Welcome to the 2017 edition of Ranking the Rockies, where we take a look back at the in-season contributions of every player to don the purple this past season. The goal wasn’t and isn’t to quibble with order. Instead, it’s to get a snapshot of a player along with a look forward. For that reason, we simply sorted by Baseball-Reference’s Wins Above Replacement (rWAR) and will start at the bottom and end up at the top.
No. 7, Trevor Story (2.6 rWAR)
If I told you before the season that Trevor Story was going to be the seventh on the Rockies in rWAR, you probably would have believed me. In fact, you probably would have laughed at my lack of imagination, given that he finished sixth on the team in 2016 with 3.2 rWAR. But the way Story got to number seven in 2017 was far from expected.
First, Story didn’t exactly repeat his power display from 2016. Story’s strikeout issues from his rookie season unfortunately not only returned in 2017, but they got worse. Story’s strikeout rate rose from 31.3% to 34.4%, and he also led the National League in total strikeouts with 191. While his walk rate also rose slightly from 8.4% to 8.8%, Story’s power, which made the high K-rate acceptable, also took a big step back because his ISO dropping from .296 to .219.
Overall, Story’s offense dropped from a .272/.341/.567 triple slash with a .909 OPS and 122 OPS+ in 2016 to .239/.308/.457 with a .765 OPS and 88 OPS+ in 2017. That means Story went from being 22% above to 14% below league average.
You’re probably wondering how Story’s value in 2017 was so close to his value in 2016. The answer is simple: Story was healthier and made huge improvements with his defense. Those offset the value lost from his offense.
While Story still did have one trip to the 10-day DL with a left shoulder strain, he otherwise was the picture of health and played 145 games for the Rockies. Considering how bad his offensive struggles were at times, that number might seem high, but his stellar defense kept him in the lineup even if his spot in the batting order dropped.
Coming off his rookie season, the hope was that Story needed to make some improvements on the defensive side of the ball, as there were many occasions where he looked uncomfortable and also showed some stone hands. The contrast to 2017 was night and day. Whether it was being more comfortable in year two in the big leagues or offseason improvements, Story showed up in spring training a new defender.
Besides making all of the routine plays, Story also showed a knack for the spectacular, including turning what was arguable the best defensive play by any Rockies shortstop.
Story ended the season with 11 defensive runs saved above average, the best mark among all National League shortstops. The Angels’ Andrelton Simmons was the only shortstop in the American League with more, but that’s like being the second-best third baseman after Nolan Arenado.
Story’s offense wasn’t bad all year either. While the season totals were lower than expected, Story still had three good months with the bat as he has a .853 OPS in May, .823 OPS in July and .863 OPS in September. When the Rockies needed his offense the most trying to clinch their playoff spot, Story was at his best.
Considering Story’s offensive ceiling, it’s easy to still think of 2017 as a disappointing campaign for the Rockies shortstop; however, if being the seventh best player on a playoff team is a bad season for someone, then that’s a good player to have.
The dream season for Story in 2018 is obvious. Just combine the offense from 2016 with the defense and health from 2017, and you’re talking about 5+ WAR season even with a 30% K-rate. Even if Story can keep his defense steady from 2017 and bring his offense back up to a league average mark, that would still be a great season for a shortstop. 2018 will be Story’s last pre-arbitration season, but he’ll be under team control for another three seasons after that.