Fantasy Baseball: What Is Trevor Story's Value in 2017?

The Rockies' infielder posted gaudy power numbers in an injury-shortened 2016, but will regression hit in 2017?

Colorado Rockies shortstop Trevor Story was the surprise of 2016's first half, but atorn ulnar collateral ligament in the young slugger's left thumb put a premature end to his record-setting homer parade.

The current FantasyPros consensus rankings have the Colorado infielder as a standard-league fourth-rounder going into the 2017 draft season, but the standard deviation in ranks of almost 16 indicates that the expert take on Story is hardly a resounding consensus.

The Steamer Projection for Story adjusts accordingly, allotting him 26 home runs for 2017 season (one fewer than he hit over his injury-shortened 2016) along with a more modest .261 batting average (11 points lower than his last year's .272).

So, how should we be valuing Story entering the 2017 season?

Sizing Up the Shortstop Class

One reason that Story's value is so difficult to peg is that the robust stable of productive shortstops hardly distinguishes Story as the class of his position.

The table below collects the Steamer Projections for the top nine shortstop-eligible players per FantasyPros consensus (the top-nine sample is not arbitrary; there is a marked drop in average ranking between the the ninth-ranked player and the 10th-ranked player, Aledmys Diaz).

Here we can see how Story's projections stack up with the cream of the shortstop crop: Manny Machado, Corey Seager, Francisco Lindor, Xander Bogaerts, Jonathan Villar, Ian Desmond, Jean Segura, and Alex Bregman.

Player Rank PA HR R RBI SB BA
Manny Machado 9.7 642 33 94 96 7 .294
Corey Seager 19.6 641 23 84 78 4 .286
Carlos Correa 22 646 23 85 89 14 .278
Francisco Lindor 29.5 637 15 78 78 16 .290
Xander Bogaerts 34.7 626 17 79 79 9 .296
Trevor Story 40.5 621 26 83 83 15 .261
Jonathan Villar 42.2 562 14 69 51 43 .255
Ian Desmond 58.6 600 22 77 76 15 .281
Jean Segura 70.8 631 12 74 60 25 .261
Alex Bregman 72.9 614 20 81 75 9 .267

In terms of both consensus ranking and projected production, Story is wedged in the middle of two clusters, with Machado the clear elite outlier, a surefire first-rounder.

What we make of Story's value will depend largely on how we interpret his place in these clusters: is he the value play in the more highly ranked cluster, or is he merely the most expensive player in the second cluster?

A closer look at Story's underlying statistics should help us to get a better handle on the Colorado bopper's place in this impressive shortstop class.

Digging Into the Numbers

While the above table shows that Story can hang with the elite shortstops in terms of counting stats, it also shows that his limitation amid that class is the seeming potential for batting average floor.

Indeed, one might assume that a young slugger with prolific power numbers but a hair-raising 31% strikeout rate would profile as a free-swinger, but a look at Story's plate discipline stats shows that this isn't the case at all.

Story in 201627.8%66.8%46.2%56.2%80.7%72.9%
League Average30.3%66.7%46.5%63.9%86.3%78.2%

Story offered at pitches outside the zone at a well below average rate, while maintaining average marks in both zone swing percentage and overall swing percentage. This capable batting eye translated into a solid 8.4% walk rate, about league average. Story posted double-digit walk rates for the majority of his time in the minors, so there might even be room to grow here.

The glaring deficiencies are clearly Story's contact skills -- he profiles well below average at pitches both in and outside the zone and in contact percentage overall.

Clearly, Story had some trouble adjusting to the Major League arsenal, and pitchers were eager to test him: Story saw almost 21% sliders in 2016, well above league average, combined with a steady diet of cut fastballs.

Less Downside Than Expected, With Plenty of Upside

The major takeaway here is that the issues that make Story a potential batting-average liability are not approach-based but rather hinge on skills that can be refined as he adjusts to Major League pitching.

The book on Story's issues with pitch movement is not likely to disappear in 2017, but if his plate discipline skills can translate into a notable growth in pitch recognition, there's a chance that he can actually build on his 2016 production.

At the very least, what these numbers indicate is that the downside of a totally dire batting average floor that seems to be priced into the current expert consensus is about as likely to manifest as the tremendous 50-homer upside that made him early-2016's fantasy darling -- which is to say, not very likely at all.

But if mid-30s home run power is in Story's reasonably plausible range of outcomes, combined with double-digit steals and a batting average that is unlikely to bottom out much below .250, there's a very real possibility that Story could challenge for that second overall shortstop spot, making him the cheapest of the potentially elite options in the sub-Machado cluster.

Of course, it is too early to tell where Story will end up slotting in actual fantasy drafts. But if you're in a league where fears of Story's regression allow him to drop to the late-third or fourth round, the young Rockies slugger could represent a strong return on draft-day investment.