Trevor Story Sorta Looks Like J.D. Martinez

The Orioles are 5-0, Ross Stripling almost threw a no-hitter in his Major League debut, and Eugenio Suarez apparently doesn’t make outs anymore, but those were all just footnotes of the first week of the 2016 season. There’s only one big story in MLB right now, and no, that’s not another easy setup for a pun based on Trevor Story’s last name. Okay, maybe it is. They’re so easy!

But despite Trevor’s made-for-headline-writers last name, it’s his performance that keeps him in the news. After finally failing to hit a home run on Saturday, the first time in five big league games that he didn’t go yard, Story launched another one last night, bringing his season total to seven. No one else has more than four. 16 teams have fewer home runs than Trevor Story right now. He has as many long balls as the Mets, Marlins, Pirates, and Angels combined.

So, yeah, welcome to the big leagues, kid. It’s not often that rookie shortstops put on this type of show, and no player of any type has ever hit for this kind of power in their first week in the Major Leagues.

Of course, the usual caveats apply. Almost anything can happen in six games, especially for a hitter who played those six games in Arizona and Colorado, with three of those coming against the Padres. Halfway through his crazy first week, Paul Swydan reminded us that such luminaries as Josh Rutledge and Clint Barmes have crushed the ball after coming up to play middle infield for the Rockies, only to be exposed by big league pitchers as time wore on.

So Story’s monstrous first week isn’t any kind of guarantee of future success. Pitchers will adjust and stop giving him elevated fastballs, and his strikeout rates in the minors suggest that there are holes in his swing that can be taken advantage of. As the league catches on to the fact that Story can hit the baseball a long way, he’ll see fewer pitches to hit, and how he’ll adjust to that might very well determine what kind of hitter he turns out to be.

But throughout spring training and over the last week, as Story just keeps ripping the ball with authority, people have been looking for comparisons based on Story’s skillset. As Jeff Sullivan has noted several times, Story was an extreme fly ball hitter in the minor leagues, and that makes comparing him to other middle infielders difficult.

You could see some Jed Lowrie in there from that aspect, but Lowrie posted better walk and strikeout rates, and didn’t have the same kind of raw power that Story is showing right now. You also see guys like Chris Carter hanging out in that kind of extreme fly ball territory, but Carter is built like an NFL lineman, and Story doesn’t have Carter’s contact issues, so he’s not a great fit either.

But there is one guy that Story’s skillset does somewhat match up with, and it’s a pretty exciting name if you’re a Rockies fan looking for reasons to believe in Story as the team’s new franchise shortstop. That guy, as you’ve probably already guessed from the headline, is J.D. Martinez.

Martinez’s backstory is pretty well known, as he was a fringy Quad-A outfielder who bounced around a bit, and got released by the Astros at the end of Spring Training in 2014. But the Astros loss was the Tigers gain, as Martinez had re-tooled his swing, and as a result, had unlocked some of the game’s most significant power. His swing-hard-all-the-time approach means that he sacrifices contact for the right to do damage when he does put the bat on the ball, so Martinez has struck out about four times as often has he’s walked since his breakout in Detroit.

Because hard-hit balls are a lot more valuable when they’re elevated, Martinez has also moved towards maximizing the number of balls he gets in the air, and last year, 66% of his balls in play were line drives or fly balls, and Martinez has started off the 2016 season even more dramatically; 92% of his balls in play in the first week of the season were elevated, putting him with the second highest air-ball rate in baseball. #5 on that list? Trevor Story, currently at 89% air-balls.

At this point, we can be fairly confident that Story is going to hit the ball in the air a lot, and he’s probably going to struggle to the control the strike zone. But the good news for Story is that that’s basically the description of J.D. Martinez too. Martinez only made contact on 72% of his swings last year, and chased way too many pitches out of the zone that he couldn’t hit, but he was able to hit the ball with enough authority — 87% of his batted balls were classified as medium or hard hit — that he’s sustained one of the highest BABIPs in MLB over the last few years, and that didn’t change even as he became an extreme fly ball guy last year. While many fly ball hitters run very low BABIPs — Jose Bautista and Brian Dozier being two notable examples — Martinez has avoided that particular pitfall, which helps offset the strikeouts.

