Saturday Rockpile: A buy-low target for the Rockies’ SS conundrum
Colorado Rockies news and links for Saturday, November 20, 2021
Trevor Story is officially no longer a member of the Colorado Rockies. After declining the $18.4 million qualifying offer last Tuesday, the six year chapter with Story as a stalwart at shortstop for the Rockies seems destined to close and the Rockies will need to figure out who will slot in his vacancy on the infield.
The Rockies know who that is in the long-run. Ezequiel Tovar, who was just added to the 40-man roster yesterday, excelled between two levels in 2021 and comes equipped with a stellar defensive profile to go with his budding offense. He is not an unreasonable prospect to plan for down the road, but the fact remains that he is still just 20 years-old, has amassed only 851 at-bats so far in the minors and seems likely to spend most of - if not all - of next season in High-A Spokane. He likely will not be a realistic option for the big league team until 2023 at the very earliest, with 2024 being more likely.
So what will they do until then? The team heavily values defense at the position and Brendan Rodgers always seemed to be groomed as the next shortstop of the Rockies. He was fine in his 163 ⅔ innings at the position last season and could slide over to fill Story’s shoes permanently, but the injury history in his throwing-shoulder seems to leave management setting their sights on keeping him at second-base.
The open market has a few proven options available, so signing a glove-first veteran like Andrelton Simmons, Freddy Galvis or José Iglesias for a year or two is always on the table. The idea of shifting Ryan McMahon off third base - where he was just nominated for Gold Glove - and sticking him in unfamiliar territory at shortstop is also being floated around by the front office. So...apparently that’s an option, too. Probably not a good one, but still an option.
The trade market is another avenue worth exploring. Given Colorado’s reluctance to make deals it always feels like a distant possibility, but there are a handful of players that could be worth taking a chance on for a season or two. Some younger options such as Adalberto Mondesi could be available, but at a relatively high price tag. High-dollar veterans like Didi Gregorious or Nick Ahmed will likely also be easily available from teams motivated to shed their contracts, but only because their performance doesn’t meet their paycheck. However, I think there is one trade target who likely won’t come at a premium cost and could be a savvy acquisition if given the chance for more regular playing-time:
A former top-5 draft pick, Nick Gordon seems to be lost in the shuffle with the Minnesota Twins. Minnesota has all but decided Gordon is a utility bench-player for them and - barring an acquisition this off-season - Jorge Polanco seems likely to be the starter at shortstop next season. Add in prospect Jose Miranda knocking on the door for a major league spot and it’s hard to see how Gordon fits in their plans.
Despite being on the 40-man roster since 2019, Gordon didn’t make his major league debut until last season. It was an unimpressive debut offensively and Gordon mostly filled a utility role in his 73 games on the roster, but he has logged nearly 4,600 innings at shortstop in the minor leagues and graded favorably with 15.6 UZR/150 in 75 innings at the position for the big league club last season.
Gordon is never going to be a power threat, however he offers a career minor-league OBP of .329 and possess above-average speed, ranking in the 71st percentile. His walk rate has regressed as he has reached the upper levels of professional baseball and is below-average overall, but his minor league career strikeout-rate sits at just 19.0%.
The strikeouts were up and the walks were down in his first taste of the majors last year, but it’s conceivable those could regress towards the mean with more experience. That would leave us with a strong fielding shortstop with good speed, a below-average walk rate but an on-base percentage that hovers around the league-average clip.
Gordon finished the 2021 season strong and his numbers were more in-line with his career mark, but there’s no denying one month is a small sample size. However, that small sample constitutes one-third of Gordon’s major league experience so far. The unproven profile makes it hard to say what you’ll get from Gordon with any assurance, but that and his current status on the Minnesota depth chart will likely be what makes him affordable for a team like Colorado.
There’s risk associated in taking on Gordon as he is far from a sure-bet, but Rockies have a hole to fill at shortstop for a year or two and depth issues in their middle-infield in general. There are no big splashes coming for any star shortstops on the market and no in-house options hanging around outside of Alan Trejo. This means they are in a position to take a flier or two on players up the middle with upside who’s value could jump if given a bigger opportunity. Nick Gordon may be one of those fliers worth taking.
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Along with Tovar, the Rockies added pitchers Ryan Rolison and Noah Davis to their 40-man roster on Friday, protecting them from the Rule 5 draft. Notably, the team elected not to protect outfielder Jameson Hannah, catcher Willie MacIver and pitchers Mitchell Kilkenny and Jake Bird, leaving them exposed for other teams to select in the draft.
The Rockies need improvements in the outfield and Thomas Harding examines some possible free agents targets that could offer an upgrade. Harding breaks down the profiles of popular free-agents Kyle Schwarber, Michael Conforto, Kris Bryant, Nick Castellanos, Chris Taylor and Starling Marte. He also looks at the next tier of players available like Mark Cahna, Jorge Soler and Avisaíl García.
On the Farm: Arizona Farm League edition
The Salt River Rafters closed out their fall league season with a thud, collecting only two hits in their final game. Rockies’ farmhands Ryan Vilade and Michael Toglia were the Rafters batters responsible for those two hits. Here’s how each Colorado prospect finished the fall season:
Michael Toglia: .264/.343/.407, 3 HR, 12 BB, 26 K
Ezequiel Tovar: .161/.219/.287, 3 HR, 5 BB, 20 K
Ryan Vilade: .253/.344/.304, 0 HR, 10 BB, 16 K
Jake Bird: 12 2⁄3 IP, 2.84 ERA, 14 H, 8 BB, 12 K
Reagan Todd: 11 IP, 1.74 ERA, 4 H, 4 BB, 11 K
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