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Rockies prospect rankings: No. 8 Trevor Story needs to improve offense to avoid utility future

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Story has the athleticism and glove to contribute in the majors, but he needs to overcome pitch recognition issues to be more than a utility player.

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Editor's note: We've made a change with the PuRPs list this year, deciding to unveil each player individually over the course of a few weeks. To keep track of the rankings, keep checking our PuRPs list StoryStream.

PuRP No. 8: Trevor Story (360 points, 16 ballots) | Summer 2014 Ranking: 4 | High Ballot 2, Mode Ballot 10

Story, a 22-year-old shortstop who spent his age 21 season at High-A Modesto and Double-A Tulsa, was ranked as the top prospect in the rookie level Pioneer League by Baseball America after 2011 and showed us why in Asheville in 2012 (he was the No. 2 prospect in Baseball America's South Atlantic League prospects list in 2012). As one of the youngest players in the league and playing the toughest defensive position well, Story hit an impressive .277/.367/.505 (138 wRC+), including 67 extra-base hits.

In all, it was a good enough performance for Story to be rated the No. 96 prospect in baseball by BA entering 2013. Unfortunately, Story's success did not translate at a higher level. He had a pretty bad year in High-A Modesto in 2013, hitting just .233/.305/.394 (83 wRC+), though he did steal 23 bases and was caught just once.

Last season, Story repeated High-A ball and the results were much better. In 218 California League plate appearances, Story hit .332/.436/.582 (164 wRC+) with 29 XBHs and 20 SB against players that were on average two years older than him while manning the shortstop position predominantly. Story was then promoted to the Texas League, where he struggled a bit more against players three years older than him. In 237 PAs at Tulsa, Story hit just .200/.302/.380 -- still a 98 wRC+ but a line that was well below his Modesto production. He followed that up with a 97 PA stint in the Arizona Fall League, in which he hit .256/.340/.419 (107 wRC+) against fellow top prospects.

Kiley McDaniel rated Story ninth among Rockies prospects:

Story is the best of the four fringy middle infielders in this group (45 FV) as he's an athlete with the ability to stick at shortstop that looked like an everyday guy at one point, but tinkering with his swing has contributed to the bat stalling out a bit at the upper levels. One scout questioned his ability to recognize spin and the consensus is there isn't enough here offensively for more than a utility guy.

The fact that Story played SS over fellow top prospect Rosell Herrera in Asheville and in Tulsa over Taylor Featherston (and for a time, Cristhian Adames) is proof that the Rockies see him as a superior defender at the position. Scouts have indicated that Story's a potential five-tool shortstop at the major league level (though most of that talk occurred at lower levels), and Story has certainly shown flashes of that potential. It's most worrisome to me that Story struck out over 34 percent of the time in Tulsa (counterbalanced somewhat by his 11.8 BB%) and has a career minor league K% of 27.5, which is generally a red flag for somebody hoping to become a major league regular.

Nick Faleris of Baseball Prospectus also rated Story ninth in the system:

Story spent the first half of his year laying waste to the dreadful memories of a 2013 Cal League tour fraught with failures. Even in the midst of his first-half offensive outburst, evaluators pointed to still present holes in his coverage and a hitchy swing that could put a hurt on fastballs on the fat, but left Story largely toothless against more precise arms and quality soft stuff. Those concerns proved valid, as Story was utterly dominated upon promotion to Double-A Tulsa, whiffing every third plate appearance and seeming all but helpless against same-side arms.

There is a silver lining to the dark cloud, however, as Story continues to show an ability to punish mistakes, and his feel for the strike zone may be firm enough that a future as a useful three-outcome bat is not out of the question. At a minimum, Story is going to have to get more direct to contact and more uniformity in his swing in order to keep his head above water in major-league seas. But the raw pop and capable glove work could come together to provide solid defensive value across the dirt and average offensive production in the aggregate, skewed to power and on base.

I ranked Story eighth on my list as a good shortstop bat with great defense, but to stay at these lofty heights (or even move up), a prospect has to dazzle wherever he's placed, which in his case, will probably be New Britain to start off 2015. Story will be Rule 5 eligible after 2015, but he's a near lock to be protected.

Contract Status: 2011 supplemental first round, Rule 5 eligible after 2015, three options remaining

MLB ETA: 2016