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Trevor Story Rankings Debate - Comparing RotoBaller's Rankers


For the RotoBaller baseball crew, it's our favorite time of the entire year. It's time to revive our signature series of articles debating the overall ranking of some of the most fantasy-relevant players of the 2019 baseball season. That's right, it's Ranker vs Ranker time!

RotoBaller's expert writers have come up with our consensus rankings for mixed leagues, but that doesn't mean we agreed on everything. In this space, we'll hear from rankers with the biggest differences of opinion on a well-known player and have them defend their position against each other.

Today, we discuss young Rockies phenom Trevor Story. Nick Mariano unabashedly professes his love for Story as an elite talent, while Pierre Camus doesn't see him as a sure thing in the first round. Which side of the fence do you fall on? Let's hear from both sides to find out who is more convincing.

Editor's Note: Get any full-season MLB Premium Pass for 50% off, with exclusive access to our season-long articles, 15 in-season lineup tools and over 200 days of expert DFS research/tools. Sign Up Now!

 

2019 Draft Rankings Debate - Trevor Story

Overall Rank Overall Tier Player Pos. Nick Pierre JB Chris Pos. Rank Pos. Tier
15 2 Trevor Story SS 6 21 8 19 5 1

 

Nick Mariano's Ranking: #6 overall

I understand the hesitation to trust Trevor Story, every hero has those who doubt them, but he’s a power-speed stud in the most offensive-friendly ballpark in sports. Story finished 2018 with his first All-Star selection that totaled 37 homers and 27 steals, giving him the second-most HR+SB value (64) in the MLB. Only Jose Ramirez had more (73!), with both players being strong first-round picks to me.

(Cards on the table here, I am a huge Story fan. I was RotoBaller’s news writer back before the 2016 season and wrote him up as an exciting prospect to gamble on. Now I have several autographs and t-shirts of his and my fiancee questions my ranking her No. 1. I do, sweetie, I swear.)

Story’s 88 homers in 399 career MLB games over three seasons are backed by a career 43.2% hard-hit rate that isn’t carried by any one year -- all three years are over 40% per Fangraphs. Statcast gives him an average HR distance of 421 feet for ‘18, the most by any hitter with 10+ HRs, which was helped along by this mammoth 505-foot shot -- the longest HR of ‘18.

That said, his pop has usually come with heavy whiffs and a low floor. However, 2018 saw his power creep forward while cutting his K’s down by nearly 10 percentage points (34.4% to 25.6%). Per Statcast, his overall whiff rates on offspeed pitches fell from 47.2% in ‘17 to 29.8% in ‘18, while the breaking ball whiff rate was shaved from 41.7% to 36.1%. Fastball whiffs were shaved down to 18% from 24.3% alongside a rise in “Meatball” swing rate from 74.4% to 81.2% and an eight-percentage-point jump in zone-contact rate. He looked comfortable at the plate and finally starting punishing mistakes as a superstar would.

Maybe you’re skeptical of the 27 steals? After all, he’d swiped just 15 bags across his first two seasons and manager Bud Black doesn’t love the green light. Digging into his Minor League stats, Story had 22-23 steals in 2013, ‘14 and ‘15 before hitting the bigs. A more reliable data point to lean into is his 29.6 ft/sec sprint speed, which ties him with Ronald Acuna for 10th-fastest in the MLB (out of players with 50 opportunities). Speed is one part of the equation, but Story has also proven wise in picking his spots. He’s 42-of-55 on steal attempts in the Majors after going an incredible 97-of-110 in the Minors, which Bud Black seems to have finally embraced. You should too.

Finally, I’m not expecting another .291 average, but his speed and Coors Field does play into a history of strong BABIPs in the .340-.350 range that dates back to his days of Single-A ball in 2012. You xStats disciples may fear a BA drop, but xStats disciples know that it always underestimates Coors Field and isn’t great at handling extreme environments. Nolan Arenado, Carlos Gonzalez, Charlie Blackmon and Story all had averages ~20-30 points above “expectation” in 2016, 2017 and 2018. That other shoe ain’t dropping on this Rocky Mountain High! This is a budding superstar that’s earned the right to run and built the confidence to rake. Sit back and enjoy Story’s next chapter.

 

Pierre Camus' Ranking: #21 overall

Recency Bias Influence (RBI for short) is a troubling affliction that can strike at any time. Over 90% of fantasy baseball owners have suffered from this debilitating bias at one point in time, although many are in denial. Luckily, there is a cure. Just look back at the back of player's baseball card (they still make those, right?) to see if their recent success is a legitimate pattern or an outlier. For Trevor Story, it's a bit too soon to tell but I'm leaning toward the latter.

In 2018, Story was a fantasy phenom. The power-speed combo is legit and while going 37-27 doesn't sound as sexy as 30-30 or 40-20, it was enough to make him one of the most valuable players in all of fantasy. The fact he's a shortstop rather than an outfielder is even better. Oh yeah, and he plays in the thin air of Colorado, hitting behind Nolan Arenado. So what's not to like? Why not make him a first-round pick?

We know that Expected Stats don't always tell the whole story (pun intended) but they can't be ignored either. Story finished 32 points higher on his wOBA (.384) than xwOBA (.352) and 63 points higher on SLG (.567) than xSLG (.504). Oh yeah, his batting average was 29 points higher than expected too. That makes a triple-crown of overachievement based on what Statcast predicted last year, ranking in the top 40 in all three categories among 313 qualified batters. There are some batters who are able to exceed expectations and maintain high BABIP year-after-year but Story hasn't proven he's that player yet and 2017 showed us the opposite, when he struggled to a .239 average with a 34% strikeout rate. Even his supports will admit his batting average should regress and Steamer projects him to hit .271. Not bad but not elite either.

What about the speed that could separate him from the pack, even if his slugging takes a dip? No way that repeats itself. Sprint speed is a good indicator of physical talent but a look across the leaderboard shows many players that just don't know how to steal. Story does, given his success rate mentioned by Nick, but he needs opportunity. He had it last year, when Colorado was ninth in stolen base attempts at 0.78 per game. That may not hold true again, as they were 24th the year before and Bud Black is not known for his love of thievery on the basepaths. The Rockies historically have never been a team to run much because, frankly, they never needed to.

Another thing to note is that fantastic seasons don't often repeat themselves. There are few truly elite players that can do it year after year like Mike Trout and Mookie Betts. Story may turn out to be that player, but we can't be certain yet. That's why we must trust the players who have either formed a strong track record of consistency and/or flashed a ceiling unlike any other in their position. Even if he comes close to repeating last year's totals, who could possibly match Story for fantasy value? Trout and Betts are no-brainers. Stanton and Judge are each capable of 50+ homers. Yelich and Arenado can match Story's power with far better batting averages. Even at middle infield, the Indians' Ramirez and Lindor have higher upside. Turner's got 20-40 potential, Acuna could go 40-20, and then there's Manny Machado, wherever he winds up. Sprinkle in a few stud pitchers like Sale and Scherzer and I've got 20 players I either like or trust slightly more than Story. For the sake of context, I'm ranking Story just behind Alex Bregman, who has a similar profile in many ways.

Ultimately, I can't say I have anything against Story for any particular reason. He's got tremendous power, speed, and an ideal team context. He shouldn't last any later than the second round in fantasy drafts this year and if he falls to me around the middle of that round, I'd gladly take him. I just happen to like 20 other players a little bit better.

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