Of course, we don’t know that Story is going to be able to sustain high BABIPs like Martinez has, and he might not hit the same proportion of his fly balls over the fence that Martinez has, so don’t go take this post as a sign that Story’s fly balls and strikeouts combination means that he’s clearly J.D. Martinez 2.0. There’s a lot we don’t know about Story, and it’d be presumptuous to act like we have enough information to suggest that Story is definitely going to follow Martinez’s path to success.

But let’s take a look at our rest-of-season projections for regular players who are expected to post similar levels of walk rates (4%-8%), strikeout rates (25%-30%), and isolated power (.190 to .230) to Story this year.

Slugging Whiffers
Name BB% K% K-BB% ISO wOBA
J.D. Martinez 7% 26% 19% 0.229 0.358
Trevor Story 7% 28% 21% 0.202 0.328
Randal Grichuk 6% 26% 20% 0.199 0.317

ZIPS and Steamer aren’t entirely buying into Story as a big-time slugger yet, but there’s Martinez as an example of the best version of this kind of hitter. And while Randal Grichuk isn’t quite the extreme fly ball guy that Story looks like or Martinez was last year, he’s also in this family of hitters, and had a good amount of success last year with this same basic model of hitting. Swing hard and hit the crap out of fly balls can work, and Story looks like a guy who could be following in Martinez’s footsteps.

And, of course, Story doesn’t have to get anywhere near Martinez’s lofty numbers to be a valuable player for the Rockies, given that he plays shortstop and seemingly might run the bases pretty well. If he can even hit for a reasonable fraction of the power Martinez has shown, Story could be a fantastic ballplayer, given his all-around value. It’s way too early to say that Story is definitely going to follow Martinez’s path to success, but if you’re looking for an example of a guy who has made this skillset work, he’s currently hitting in the middle of Detroit’s line-up.

We hoped you liked reading Trevor Story Sorta Looks Like J.D. Martinez by Dave Cameron!

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jdbolick
Member

The problems for Story are that he’s smaller and much less muscular than Martinez, and that he’s never done anything like this before. Story’s career HR/FB rate in the minor leagues was a shade over 10% whereas he’s currently at 53.8%. While you are correct that Story’s contact issues aren’t as bad as Chris Carter’s, his current Contact% and Z-Contact% would have ranked 9th worst among qualified major league hitters last season. Meanwhile he has one walk and only two base hits that weren’t homers through 28 plate appearances. Story’s first week in the major leagues has been incredible, but his HR/FB% is going to collapse and he’s going to have to start doing other things at the plate to remain a productive major leaguer.

Chazerbaijani
Member
Member
Chazerbaijani

Story is a beast known for feats in the weight room.
He can dead lift >500 pounds, per the TV broadcast.
Maybe that is less muscular than JD, but …

Chazerbaijani
Member
Member
Chazerbaijani

A few other notes that suggest he’s a true Story:
1. His regular season is an extension of his amazing Spring Training. So its not just 1 week, really.
2. “only 2 base this through 28 PA” is unfair since he’s got 7 homers and two of his outs were screaming line drives that were right at someone.

Agree that the HR/FB% will fall, but a lot of those will be doubles.

hailtoyourvictor
Member
hailtoyourvictor

You’re the guy that said Story’s CEILING was 2 WAR player. I don’t know what Trevor Story eve did to you, but it’s funny he has you so salty.

jdbolick
Member

I don’t have anything at all against Trevor Story. Remember, I also pointed out that Kiley McDaniel thought Story was not much of a prospect and Dan Farnsworth only had Story as the tenth best prospect in the Rockies’ system two months ago. The reason I keep pointing these things out is precisely that people like you are frequently in such haste to disregard a player’s entire history and crown them as the next big thing after small sample successes. And just for the sake of accuracy, I said that Khalil Greene represented Story’s ceiling. Greene’s highest WAR was 3.2.

hailtoyourvictor
Member
hailtoyourvictor

You are doubling down rather than manning up and admitting you undersold Story. Insecurity issues?

jdbolick
Member

Until you too have written a column in a magazine that started with the words “I was wrong,” please do not ever lecture me about manning up and admitting mistakes. People like you are not only quick to believe players have radically changed based on small samples, but you’re obviously quick to judge everyone else. If Trevor Story ends up being much better than I expected over the course of a full season, I will certainly own that as I have with other players before. But for the reasons I noted, the odds still strongly favor this being one of the many entertaining yet short-lived flukes that frequently happen in baseball and not Story becoming an infield version of J.D. Martinez.

