Spring Training Roundup: Short Story?

Baseball is back and at Baseball America, that means it’s time again to track the progress of prospects. We’ll update you each day on how some of the game’s most prominent prospects fared at spring training.

Jose Reyes being placed on administrative leave left a hole at shortstop for the Rockies. Now Trevor Story, considered the heir to Troy Tulowitzki before Tulo’s trade to Toronto, seems prepared to fill it.

The Rockies’ No. 8 prospect, Story is having the kind of breakout spring he needed to have to take the starting job with no reservations. The righthanded hitter is batting .350 with four homers—ripping his fourth Monday against Mariners ace Felix Hernandez as well as a triple off the righthander—and playing the steady defense he’s known for.

“The most important thing is he’s in complete control of his game right now,” manager Walt Weiss told reporters. “His at-bats are under control. When they hit the ball to him, it’s very controlled. That’s what you look for with young players.”

The Rockies played Story at second and third base as well as short last season at Double-A New Britain and Triple-A Albuquerque, testing his versatility as they were unsure they would trade Tulowitzki. Once they did, it made sense to try Story at other positions because of the two years—and $48 million—remaining on Reyes’ contract.

On defense Story is a solid-average shortstop with enough arm for the position. He has the athleticism to handle second or third and can make the throws from third.

“The intricacies of the position have really improved for him over the last year and a half,” farm director Zach Wilson told BA correspondent Jack Etkin, citing Story’s footwork, agility and aggressiveness on grounders. “That was the next step for him, and it’s happening.”

At bat, Story has quick hands and great bat speed, flashing at least average power with a slight uppercut in his swing. He does tend to chase, particularly on breaking pitches, so the swing and miss will always be a part of his game. At times he expands the strike zones.

Story said he came to spring training with a purpose.

“It’s definitely an all-business approach, treating it just like the season,” he told reporters. “I came in here wanting to compete for the job. I didn’t want to treat it as spring training or as something experimental.”


Nine newsmakers from Monday’s action.

  • Dillon Tate, rhp, Rangers: Pitching in a minor league game rather than the regular Rangers squad, the No. 4 overall pick in 2015 made his first appearance of the spring and pitched in just one inning—a two-out inning at that—in a game played with loose rules. Tate’s fastball was up to 95 mph, and he got a strikeout on a slider. According to an evaluator on hand, the changeup has the potential to be an out pitch, while the slider projects as a future plus pitch. Tate pitched just nine innings as a pro and the 103 innings he pitched as a junior were by far his highest total, so the Rangers will take it slow with the UC Santa Barbara alum.

  • Jabari Blash, lf, Padres: Blash, who hit 32 homers at Triple-A Tacoma and Double-A Jackson in 2015, was a Rule 5 Draft pick of the A’s, who swapped him to the Padres. Aware that righthanded power plays better at Petco Park, the Padres took a low-risk shot on the slugger, hoping to take advantage of some of his streakiness. Blash tends to chase and overswing, but when he connects he can hit it out anywhere. He belted his second spring homer on Monday. “He’s still very raw in the fact that he hasn’t played a long time,” Padres hitting coach Alan Zinter told the San Diego Union Tribune. “He needs to just understand how to control his timing because when he unlocks his body at the right time, he attacks the ball in a really good position. When he misses a couple of his windows to move his body, then his front side takes over, and he’s inconsistent with his swing pitch and pitch recognition.”

  • Hector Olivera, lf, Braves: The big-money Cuban signee continued what’s been a strong spring for him after being noticeably rusty in his major league debut. The Braves have played him every day in left field so far this spring and he’s 14-for-32. He’s struck out just once, not surprising given his quick, short swing and excellent zone awareness. He was 1-for-2 Monday with a walk.

  • Manuel Margot, lf/cf, Padres: Margot, one of four players acquired from the Red Sox for Craig Kimbrel, is unlikely—at just 21—to make the Padres out of spring training, but he is giving them pause, especially with Travis Jankowski’s struggles. Spring training stats should be taken with a grain of salt, but Margot is showing good plate balance and a good approach with just two strikeouts so far and with seven hits in 18 at-bats. Margot is a plus defender in center field and he could end up spending a brief time in El Paso before reaching Petco Park at some time in 2016.

  • Micah Johnson 2b, Dodgers: Johnson seems trapped behind a second base group that includes Howie Kendrick, Chase Utley, Kike Hernandez and Alex Guerrero, but that hasn’t stopped him from impressing this spring. The former White Sox farmhand is 10-for-27 with two stolen bases, including 3-for-4 on Monday. But the defensive flaws remain an issue—hard hands, slow pivot—and the Dodgers have had him take fly balls in center. “Offensively, I know I’m ready. There isn’t a doubt. Defensively there are questions, but eventually those will be old news,” he told ESPN.com.

  • Jose Peraza, cf, Reds: Peraza has hit and run (10-for-23, four steals) this spring, so the Reds are trying to find ways to get him into the lineup. On Monday, he played center field, foreshadowing a potential role for him with the big club. Peraza was acquired with the notion of being the regular second baseman, but that was kiboshed when Brandon Phillips rejected a trade to the Nationals. Now Peraza’s versatility—he played second, short and center with the Dodgers and in the minors in 2015—might win him a big league role.

  • Tony Barnette, rhp, Rangers: The former Arizona State reliever is back in the States after six largely successful seasons in Japan. At 32, he still has prospect eligibility and he’s looked solid after signing a two-year, $3.5 million deal in December. Barnette throws a four-seamer that touches 94 mph along with a two-seamer, a cutter, a slider and a split-fingered fastball. While in Japan, he also learned to create deception in his delivery, with a pause at the top of his leg lift. He’s pitched five innings this spring, striking out eight.

  • Jason Coats, rf, White Sox: A 29th-round pick out of TCU in 2012 after an ACL tear torpedoed his draft stock, Coats is a late-bloomer who came into his power last season as he hit 17 homers—albeit at homer-happy Triple-A Charlotte. Coats has a swing more geared for gap power, but he has hit two longballs this spring. Coats can play all three outfield positions, but his fringy arm and average speed limit him to left field, likely.

  • Bryce Brentz, of, Red Sox: After five consecutive appearances in the Prospect Handbook, Brentz dropped out in the 2016 version. Still the righthanded hitter, who mashes lefties, came to camp with a shot to be provide some outfield depth, even after the signing of fellow lefty crusher Chris Young. But Brentz has had a rough time of it, going 0-for-16 with 12 strikeouts. Brentz is on the 40-man roster, but at 27, he could find himself designated for assignment if the team needs to make roster room.

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