From the Minor League Ball mailbag:
"Rockies prospect Trevor Story had a pretty good season from the looks of it, but the strikeouts are still scary. Do you think he is a possible regular shortstop eventually?"---Larry, San Jose, California.
Possible? Sure. Story certainly has the tools. He's got the arm, has lowered his error rate with experience, and currently has enough range in my view, although many observers think he'll fit best at second base in the long run, possibly projecting a range decline as he ages. His defensive work has improved considerably from where he was three years ago so positionally-speaking, yes, that is quite possible.
His offense is promising too. Story has power and he has speed. He hit 40 doubles, 10 triples, and 20 homers this year between Double-A and Triple-A and averaged 15 homers per year in the three seasons before this one. He also stole 22 bases in 25 attempts this season and averaged 20 in the prior three campaigns. Power and speed, the combination of champions.
But as Larry points out, the flaw here is contact. He fanned 24.5% of the time in 2015 and his walk rate took a steep drop after he moved up to Triple-A, from a not-bad 11.7% with New Britain to just 5.8% at Albuquerque. His strikeout rates have always been elevated. It is true that they used to be worse (he whiffed an unsightly 33% of the time back in 2013) but there's still a serious issue with contact here. Scouting reports back up the numbers, PCL observers noting Story as an over-aggressive hitter with swing mechanics that come unhinged at times, combined with a tendency to chase.
The few times I've seen him, he's been either really good or really bad, though good more often than bad. When he's locked in he's dangerous and will kill a mistake, but the holes in the approach are there and major league pitchers will find ways to exploit them.
Story has been around for awhile but he is still just 22 years old. The tools remain tempting and he has improved his skills, no question, but has he improved enough?
He looks good enough often enough now to make me think that the chance is better than even of him developing into a guy who can hit .250 with 15 homers, 15 steals, with just enough OBP and defense to play regularly.
But on the other hand I felt the same way about Brandon Wood, if you'll remember him. Wood had a little more power than Story and a little less speed but there are enough similarities to give one pause: same position, similar height-weight data, first round pick, productive in hitter's leagues (Cal League, PCL), quality physical tools, arm strength, some questions about range but defensively reliable overall, good reports on work ethic, and a tendency to lose the plot with his swing, contact, and pitch recognition.
Wood never figured it out despite his best efforts. Will the same hold true for Story?
I don't know. My instinct says Story has a better chance to make it work than Wood did, but instincts can be mistaken for stubbornness.