The Colorado Rockies are set to enter the 2022 season without star shortstop Trevor Story, who is all-but-certain to depart via free agency once the league’s lockout has ended. This creates a void on the left side of the infield that has not existed for a long time and must be addressed at some point by the front office.
When I say shortstop hasn’t been a problem for Colorado in a long time, I mean a very long time.
Trevor Story took over the spot full-time in 2016 and has held down the most games played at the position since arriving. Before Story, there was Troy Tulowitzki. Tulo, who made a strong case for best shortstop in the game during his peak, held down the most games played at the position each season from 2007 - 2015 except for an injury-plagued 2012, when Josh Rutledge’s 57 games marked the top mark. In the two years prior to the Tulo era, it was Clint Barmes who held the starting spot.
Current consecutive homegrown SS seasons
For the past 17 seasons, there have been only four Rockies players to log the most games at shortstop in any given season, all of whom were drafted and developed internally by the organization. This stretch of home-grown products manning the fort is the longest active streak in the majors by a fairly-wide margin.
The Chicago White Sox have ridden two players - Tim Anderson and Alexi Ramírez - at the position since 2009 and Brandon Crawford has been a fixture at short for the San Francisco Giants since 2011. Beyond that, Carlos Correa and two seasons of Jonathan Villar gives Houston a homegrown dating back to 2013 and Xander Bogaerts has been the starter for the Boston Red Sox since 2014.
This is where the Rockies corporate mantra of being a draft-and-develop organization actually holds weight. It is a remarkable string of consistency that could actually go back all the way to 1998 if it wasn’t for one player:
Aside from being (presumably) the only player to impersonate himself and Miguel Tejada on the big screen in different films, Clayton was also the Rockies starting shortstop in 2004 after inking a one-year $650k contract to be a stopgap at the position. Clayton was unspectacular in his lone season in Colorado, posting a .279/.338/.397 slash line, 80 OPS+ and 1.1 fWAR in 146 games for Colorado.
His 2004 season in Colorado bridged the end of a six-year homegrown run at the position by Neifi Perez and Juan Urible before the current 17-year era kicked off. Now, in 2022, the Rockies are facing the need for a bridge player once again.
This is not to say there are no internal options available. Garrett Hampson, Alan Trejo, Brendan Rodgers and (apparently) Ryan McMahon all have links to the position and any could conceivably get the most games at the position in the upcoming season. But the quality of these options are questionable at best.
Hampson’s production at the plate has continued to underwhelm and his defensive versatility seems much better suited for a bench role. Alan Trejo has proven himself in the minor leagues, but there are legitimate question marks on his ability to regularly produce against big-league pitching. Rodgers seemed destined to be the heir at the position, but injuries to his throwing shoulder have changed the organization’s outlook and it appears they prefer to keep him at second base. The front office even threw McMahon into the conversation at the start of the off-season, but anyone who followed the Eugenio Suárez experiment last season is at least skeptical of that idea.
Which leads us to the external acquisition route. The trade market has some options, but very little to offer in terms of guaranteed quality without paying a premium price. So, free agency seems the reasonable path for a fix at the position and still has options available. Corey Seager, Marcus Semien and Javier Báez are off the board while Story and Carlos Correa remain available, however the idea of the Rockies splurging for these big names (or them choosing Colorado over other suitors) has always been far-fetched.
So the discount bin has - and continues to be - the most rational path forward. Freddy Galvis was one name being floated around, but recently signed a two-year deal in Japan. However, Andrelton Simmons and José Iglesias still remain unsigned and have always been a fit on paper.
This has been well known since free agency started, but prior to the lockout the Rockies refused to make a move to address the position. As a top-priority problem for the front office with multiple evident solutions available, it is fair to wonder if the team’s pride in their history of development at the position has gotten in the way here. Instead of news of the team undertaking a short-term deal with Simmons, Galvis or Iglesias, we learned of the idea of moving McMahon instead.
The team has made clear Ezequiel Tovar is the long-term plan at the position. There is little concern there, but - unless there is a change of heart with Brendan Rodgers’ positioning - the current options at the position are uninspiring. If the front office does not address it with an external acquisition after the lockout ends then it shouldn’t be surprised reaping a sub-par performance from the position next season.
Who’s your preferred SS in 2022?
This poll is closed
Other (let us know who in the comments)
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After covering the entire American League last week, Maria Torres highlights one player from each National League organization that is eligible for the Rule 5 draft. From the Rockies, Torres and Nick Groke tab Jameson Hannah as the available best candidate. Acknowledging his lack of power but strong speed tool and capabilities in center field, Groke and Torres tab Hannah as a comp to Michael Taylor or Jacque Jones.
With the recent publishing of mlb.com’s initial 2022 Draft Top 100 Prospects list, Jim Callis and the MLB Pipeline crew provide their first mock top ten picks on the site. The Rockies, holding the tenth pick, were marked as selecting OF Brock Jones from Stanford. A safety for the Stanford football team, Jones offers a strong power-speed profile that could stick in center field in the future.
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