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True story: the Rockies are set at shortstop

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The Rockies may have 25 problems, but a shortstop ain’t one.

Trevor Story started his major league career with a bang in 2016 before an injury cost him the second half of the season. He put up some disappointing numbers in 2017 but followed that up with a brilliant 2018 season.

So the 2019 season was the moment of truth. Who was the real Story: the one we saw in 2017 or the one we saw in 2018?

The starter

You all know how this story turned out: A stellar 2019 has solidified Story as one of the elite players in all of baseball, regardless of position. Among shortstops, he’s in the top five in almost every statistic that exists, both offensive and defensive. Need proof? Here you go:

Among all position players, Story was in the top 10 for fWAR (ninth), rWAR (ninth), defensive WAR (fourth), defensive runs above average (fourth), defensive runs saved (seventh), baserunning runs above average (10th), outs above average (fifth), Ultimate Zone Rating (ninth), offensive win percentage (ninth) power-speed (fourth), runs created (10th) and runs scored (10th).

Among shortstops, he was in the top 10 for OPS (second), average (sixth), on-base percentage (third), slugging percentage (second), stolen bases (fourth), walks (sixth), RBI (fifth), home runs (second), triples (ninth), doubles (sixth), hits (fifth), runs (second), total bases (third), extra base hits (third), flyout-groundout ratio (second), fielding percentage (second), wOBA (second), wRC+ (fifth), baserunning runs above average (third), offensive runs above average (third), defensive runs above average (third), fWAR (third), rWAR (second), DRS (second), OAA (first), WARP (third), VORP (fourth), UZR (third), DRC+ (fourth), runs created (first) and offensive win percentage (first).

(Statistics courtesy of Baseball Prospectus, FanGraphs, Baseball Reference and MLB.com)

If you’re not into all those fancy letters and numbers, Story more than passes the eye test. He’s fast. He hits the ball very hard, and it goes a long way. He makes some ridiculous plays, and he throws extremely hard (too bad they don’t use the radar gun for position players).

Story made his second straight All-Star team in 2019, won his second straight Silver Slugger, and he was a Gold Glove finalist as well. And since he just signed a two-year, $27.5 million contract, for the next two years, no matter what else happens with those other 25 problems, Colorado Rockies fans can rejoice in the knowledge that at least they have Story.

The backups

Garrett Hampson has been Story’s primary backup over the last two years, and he could definitely reprise that role this year. While Hampson’s major league production has been less than spectacular (last year he had a -0.2 WAR and slashed .247/.302/.384), he took a huge jump in September, logging a .904 OPS for the month (.318/.368/.434). Whether this was due to increased playing time or the elimination of a leg kick is unclear, but if he can carry some of that momentum into the 2020 season, he could be a worthy backup, at least from an offensive perspective. His defensive numbers haven’t been particularly great (-0.4 UZR, 1 OAA, 0.1 DRAA, 1 DRS), but on the other hand, according to his stats, he’s at least as good of a shortstop as Manny Machado.

The other backup option is Brendan Rodgers. Rodgers continues to be ranked among the top prospects in all of baseball (No. 29, 38 or 56, depending on who you read), and he tore it up at Albuquerque last year, slashing .350/.413/.622. In limited major league time, his numbers aren’t as impressive: -0.8 WAR and a .224/.272/.250 slash line, in addition to a -1.3 UZR, -1 OAA, -1 DRAA and -3 DRS. Rodgers’ sample size is still very small, though, and he could thrive if pushed into a starting role.

Depth options

The Rockies created some organizational depth by signing a couple infielders to minor league contracts this offseason. Chris Owings is primarily a utility guy, but he’s spent a decent amount of time at shortstop, especially early in his career. With a career slash line of .241/.284/.365 (and .139/.209/.233 last year), he’s not exactly a fearsome hitter, but he has major league experience and could probably fill in at shortstop if necessary.

Another option is 28-year-old Eric Stamets. Stamets got his first taste of Major League Baseball last season, and it didn’t go well. In 15 games, he slashed .049/.149/.073 and had a -0.5 WAR. But Stamets has spent his entire career as a shortstop, so he might be an option from a defensive standpoint. Plus he went to the same college as Kyle Freeland, so that’s something.

On the farm

The Rockies have a lot of shortstop prospects, but they’re all a few years from making a major league impact.

Ryan Vilade (No. 4 PuRP and No. 6 MLB) slashed .303/.367/.466 with 12 home runs and 24 stolen bases at A+ Lancaster last season and is following Brandon Crawford, Dansby Swanson and Brendan Rodgers (among others) in a line of “shortstops with flow.”

Terrin Vavra (No. 7 PuRP No. 7 MLB) was the South Atlantic League’s MVP last year after slashing .318/.409/.489 with 10 home runs and 18 stolen bases. Terrin comes from a baseball family: His dad, Joe Vavra, is currently the hitting coach for the Detroit Tigers, and while Joe never made the major leagues as a player, he did play college ball for UW-Stout (which is interesting if you’re from Wisconsin).

Rounding out the Rockies’ top 30 prospects are a trio of youngsters: Adael Amador (No. 28 PuRP), a 16-year-old out of the Dominican Republic; Eddy Diaz (No. 18 PuRP), a 20-year-old from Cuba; and Julio Carreras (No. 23 PuRP), a 20-year-old from the Dominican Republic (who spent much of last season at third due to the aforementioned Diaz). It’s too early to predict these players’ futures, but for a team looking to strengthen its farm system, a bunch of young shortstops is a good place to start.

If disaster strikes

Nolan Arenado could always play shortstop. While he says he’s not a shortstop, he’s an above-average defender in the shift, and his double-play turns aren’t too shabby either. And Tony Wolters played three games at shortstop back in 2016, so he’s another option. Or what about Peter Lambert? He seems athletic.

Realistically, if we get to this point, it means the Rockies are way out of it with no hope of crawling back in. In this case, the Arenado trade rumors would likely intensify, and the Rockies may want to consider asking for a shortstop in a potential deal.

But let’s not think about that right now. Because if you’re looking for a bright spot on the Rockies this year, just remember that every day truly is a great day to be a Story.