After the Rockies traded shortstop Troy Tulowitzki to the Blue Jays, it appeared that the Rockies had given up one of their few advantages: great offensive production from a position known for weak-hitting, all-glove players (though that’s changing). While that held true through the remainder of the 2015 season, things quickly turned around in 2016.
Due to injuries and a certain player who will remain nameless being suspended, Trevor Story had the opportunity to be the Rockies’ Opening Day shortstop. Story made his case by hitting six home runs and 11 extra-base hits in 20 spring training games, good for a 1.199 OPS, and was awarded the job.
After his second minor-league season, Story was was consensus top-100 prospect and also seen as some as the Rockies top prospect. However, a rough 2013 season in Modesto took the shine off of his prospect status that he would never fully recover. There was a noticeable trend that Story would start a new level extremely slow before making key adjustments and earning another promotion.
Coming off his hot spring, common sense said that Story would slow down once the games started counting and he was facing big-league pitching exclusively; however, someone forgot to inform Story of that. Instead, Story decided to show the world how easy it was to hit home runs against puny big-league pitching. Story hit two home runs on opening day, six home runs in the first four games, and crushed his seventh home run in just the sixth game of the season, all of which either tied or set records for most home runs to start a career.
Eventually, Story’s swing-and-miss tendencies begin to catch up with him and as his strikeout rate climbed above 35 percent. The question became whether or not Story was going to be able to make the adjustment. Story, however, proved that his ability to adjust in the minor leagues after struggles would carry over and his K rate started to decrease while his offensive production begin to climb again.
After the All-Star break, Story appeared to have caught a second wind, as he slashed .340/.417/.698 and hit six more home runs to get to a stunning total of 27 home runs in July. Unfortunately that would be his season ending total, as he tore the UCL in his thumb sliding into second base and was put on the DL until the end of the season.
Before the season, I predicted that Story would provide more WAR to the Rockies than his predecessor would for the Blue Jays. Story put up 2.8 fWAR, 3.1 rWAR and 3.3 WARP, while Tulowitzki accumulated 2.8 fWAR, 3.3 rWAR and 2.0 WARP. While the end result makes it appear that I was marginally correct in my prediction, how it happened was where I was completely wrong. I predicted that Story would be unable to match Tulo’s pace, but that he would eventually beat him by being able to stay healthier and play more games. Ultimately, Story either paced or beat Tulo while gathering about 120 fewer plate appearances.
Having already proven to be able to make adjustments as the big-league level and steadily decreased his K rate through his abbreviated season, Story is poised to take the next step to stardom. Assuming that Story is able to stay healthy and play a full sophomore season, 35-40 home runs is not an unlikely outcome. However, if he simply repeated his home run total from this year while continuing to improve his approach at the plate and in the field, Story could become one of the top five shortstops in the game.