SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Rockies shortstop Trevor Story knows a standout fielding second baseman when he plays alongside one.So Story is a good resource to assess the younger players who are trying to replace three-time Gold Glove Award-winning DJ LeMahieu, who signed a two-year, $24 million contract with the Yankees this
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Rockies shortstop Trevor Story knows a standout fielding second baseman when he plays alongside one.
So Story is a good resource to assess the younger players who are trying to replace three-time Gold Glove Award-winning DJ LeMahieu, who signed a two-year, $24 million contract with the Yankees this winter.
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Left-handed-hitting Ryan McMahon, right-handed-hitting prospects Garrett Hampson (No. 4 Rockies, per MLB Pipeline) and Brendan Rodgers (No. 1 Rockies, No. 10 overall), and righty-hitting utility man Pat Valaika bring different attributes and experience levels. But whether it's one player or a combination, it will take a lot to replace LeMahieu.
Here are the competitors, along with Story's thoughts:
McMahon: McMahon was drafted as a third baseman and spent most of his 72 defensive appearances at first base (38 games) and third base (20 games). McMahon's listed height of 6-foot-2 is a couple of inches shorter than LeMahieu's, but his lanky body type is such a match that observers sometimes did a double-take during the 14 games McMahon played second base.
"They can be very similar -- that's pretty high praise for Mac," Story said. "They're very similar builds, very athletic guys. They both played other positions growing up. It's going to bode well for Mac. He probably won't right off the bat be like DJ, but he has the potential."
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Hampson: In the Minors, Hampson stood out because of his speed. That carries over to defense, as Story saw during some of the 24 games (seven defensively at second) Hampson played last season. Hampson also took over shortstop for eight games while Story was dealing with a late-season elbow injury.
"He's very solid -- he has a very quick first step, and he gets to a lot of balls," Story said. "He's a big-range guy -- just from playing with him last year, I saw him make some pretty amazing plays, some diving plays, and get up and finish it. He has really quick hands, too."
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Rodgers: Rodgers enters 2019 as MLB Pipeline's No. 3 shortstop. But that position isn't available because of Story, selected by MLB Network as the No. 3 shortstop on the Top 10 Right Now list and the No. 30 overall player. Rodgers made it to Triple-A late last season, and likely will begin at Albuquerque if he doesn't dominate the Spring Training competition, but he has the physical tools to be a standout second baseman, Story said.
"He's super-talented -- one of the most I've ever seen," Story said. "He throws it hard. He's fast. He hits it hard. He's just one of those guys where you can tell he's going to be one of the better players on the field. He's putting in a lot of work over there, and you can tell he's getting pretty comfortable."
Valaika: Last year's .156 batting average pushed Valaika, 26, into the background in this competition. The Rockies hope he can return to his 2017 form, when he drove in 16 of his 40 runs and hit four of his 13 homers as a pinch-hitter. Story knows what Valaika can do defensively.
"We were shortstop-second base for a couple years in the Minor Leagues -- he's the guy I had the most experience with," Story said. "Anytime he comes over there to second, we never miss a beat. I feel like I've never seen him make an error, especially out there when we're doing our work. He's very solid, has good footwork, and the ball's always where it's supposed to be."
Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter and like his Facebook page.