It took only three games for us to be able to refer to Trevor Story as a rookie sensation. For the most part, this is because Story is currently out-homering most of the teams in major-league baseball. He got Zack Greinke twice on opening day, and that’s remarkable enough, but Story homered again in each of the following two contests, so now here we are, with Story owning four dingers before the overwhelming majority of rookie players are even called up so as to preserve that extra year of control. Hot start. We’re good at noticing hot starts.
After the hot start will come a cooler period. In time, when we have more information, Story will resemble some kind of familiar shortstop, and we’ll have a better idea of how he’s going to work out. In the long run, I mean. The reality is we don’t know that much more now than we did a week ago. This is the hazard of trying to talk about anything so early in a season, and so early in a career. But the word “irresponsibly” is right in that headline. I think we can allow ourselves to have some fun. What’s the downside? So let’s discuss just a few notable observations. Exactly what they mean, I’ll leave to time to settle.
As a starting point, yup, there are four home runs. Four home runs in Arizona, granted, but that’s still better than four home runs in Colorado, and Story has batted just 14 times. Now, about those 14 trips to the plate: Four of them have ended with strikeouts, meaning 10 of them have ended with batted balls. Just a few weeks ago I talked about how, in the minors, Story proved to be an extreme air-ball hitter. We don’t see many middle infielders with that kind of profile. Batted-ball profiles tend to be, let’s say, “sticky,” and sure enough, here’s what Story has done so, so early:
- 1 grounder
- 9 flies or liners
Three games in, Story is sitting on a ground-ball rate of 10%, and that one grounder came in Story’s first-ever big-league plate appearance. Why does Story have four homers? Half of it is that he puts the ball in the air. The other half, as you could guess, is that he hits the ball hard. Or, he’s hit the ball hard. This is already a year where we’re getting more Statcast information than we got used to in 2015. Here are Story’s top batted-ball velocities, already:
- 110 miles per hour
Six of 10 batted balls have left the bat at 100+, and all of these were in the air. If you can believe it, Story’s hardest-hit batted ball resulted in an out, and almost two outs:
That’s the 110. Now, if 110 were to be considered Story’s max, that would be maybe a little underwhelming, since last year 183 players reached at least 111. But it’s way too early to talk about batted-ball ceilings. Plus, in spring training, Story had batted balls at 110, 111, and 112. Plus, Adam Lind last year topped out at 110. So did Matt Carpenter. So did Francisco Lindor and Buster Posey. What we’ve already seen is that Story can hit the ball plenty hard, and the important thing is doing that consistently.
Now to get into the more nitty-gritty. I mentioned that Story hit a grounder in his first plate appearance. That’s not the only thing notable about the at-bat. Story’s swing:
You see Story attempt a toe-tap. I usually don’t care about these things very much unless they change, and, well, here’s Story the next time he came up:
That quickly, the toe-tap was gone, and I haven’t seen it since. Story started to favor keeping his front foot in the air, which might’ve forced him to do a better job of staying back. I’m not going to pretend to know all the various intricacies of good hitting mechanics, and all I can really report about is what I see, but Story made a little mechanical change between his first two trips, and you at least can’t argue with the results. It seems to demonstrate some awareness, some adaptability. Story wasn’t just depending on his own talent — there was an assessment there, some critical thinking to make Story more prepared for success the next time up.
Sticking with that last clip, you see Story blast a fastball away to the opposite field. It wasn’t a no-doubter home run, but it was a home run, and probably at least a double in other parks. Look at Story’s front foot as he’s making contact:
Story stayed closed, lowering his foot close to the edge of the box to give him a better shot of opposite-field strength. What you see here is a hitter geared up to drive something toward right-center. Story allowed himself to get extended. Now for a change, here’s a screenshot from a deep line-out on Wednesday:
I started to say the difference is subtle, but I don’t believe that. Rather, I think the difference is significant, with this Story open and looking to pull. Compare Story’s front feet. Compare his hips. And look at how Story pulled his hands in here. Even though Story made an out, we’re smarter than that. Story hit the ball toward the track on a line at 100 miles per hour, after turning on a fastball at 90 in off the plate. We’ve seen Story go down to get a pitch. We’ve seen him go away to get a pitch. We’ve seen him stay in to get a pitch. Story hasn’t done as much up, and given his swing plane he’s probably going to be exploitable near the top, but so far Story has shown excellent plate coverage. It took him one series in Arizona. It was his first-ever series in the bigs.
Greinke said Story took some good pitches out of the yard.
“The first one was a fastball. Maybe a little up, maybe (me) not knowing what he likes,” Greinke said.
The reports haven’t gone around yet. Trevor Story is still new, so pitchers are in the process of feeling him out, and this is an opportunity. Until they know what he likes and doesn’t like, he can try to maximize his feasting on what he likes, and that could elevate his numbers. The challenge comes when pitchers have a well-informed plan. It’s coming. It comes for everyone. At that point, we’ll see how Story responds.
But so far, every thumb is up. Power? Check. Consistency? Check. Adaptability? Check. Plate coverage? Check. Story’s also fielded a few balls as a shortstop. At this point, personally, I couldn’t care less.
Jeff made Lookout Landing a thing, but he does not still write there about the Mariners. He does write here, sometimes about the Mariners, but usually not.