with the 22 Hall of Fame shortstops, he’d rank 13th, behind Barry Larkin (19.3) and a smidge ahead of Luis Aparicio (17.7).
If we compare Story through age-26 to the Rockies’ other two Hall of Fame talents, Nolan Arenado and Troy Tulowitzki, he’s about 10 WAR behind. Tulo had 26.6 WAR, and Arenado had 27.4.
One of the reasons I started beating the Arenado-Hall of Fame drum so early on was because I want to be aware that I’m watching a truly great, Hall of Fame career unfold. I didn’t want to have to recognize it in hindsight. I’m not ready to jump on the “Trevor Story’s on a Hall of Fame trajectory” bandwagon, let alone lead it like I’ve done with Arenado. It’s very close though. Story showed us in 2019 that he can replicate an outstanding season. If he can find another level of excellence in 2020, then we might have the privilege of witnessing a Hall of Famer bloom.