J.D. Martin
Member
J.D. Martin

Salty or not, he’s still right

hailtoyourvictor
Member
hailtoyourvictor

It’s looking more and more like he isn’t right, actually.

cs3
Member
cs3

No jdbolick. You pretty clearly stated in the comments of that article that Story’s ceiling was 2 WAR.

You also tried to tell everyone that only 7 MLB SS accumulated at least 1.8 WAR last year, which is also completely wrong.
(I found 12 such players, with an additional 5 or so worth 1.7 WAR)

In case you need to refresh your memory:
http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/the-outlandishness-of-trevor-story/

Byrone
Member
Byrone

nevermind the bolick

Bobby Ayala
Member

Hey cs3, let me stick up for the guy providing free content for you while you repeatedly and classlessly berate him.

1st: By fangraphs WAR measurement, only 8 SS got more than 1.8 WAR last year, and Addison Russell did more than half that at 2B, so the statement that only 7 SS accumulated at least 1.8 WAR checks out. Perhaps you went to a different site and looked at a different way of calculating WAR to get your number. That was a fundamentally unsound choice in preparing your argument.

2nd: JD “clearly stated in the comments” the following quote: “It is.” And that was in response to your comment: “Khalil Greene is Story’s upside.” Looking back at the rest of the content of that article, you’ve made an incredible logical leap to honestly think he’s referring to your 2 WAR comment, because he never attributes a 2 WAR ceiling to Greene. Whether you are unable to constructively think beyond your blind rage, or you knowingly forced your argument through this obvious error, you’re incorrect and the more you harp on it the worse you look.

MEANWHILE, you’ve basically called him stupid, implied he can’t count, called him asinine, etc. Maybe its time to take your poor researching skills and petty insults to yahoo or cbs, where other like-minded people struggle to figure out baseball everyday. We don’t want you here.

cs3
Member
cs3

Bobby,
since when does jdbolick provide free content? Are you misunderstanding who my comment was directed at?
The guy posted a bunch of misinformation previously in the comments, refused to admit he might have been wrong, and instead posted even more nonsense that he didn’t bother to fact check.
Then he immediately comes into this thread the moment it goes live, and continues his anti-Story tirade.
It’s pretty obvious the guy has some personal issue with Story’s success.

Why would you want to defend that?

jdbolick
Member

No jdbolick. You pretty clearly stated in the comments of that article that Story’s ceiling was 2 WAR.

A 2 WAR average for his career, which is what Khalil Greene was, not a 2 WAR peak season.

You also tried to tell everyone that only 7 MLB SS accumulated at least 1.8 WAR last year, which is also completely wrong.

True, I used FanGraphs’ 2015 leaderboard for that number but I forgot that it only listed “qualified” players rather than all of them. That being said, your number was also wrong because you included players like Addison Russell who played some shortstop but accumulated the majority of their WAR at another position.

jdbolick
Member

The guy posted a bunch of misinformation previously in the comments

I did get the number of 1.8 WAR shortstops wrong for the reason I noted above, but to claim that I “posted a bunch of misinformation” is a blatant lie that shows this has become personal for you. Apparently you get incredibly angry whenever someone presents facts that challenge something you want to believe, in this case the notion that Trevor Story is an emerging superstar. It’s pretty obvious that you’re the one who has some personal issue, particularly because you have yet to provide any rebuttal to my actual evaluation of Story. Are you saying that his HR/FB% will stay at 50.8%? Anything close to that? Are you saying his contact rate being so low doesn’t matter? What exactly are you saying? All you have done thus far is to get angry and insult me because you’re mad that I presented a statistics-based opinion of Trevor Story that you don’t like.

hailtoyourvictor
Member
hailtoyourvictor

“1st: By fangraphs WAR measurement, only 8 SS got more than 1.8 WAR last year, and Addison Russell did more than half that at 2B, so the statement that only 7 SS accumulated at least 1.8 WAR checks out. Perhaps you went to a different site and looked at a different way of calculating WAR to get your number. That was a fundamentally unsound choice in preparing your argument. ”

Wrong. Even if you don’t count Russell, these are SS that provided a 1.8 WAR or higher (per Fangraphs).

Flores
Asdrubal
Tulo
Hechavarria
Gregorious
Simmons
Correa
Kang
Bogaerts
Lindor
Crawford

Hint: Remove the plate appearances restriction.

cs3
Member
cs3

jdbolick –
RE: the misinformation you posted…

It was not just the the 1.8 WAR SS’s figure that was way off. You also posted:
| “The formula for contact rate is (AB – K)/AB. For Story in AAA last season that’s ((256 – 68) / 256) = 73.4%”|
which is laughably incorrect.

