I can’t tell you whether Trevor Story is going to be a good major-league ballplayer. I can tell you with a high degree of certainty he’s going to be some kind of major-league ballplayer, but as for how he fares, well, that’s more unknown. He has the skills to make All-Star Games, but the same could be said of plenty of non-All-Stars, and this’ll be a big year for Story’s career. He might build upon last year’s gains, and become a part of a core. Alternatively, he wouldn’t be the first young player to stagnate or regress.
Story has become a something on account of his spring, and on account of what’s going on with Jose Reyes. Reyes might never play for the Rockies again, so there’s a vacancy at short, and Story might seize it. Some want for Story to be named the opening-day starter, and there are the usual arguments in favor of waiting at least a couple weeks. No matter — by May or June, it seems like Story is going to be the guy. I can’t tell you if he’s going to be productive. I can tell you only how he’s interesting.
It feels obligatory to note that Story is 23, and some years ago he was drafted 45th overall. So, he’s a shortstop with a prospect pedigree, but he did dip after a strong start. Last year allowed him to recapture some lost attention. Now, this is his 2015 spray chart, courtesy of MLB Farm. This shows where the right-handed Story hit the ball in Double-A and Triple-A.
A lot of pull power. Great! You see some doubles and triples elsewhere. But it should be noted that Story’s home-run power isn’t to left and left-center, exclusively. Here’s where he put a recent spring-training home run:
Here’s where he put another recent spring-training home run:
Story might prefer to hit the ball out to left, but he’s not opposed to hitting it out to right, or up the middle. He has functional game power. That’s a pretty good offensive starting point, for a player who can reportedly handle the shortstop position. Now let’s talk about contact. Story has had some issues with contact.
But they just got better! They didn’t get all the way better, but Story made a substantial improvement. Two years ago, in his first exposure to the high minors, Story struck out more than a third of the time. Last year, he struck out about a quarter of the time, even while spending half the year in Triple-A. Between 2014 and 2015, 430 players batted at least 200 times in the high minors in each season. Story showed the sixth-greatest improvement in strikeout rate. That’s the kind of step forward you love to see from a promising middle infielder. Or, anyone, I guess.
This is a table of some of Story’s vitals. You see the strikeouts, and you see the wRC+. There’s important information in both of those columns, but what might make Story the weirdest is that ground-ball column.
|2014||A-, A+, AA||32%||31%||130|
I wouldn’t think too much about what Story did in rookie ball. I know there are statistics for everything, but I don’t know why they even bother recording down there. Story really got going as a professional in 2012, and that’s when he started hitting most of everything in the air. He hasn’t stopped. If anything, he’s grown more extreme. Trevor Story is a fly-ball hitter, to a degree uncommon for anyone and particularly uncommon for a shortstop.
There are some browsable leaderboards at StatCorner. Last year, out of everyone who batted at least 100 times in Story’s Double-A league, he finished with the single lowest ground-ball rate, and by several points. And then, out of everyone who batted at least 100 times in Story’s Triple-A league, he finished with the sixth-lowest ground-ball rate. That’s sixth out of 261, and first out of 208. The numbers are undeniable, and they agree with Dan Farnsworth’s evaluation that Story pretty clearly has a fly-ball swing path.
What does it mean to post a 25% ground-ball rate? The lowest rate last year in the majors was 27%, from Lucas Duda. And then 28%, from Colby Rasmus. Matt Carpenter and Chris Carter came in at 30%. Story, again, is extreme. Since 2002, the lowest ground-ball rate by a shortstop is Jed Lowrie’s 32%. Story might go as far as his fly balls do. If he taps into enough power, he could be a borderline star. If too many of those flies die on the track, Story’ll be dragged down by whiffs and a suffering BABIP.
It wouldn’t be hard to draw a connection between Story’s strikeouts and his swing path. That is, as long as he’s elevating the ball, he’s probably going to swing and miss. The good news is he plays in the right organization. I mean, being a hitter in the Rockies system would work out for anyone, but Coors Field does a couple things. It rather dramatically cuts down on strikeouts, and it dramatically rewards air balls in play. Story should be able to take full advantage of his future home environment, and while that wouldn’t make him a better player in other ballparks, this is a place that could make him look his best. He’ll hit his home runs, and he’ll be fooled by fewer quality breaking balls.
Story is a strange sort of player. His career path already makes him a little unusual, but he’s an extreme fly-ball hitter without the 70- or 80-grade power. He’s one of the more extreme fly-ball hitters in the game today, and maybe the Rockies will want to work on that, and maybe they won’t. I see some shades of Khalil Greene in here, only with better ability to the opposite field. Which seems like a heck of a selling point. The more I think about Story, the more I like him, and while he has his issues and while he has a weird profile, shortstops need to accomplish only so much. My sense is Trevor Story can clear that bar.
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.