NOTE: The phrase "what's the Story, morning glory" was not harmed in production of this article
If you follow me on twitter I'm sorry. But beyond that, it's likely you've heard about one of my prospect crushes; Rosell Herrera. While Herrera has been tearing up the South Atlantic League to the tune of a 1021 OPS in a season in which he's repeating the level, he's yet to be promoted. There's good reason for that, though. Playing the same position but at a level above Herrera is the Colorado Rockies' top prospect (per Baseball Prospectus $) or third ranked prospect (per Baseball America $), Trevor Story.
That's where the story (ugh, I hate myself) gets interesting. As good as Trevor (we're tight) was last season, with his 11% walk rate and 22% strikeout rate, with his .277/.367/.505 slash line, with his 18 home runs and 15 stolen bases, with his 138 wRC+... as good as he was... well, he's been that bad this season. His 8% walk rate is workable, but not when combined with a 33% strikeout rate. Or a .212/.285/.361 slash line. Or a 70 wRC+. Story has seen his ISO drop from .229 in Asheville to .149 in Modesto. All this offensive dropoff while moving from the South Atlantic League to the hitters' paradise of the California League. It shouldn't be ignored that Asheville is a fine spot for hitters, so he was already in a good situation, but the Cal League is up there with the Pacific Coast League when it comes to offensive environs. We can't blame this entirely on bad luck either, as his BABIP was .335 in 2012 and currently sits at .310 this year. It's too early to bury Story, even with the offensive regression. It's been just over half a season and a prospect's development is not always linear. If anything, this could represent a buy-low opportunity for anyone who believes in Story's tools, and there were plenty of people who did this offseason.
Speaking of those tools, what was it that everyone saw in Story after a tremendous 2012, and what's been going wrong in 2013? The basic take on Story is that he showed all five tools, though none were elite. I reached out to Chris Rodriguez, a member of the Baseball Prospectus Prospect Team who has seen Story play several times this year, including last night, for his comments. I'll try to lace them through the scouting report as backup.
He has solid baseball instincts, the ability to stay at shortstop and boasts a plus arm. Given that his bat and power both projected as solid average if not a little more, Story's ability to stick in the six-hole made him fly up prospect lists, and deservedly so.
Defensively, he's solid. Makes all the plays and has an accurate arm. He's pretty athletic, though I haven't seen him on a very tough play yet at SS. You can just see the athleticism in the way he walks.
Story's swing isn't ideal, but it's good enough that you can dream on a solid average hit tool. He's shown plus bat speed that could play it's way into plus power at his peak, though it's functionality will depend in part on the utility of the hit tool. Unfortunately, 2013 has shown some holes in Story's game. The bat speed that was so promising last season has shown some signs of slippage, as he's failed to catch up to quality heat this season. His pitch recognition skills have also been called into question, with anything soft eating him alive.
Story has some good power for being a relatively small guy (stands about 6 foot). He launched several balls over the fence in batting practice, more than anyone on either team in fact. I'd say he has [future] 6 raw power (that's 6 on the 2-8 scale meaning major league plus). That's a great tool to have as a shortstop. Unfortunately, you rarely see that power in game action, as Story just doesn't make enough contact for the power to play.
Chris also noted that there appears to be a bit of a hitch in Story's swing that is resulting in a lot of weak contact. This is much different from 2012, when reports would speak of the loud contact that he could make. Fixing the timing of his swing would be a big step forward for Story, but it's hard to believe that would solve all his problems anyway. This is obviously a grim report, given how high his stock was coming off of 2012 but it's important to remember that prospects take all sorts of twists and turns on their paths to the big leagues, and we're still talking about a 20 year old who is in Hi-A. If Story has to repeat the level next year, he'll still be fine in terms of age relative to level.
I don't believe I was ever extremely high on Story, though in retrospect it was for the wrong reasons. I had my doubts that Story would stay at shortstop and I wasn't sure if the bat would play at third base if he had to move there. As of now, it looks like Story has a great shot at playing shortstop for years to come while the bat is being called into question. The only way I could see acquiring Story is to try and sell him if he bounces back sometime next season. I'd still feel uneasy doing that, even though I do think there's a bit of a bounceback in Story because I don't believe in him fully as a prospect. I don't like acquiring players just to trade them because if you ever get stuck keeping them, it's a miserable time. If you do buy into Story and his tools though, you'll never find a better time to get him than right now.
Baseball Prospectus/Chris Rodriguez
A special thanks again to Chris Rodriguez of Baseball Prospectus' Prospect Team. BP's Prospect Team is my favorite source of information for the minor leagues, so I suggest you follow their whole team. You can find Chris on twitter at @chrisrod13.