If you want to catch up on all the previous 2017 player profiles, check out my archive here.
If it weren’t for Corey Seager and an unfortunate slide on the basepaths and later in the infield dirt, Trevor Story would have run away with the NL Rookie of the Year. From an unheralded prospect to one of fantasy baseball’s best shortstops in the course of four months. I fell in love with him in the preseason, before he obliterated the league in his first two weeks of MLB action. I wrote about him in the middle of that crazy start.
As a reminder, he hit eight home runs in the first two weeks, a total of 10 in April, and had collected 27 by the time he injured his thumb on July 30. He was so good in his four months that he still finished at #12 on ESPN’s player rater for SS, beating Brad Miller, Aledmys Diaz, and others and finishing just one spot behind Carlos Correa. He gained value by adding eight steals, 67 runs, 72 RBI, and a decent 0.272 average to all those homers. He was #3 in baseball for homers by shortstops and #2 in ISO for all positions to only David Ortiz, ahead of Brian Dozier, Mark Trumbo, Chris Carter, Nolan Arenado, and everyone else.
Normally, it is tempting to dismiss this kind of power outburst from a guy that scouts gave a 40 to 50 power grade in 2014 and 2015. Remember that time when Dom Brown of the Phillies hit 18 homers in two months and finished with 27 in 2013 only to hit a total of 15 the next two seasons combined? Obviously, if that’s the case here, Story’s 2017 value will not be great. But is it true here? Is this power just a mirage?
Well, let’s look at a couple things to find out. First, over to baseballsavant.com to check out Statcast data. Story was #2 in MLB in average distance (256 ft) on contact with at least 100 batted balls, behind only Ryan Schimpf?! Who called those two at the top of that list before 2016? Story’s 91.5 mph average exit velocity puts him in the top 60, ditto for his average exit velocity on line drives and fly balls. He finished #15 in MLB in barrelled balls per batted ball event, one spot behind some guy named Trout.
Moving on to other sources, baseballheatmaps.com’s home run and fly ball distance leaderboard has Story sitting at number 1. Granted, I believe the list was last updated in July, so it isn’t perfect, but that’s still certainly not a bad sign. ESPN’s home run tracker lists the hitters with the longest average true home run distance. His 420 ft average sits all the way down at #3 in baseball, behind two dudes named Stanton and CarGo.
If that’s still not enough to convince you of his elite power, his hard hit % of 45% was number two in baseball, behind only Mr. David Ortiz again and directly above these guys: Freddie Freeman, Giancarlo Stanton, Matt Carpenter, Mike Trout, and Miguel Cabrera. What more could he do to prove his power? Oh, and he threw in 4 triples and 21 doubles to add to his homers.
Was he helped by Coors? Sure. 16 of his 27 homers came at home, but 11 came on the road. His batting average was actually the biggest beneficiary of his home park (0.313 vs 0.235 on the road), but all the hits count in fantasy wherever they are hit, so that’s not an issue for us.
Now that we’ve established his power is for real, let’s look at two other big factors in his fantasy value: steals and batting average. For steals, our best evidence is that he put up three consecutive seasons of 20+ steals in the minors and eight in 415 PA in the majors, which would project out to about 13 in a full season. I think it is safe to assume he will put up 10+ steals in 2017.
Batting average is trickier. He had an awful 31% K%. His 0.272 average was very much propped up by a 0.343 BABIP (32nd highest in MLB with 400 PA). But, we already established that he knocked the seams out of the ball when he hit it in 2016, and that he has some speed, so a high BABIP isn’t unreasonable. Steamer projects a 0.324 BABIP for 2017, so I wouldn’t expect a huge drop off.
Now, about that K%. It was supported by a 12.5% swinging strike rate, 39th worst in baseball. So that’s not good, but he wasn’t all that close to the worst in baseball and then there’s this:
Look how his contact % started to go up at the end of his season at the same time he stopped getting into 0-1 counts (first-pitch strike %) and stopped swinging as much at pitches outside the zone (O-Swing%). Hopefully, this was a conscious decision to stop chasing the first pitch and get behind. It had good outcomes and helped him to make more contact. If he can carry those gains into 2017, it’s not hard to imagine him keeping his average in the 0.260-0.270 range.
I should quickly acknowledge his season-ending injury. He tore the UCL in his left thumb and had successful surgery in August. In case you are worried about this lingering into 2017 and affecting his performance in the future, check out this quote from Jeff Zimmerman:
Also, don’t expect the injury to linger into the future as most hand/finger injuries don’t affect future production.
So, let’s get to my projection for a guy that is quickly becoming my favorite shortstop. Sure Seager, Correa, Machado, and Lindor are better overall players and Bogaerts plays for my favorite team and is pretty excellent himself, but Story’s on two of my fantasy teams and such an offensive force. Who doesn’t love prodigious power from a position not known for it?
0.260/0.320/0.490 with 30 HR, 80 R, 90 RBI, 14 steals
The runs and RBI are dependent on where he hits in the lineup. He started the season at number 2 before settling in the 4 and 5 spot. If he stays in the cleanup or 5-hole, he could easily top 90 RBI. My projection assumes he is in that spot.
That projection isn’t that far below Machado’s 2016 total value (when you count Story’s steals). Story’s batting average can’t compete with Manny’s and Manny has more power and consistency, but the point is that Story isn’t that far behind and should be in the mix for top 3 fantasy SS with Machado, Corey Seager, Francisco Lindor, and Carlos Correa. Tschus!