When you were told it was wrong, you then stubbornly argued with everyone telling you the correct formula and again posted:
| “The formula for contact rate is (AB – K)/AB.” |

That is blatant misinformation.
You tried to correct the author multiple times, but you had no idea what you were talking about. Instead of acknowledging the mistake you became even more determined to prove everyone else wrong, wehn it was YOU who had it wrong.

Dan25
Member
Dan25

JD Martinez had never done anything like how he hits now either prior to 2014 at age 26. And yet he’s been doing it for 1.5+ seasons now with a HR/FB around 20%

Story was always a highly rated prospect and after a couple of struggling years started to put it together nicely last year in AA/AAA.

Clearly Storys HR/FB will not stay this high, but do you really think 20% is out of the question especially when half his games are at Coors?

jdbolick
Member

JD Martinez had never done anything like how he hits now either prior to 2014

Martinez improved significantly, but it was nowhere near as massive a jump as the difference between Story’s minor league career and his performance since March. I have no problem with the notion that Story has improved his game, just not to anywhere near this degree, especially when the underlying indicators (particularly contact rate) suggest that little has changed.

Story was always a highly rated prospect

That is not accurate. I keep mentioning other prospect analysts to show that this isn’t just my opinion. Kylie McDaniel largely dismissed Story and Dan Farnsworth two months ago ranked him just tenth in Colorado’s system. The only time Story cracked Baseball America’s top 100 list was in 2013, and even that was only to #96.

hailtoyourvictor
Member
hailtoyourvictor

You didn’t answer his question. Is 20% HR/FB unreasonable for Story with half his games coming at Coors?

jdbolick
Member

Yes, it is unreasonable given how many fly-balls Trevor Story hits. He’s going to end up in the 10-15% range.

hailtoyourvictor
Member
hailtoyourvictor

Lol… there is no chance Story has a 10% HR/FB with his swing and playing in Coors. Say what you want about his contact rate, but a 10% HR/FB is laughably low. Simply including that in your range shows your bias.

cs3
Member
cs3

jdbolick,
correct me if Im wrong, but you are the guy who adamantly declared that Story’s ceiling was that of Khalil Greene in the last article:
http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/the-outlandishness-of-trevor-story/

Then just to be sure of what you were implying, you were asked if Story’s ceiling was really a 2 WAR player, and again you insisted that 2 WAR was his absolute best case scenario.

You still believe that?
If you do, do you think maybe its best that you sit out of all future Story articles?

jdbolick
Member

Yes, my opinion of Story’s ceiling has not changed after the first week of his major league career, particularly when there are so many warning signs that he won’t come anywhere close to keeping this up.

hailtoyourvictor
Member
hailtoyourvictor

So, if Story hits the 2.1 WAR mark, will it simply be a fluke or will it be possible that you undersold him?

jdbolick
Member

Yet again, I said that an average of 2 WAR for his career would be Story’s best case scenario, not that he will never exceed 2 WAR in any particular season. I have repeatedly made that clear, so it really seems like you’re intentionally shifting the goalposts because you’re so desperate for me to be wrong.

hailtoyourvictor
Member
hailtoyourvictor

So when you use the word “ceiling” you are talking about career ceiling and not single season ceiling? That’s odd. If so, then what do you think his single season ceiling is and what do you project his WAR to be this year?

cs3
Member
cs3

jdbolick –
Now you are just blatantly making things up.
You never once said “an average of 2 WAR for his career”.
Go back and read it again.
The only reason any career WAR figures came up in the first place was becasue when you thought Khalil Greene was some player so tremendous that Story could not possibly out produce him, I mentioned his average WAR per season to show you that Greene was barely average, and to point out how ridiculous your claim was.
In actuality we were clearly talking about one season.

But even in your altered version of reality, you are STILL wrong.
Khalil Greene was worth only 8.1 WAR over his entire career. You are now adjusting your claim to say that Story has 0 chance to surpass 8.1 WAR in his career?
Really?
A 23 year old who is already a starting MLB SS, with obvious power, good base running skills, at least passable defense, and has displayed above average walk rates throughout the majority of his MiLB career (all but one 60 game stretch in fact), somehow cannot ever accumulate over 8.1 WAR in his career, even in the most favorable scenario?

Do you understand how absurd that sounds?