STORY MAY BE THE PLAYER TO PUT ROCKIES IN CONTENTION
2007 Rockies had Troy Tulowitzki; 2017 could feature Trevor Story
Trevor Story — the shortstop who is brimming with confidence as he enters his second big-league season — could be the key to the Rockies’ success.
scottsdale, ariz.» Trevor Story listens patiently to questions about himself. He takes time to answer, but is careful not to reveal too much, careful not to sound like a braggart. Still, it’s clear that the Rockies’ young shortstop is stuffed with confidence as he enters his second major-league season.
“I have put in a lot of work to become a good shortstop, and I think I’m going to get even better,” Story said. “It’s all baseball for me, all of the time. If you ask my family or my girlfriend, they get tired of me studying and working out all the time. But that’s what I like to do. I like to find ways to get better.”
If that sounds like something Troy Tulowitzki would say, you’re right.
“Tulo was like that and he taught me a lot, so that’s where I picked some of it up,” said Story, who, as an up-and-coming minor-leaguer used to work out during the offseason at “Camp Tulo” in Las Vegas.
After six consecutive losing seasons, the Rockies believe they are ready to emerge from the wilderness of mediocrity and earn a playoff berth. To do that, they likely will need Story to pick up where he left off last year — when he mashed 27 home runs in just 97 games before his dream rookie season was cut short by a torn ligament in his left thumb.
Story, a chiseled 6-foot-2 and 217
pounds, doesn’t have to become the next Tulowitzki, the greatest shortstop in franchise history, but he is out to prove that 2016 was not a rookie aberration.
It was 10 years ago, when the Rockies pulled off the miracle of Rocktober and advanced to the World Series, that Tulowitzki became an immediate star. The “Tulo Chant” reverberated throughout LoDo. He was a 6-3 and brash 22-year-old rookie who hit for power and made balletic jumps from deep in the hole while firing the ball across the diamond. He hit .291, blasted 24 homers and drove in 99 runs.
Ryan Spilborghs, a former Rockies outfielder who played with Tulowitzki and now works as a Rockies analyst for Root Sports, said he “absolutely loves” Story’s size, athleticism and makeup, but he doesn’t like comparing Story with Tulowitzki.
“I think it’s really unfair to put Tulo and Trevor in the same category,” said Spilborghs, who remains close to Tulowitzki. “When Tulo’s career is done, he’ll have the best fielding percentage in the history of shortstops. So, legitimately, Tulo’s probably the best fielding shortstop to probably ever play, which is just a remarkable statement to make.
“And I think offensively, Tulo could finish up with close to 300 home runs. All of that makes him a borderline Hall of Famer, in my opinion.”
Tulowitzki, whom the Rockies traded in July 2015, now plays for Toronto, a World Series contender.
The Rockies, and Story, still have a lot to prove. Despite a stupendous start in which he hit 21 homers before the all-star break, tied for most all time by a National League rookie (Dave Kingman, 1972; and Albert Pujols, 2001), Story still has to establish himself for an entire season. His teammates are confident he will.
“I think the way Trevor played last year, and the way he works so hard at his game, tells you he can,” second baseman DJ LeMahieu said. “I mean, there are a lot of records he would have broken if he’d stayed healthy.”
First-year Rockies manager Bud Black anticipates big things from his shortstop.
“When I first took this job, I had heard a lot about him, and all of that been validated,” Black said. “Talented. I like the defense. I like the bat. I like the arm. There is a lot to like, but he’s still growing as a player and there are things he will continue to improve on.”
One of the things Story is striving to do is cut down on his high number of strikeouts. He whiffed on 31.3 percent of his at-bats last year, second among National League players with 400 or more plate appearances. Depending on whom you talk to, that’s either a major flaw or a minor concern.
“The game and environment of baseball has changed, so in my view, the strikeout doesn’t matter as much to the players now,” Spilborghs said. “I think players go in and try to get their best swing off. I would take my shot with Trevor making three swings rather than one good swing and then trying to put the ball in play.
“I do think you’re going to see improvement with Trevor, as he gets to know the league, but I don’t think he’s ever going to get below 25 percent on strikeouts.”
Black would like to see Story put the ball in play more.
“I can see a little bit of the expansion of the strike zone, and that’s where the strikeouts come,” Black said. “So he’s got to scale back and get just a little bit better strikeout recognition. But it doesn’t happen overnight. But once that starts happening, it will make Trevor even more dangerous. Pitchers don’t want to walk guys, particularly with our lineup, so the pitchers will start to have to bring balls back over (the plate). Trevor has shown he can make pitchers pay for mistakes.”
Story’s pyrotechnics at the plate a year ago overshadowed his defense, but he committed only 10 errors in 442 total chances and his 4.72 range factor would have topped all National League shortstops if he had enough chances.
“He’s extremely athletic,” LeMahieu said. “He has a cannon for an arm and he gets to balls you don’t think he can get to. It’s hard to compare him to Tulo, but I think his defense gets overlooked a little bit. He’s special out there.”
Ask Story about comparisons to Tulowitzki and he arches an eyebrow. “I don’t like to do that,” he said. “I just want to become the best I can be.”
For the Rockies, that will be good enough.
“He’s extremely athletic. He has a cannon for an arm and he gets to balls you don’t think he can get to. It’s hard to compare him to Tulo, but I think his defense gets overlooked a little bit. He’s special out there.” Rockies second baseman DJ LeMahieu, on shortstop Trevor Story
Trevor Story was on a power trip last year, when he hit 27 homers in just 97 games as a rookie shortstop with the Rockies.
No. 27 on the Rockies’ roster, shortstop Trevor Story, had a terrific rookie season last year. He hit 27 homers and drove in 72 runs in just 97 games.