Shortstop is the position every kid wants to play in little league and where star players are born and go to flourish. While the longevity for players isn’t always there with the amount of range defensively that shortstops have to cover, it doesn’t reduce the importance of the position for any team. Many would even consider the shortstop the quarterback of the infield, someone who needs to be a leader and someone who needs to produce.
Since 2006 when Troy Tulowitzki was first called up for the Rockies, they had someone special at the position. But in the midst of a rebuild and with a new GM at the helm, Troy Tulowitzki found himself with a team that apparently didn’t want him. And while the situation and the trade left a lot of fans feeling a little bit (or a lotta bit) salty, and left Tulo feeling as if he had been betrayed, this was actually a step in the right direction. Tulo’s attitude was not the best fit for this club as he even came out this spring saying the Rockies camp was more like “a country club.” Tulo was no doubt a hard worker and someone who played the game right, but I question whether he didn’t take the game a little too seriously.
2016 now leaves the Rockies with a few different options at shortstop and one of the most interesting positions to watch as the season goes along. There is the shortstop acquired in the Tulo trade, Jose Reyes, who started most of the games last year after the trade, but as he goes through a domestic abuse trial and off-field drama he will be off the major league roster at the start of the year. There is also utility man Daniel Descalso who played shortstop for the Rockies last year in spot starts. Descalso will start the season with an injury and on the DL. Rafael Ynoa is another option for the Rockies at shortstop and is similar to Descalso as he is a super utility type of guy. Ynoa should not be earning primary starting time for the Rockies however, and should only work as a fill in guy for someone else to rest. This opens the door for the future of the position and this should leave fans excited. Two young, talented shortstops will likely get a shot as the season goes on and those young men are Cristhian Adames and Trevor Story. These are the two I will focus the bulk of this post on for reasons explained below.
Jose Reyes: Reyes is a declining shortstop and with his lack of hustle, his expressed displeasure with the Rockies team, his domestic abuse that occurred this offseason, and his large, undesirable contract, he is a player that the Rockies should be happy to be without at the start of the season. He will not be a part of the future of this team, and frankly his attitude is not one that will benefit the Rockies younger players. Reyes was once a great shortstop, but his health and production have fallen and it is likely that he will never return to his younger self. If Reyes plays well (if he plays at all) in his time with the Rockies this season, they should offload him to anyone at all, even if it means eating some of his contract. That is the ideal situation for the Rockies. Another scenario that could go the Rockies way is some sort of consequence put on him by Rob Manfred and the league after his trial is up. A suspension without pay could benefit the Rockies organization and team as a whole. Overall, I expect absolutely nothing out of Reyes this year. If he plays well, the Rockies can and hopefully will trade him, if he plays badly, he needs to sit and let the young guys come in and play. Costing $22,000,000 the next two years with a $4,000,000 buyout for 2018, the Rockies need to hope that something gives that allows them to rid themselves of Reyes.
Daniel Descalso: Descalso is a utility player and nothing more. He can’t produce enough to warrant an everyday position on the lineup and he is simply not very good. In 2015 Descalso hit just .205 with a .283 OBP and a .324 slugging. His offensive bWAR was a dismal -3. Descalso is useful to give guys a rest every once in a while and his defense is serviceable, but he should not be recording a lot of playing time for the Rockies. He will start the season on the DL and likely might not even get put on the major league team once he is available.
Rafael Ynoa: Ynoa wasn’t terrible last year for the Rockies and he worked well as a super utility palyer. Ynoa jumped around the diamond, playing three different infield positions (all except first) and also some outfield. In 72 games for the Rockies last year, Ynoa slashed .260/.277/.339. These numbers aren’t terrible, but they aren’t starting shortstop numbers. Ynoa accumulated the same bWAR as Descalso last year as they both tallied a -.5 for the Rockies. With Descalso on the DL, Ynoa will likely be on the big league roster, but he won’t be a starter and nothing special should be expected from him.
Cristhian Adames: Do not be surprised to see Adames as the starting shortstop on opening day. He played 7 games in 2014 and 26 games last year for the Rockies, and while his numbers weren’t outstanding, he has good potential and with regular playing time, you could see a boost in his offensive numbers. Adames will not be a power guy, but he has the potential to reach base a lot. In 2015 at AAA in Albuquerque, Adames slashed .311/.362./.438. Adames will be similar to DJ Lemahieu in the sense that he makes contact, will not strikeout a lot, and handles that bat well. With the big gaps at Coors Field, expect a lot of doubles and triples from Adames as he learns the big league game. Adames will fill in towards the bottom of the lineup as a seven or 8 hole hitter and could also fill in as a 2 hole for Lemahieu occasionally. This isn’t terrible for him and if he is patient, he can flip the lineup over and give the Rockies some decent speed on the base paths. Having both Descalso and Reyes off the lineup as the season starts will take some of the pressure off of Adames, but the pressure instead will come in the form of competition from a young stud who is fighting for his way onto the big league club.
Trevor Story: Trevor Story is a top ranked prospect for the Rockies and top ranked in all of baseball and it is certainly deserved. Story has started spring training off playing for the starting role. Hitting .321 with an OBP of .424 and a slugging % of .857, Story is fighting and fighting hard for his way onto the major league roster at the start of the season. As the season comes closer, the Rockies will have a tough decision to make. Similar to Kris Bryant, the Rockies may hold off on Story for a couple of weeks, saving a year of service time for the young prospect. However, the Rockies have another very highly touted shortstop prospect in Brendan Rodgers that may allow them to gamble on Story. If this is the case, expect Story and Adames to split playing time at short until one or the other proves them self ready to play everyday. Personally, I’d love to see Story and Adames competing for the everyday position right from the start of the season. The competition between the two will fuel a friendly rivalry that will allow some fun for the fans and for the team as two young guys with lots of potential duke it out for a starting position. If indeed Story does start in the majors, expect an instant impact. There’s a reason he is regarded as a top prospect and look for him to prove this as a player in the major leagues. He has some power and is really has the potential to be a star. With a good rookie season, this young man could see himself as a very important part of the future for Colorado.
Shortstop for the Rockies is the position most in limbo at the start of the season. Two of the players (Reyes and Descalso) will not be on the opening day roster. Rafael Ynoa will be on the roster, but will have to earn all of his playing time and is not going to be an everyday starter without some extreme production. The main storyline as the season progresses will be between Adames and Story and who will establish themselves as the shortstop for the Rockies future. One of them will need to step up if the Rockies want even a shot at the playoffs this year or for the next couples of years to come. This position will be fun to watch and the story lines surrounding it are probably the most interesting of all of the positions for the Rockies outside of the pitching.