Is Trevor Story Properly Valued? (2019 Fantasy Baseball)
What do you get when you take a rookie of the year, add a terribly disappointing sophomore campaign, and then throw in a near MVP- level third season? You get Trevor Story. There might not be a player in Major League Baseball the past three seasons who has had two seasons as tantalizingly beautiful for fantasy owners that sandwiched in such a bad year.
2016 & 2017
In case you forgot, Story was cruising to winning the 2016 National League Rookie of the Year Award in his inaugural season. In only 97 games, Story had a .272 average with 27 home runs and eight stolen bases. The man was on pace to easily top 40 home runs in his first stint in the bigs. Then, it all came crashing down with a torn thumb ligament.
Unfortunately, Story just wasn’t the same player when he came back in 2017. Despite playing in nearly 50 more games, his home run and stolen base totals both fell, while his average plummeted all the way down to .239. Just about every other meaningful stat either rose or fell in the wrong way for Story, including his strikeout percentage. Story’s strikeout percentage rose to an astronomical 34.4% in 2017, up from the already sky-high 31.3% the previous year.
Were his strikeout woes solely to explain for all of his 2017 struggles? Well, his hard-hit percentage did fall a whole five percentage points, so something was potentially up with his overall swing. He did suffer an early injury, but was otherwise healthy.
Pitchers could have clearly made some adjustments also, but Story actually saw almost the same percentage of pitch types in 2017 as he did 2016. While all of these things may have played their part, the strikeout troubles were the main problem for Story. It’s hard for anyone to find success when striking out more than once out of every three times at the dish.
As such, it should have come as no surprise that when Story drastically reduced his strikeout percentage in 2018, he absolutely took off. Story didn’t just improve upon his strikeout percentage last season, he knocked almost 10 percentage points off of it. His 2018 strikeout rate of 25.6% brought him much closer to the league average.
Literally speaking, if Story had 600 at-bats in both 2017 and 2018, he would have had 206 strikeouts in 2017 and only 154 in 2018. Story would have put a whopping 52 more balls in play. If you take Story’s career batting average on balls in play (.340) and simply factor that in, it would mean Story would have had 18 more hits over the season — 18 more hits without doing a single other thing besides cutting down his strikeouts. It’s easy to see how Story’s average skyrocketed to a career high of .291 last year. Add in that his hard-hit percentage rose to a career high of 44.5%, and Story was bound to have his best season yet.
What no one could have predicted, though, is that on top of staying healthy and having 37 home runs, Story ran. And by ran, I mean he ran wild. While 27 stolen bases weren’t going to lead the league, it did transform Story from a player who wasn’t owned in some leagues in 2017 into a fantasy stud who was the best player on many teams. The stolen bases were especially surprising because, until that point, Story had never had more than 23 in a pro season in his career.
Mix in all of that from 2018, and fantasy owners received a stat line of .291 AVG, 37 HR, 108 RBIs, 88 R, and 27 SB. Not too shabby for a guy who fantasy owners stole late as a bounce-back candidate.
Story is such an interesting case. The guy should be absolutely mouthwatering for fantasy owners! Five-tool fantasy studs who can carry lineups don’t grow on trees. Take out average and he is basically Mookie Betts in 2018. Here are there two stat lines as proof.
Betts: 32 HR, 80 RBIs, 129 R, 30 SB
Story: 37 HR, 108 RBIs, 88 R, 27 SB
Betts does have a significant edge in average, but that’s also why he’s Mookie Betts. It’s not like Story’s .291 average from last season was a bummer for owners. Keep in mind, this guy’s ADP for 2019 sits currently at 23rd overall.
So for Story, it all comes down to the strikeout percentage. If Story can just keep his strikeout percentage at where it was in 2018, he will have a ton of success, plain and simple. What should be encouraging for potential fantasy owners? Obviously, Story knows this, too. He was talented enough to drastically improve upon his strikeout percentage last season, so there’s nothing to say he can’t at least keep it the same again.
Story is ranked 20th overall in the FantasyPros’ Expert Consensus Rankings and is being drafted three spots even later than that. If I gave you Betts, minus around 50 points in average, where would you take that guy? Sixth? End of the first round? Whatever your answer would be, I would hope it would be higher than 23rd.
Five-tool studs are few and far between, and this guy has the potential to be a fantasy monster. Oh, and I forgot to mention the fact that Trevor Story is only 26. Not only could he still improve upon his strikeout percentage, but his power and running ability still have room to grow. That’s a scary thought for a man who had 64 combined home runs and steals last season. And if injuries scare you, don’t let them scare you with Story. Aside from a few knicks and bruises here and there, Story’s had a clean bill of health the last two years.
In fantasy baseball, it’s all about finding great value. Too often, owners have to pay up for one category wonder players. Power, speed, and average rarely come all packaged together in one player outside of the first round. What more could an owner ask for in a player? Oh yeah, to play in Coors Field? If only there were a player that checked off all of those boxes…
Alex Altmix is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Alex, check out his archive or follow him @Altmix_23.