Trevor Story, the Surprise Star of MLB’s Opening Week

If you don’t know Trevor Story by now, you will soon enough. But first, let’s think back to the summer of 2015.

When the Colorado Rockies traded longtime SS Troy Tulowitzki, the team’s superstar since 2007, to the Toronto Blue Jays last summer, the immediate replacement was over-the-hill Jose Reyes. As a member of the Rockies, Reyes didn’t impress, knocking just 13 extra-base hits with a .259 BA in 47 games.

The Rockies seemed content starting the season with Reyes at SS though, until news broke in late February that Reyes would not join the team in Spring Training, at least until his domestic violence criminal proceedings are finished. This forced the Rockies to throw a young rookie into the fire at SS – Trevor Story.

GettyImages-519250880_1460075967373_1463017_ver1.0Story entered the season as a true rookie, having never logged a PA in the majors before Opening Day. The Rockies had kept a close eye on the young Story, since he first entered their minor league system in 2011. Story played well at each level, totaling 70 HRs in parts of 5 seasons. His best season in the minors came in 2014, where he spent only 52 games in A-ball before finishing the season in AA.

Finally in 2015, last season, Story climbed his way up to AAA, but the Rockies chose not to call him up to the majors in September. At just 22 years old, and without eye-popping numbers, Colorado likely figured the young SS was just not ready. Reyes’ situation forced Colorado’s hand, and so far Story has started his major league career in historic fashion.

Story, now in 6 games, has clobbered 7 HRs, leading all of baseball after the first week. The next closest is Robinson Cano, with 4. This shouldn’t be a huge surprise though, as Story compares favorably to two other young SS prosepcts: Francisco Lindor (Cleveland Indians) and Carlos Correa (Houston Astros).

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Lindor, in 416 games, slugged just 21 HRs and a .738 OPS. Correa, a stud in his own right, managed 28 HRs (in 282 games) and an .883 OPS in his minor-league career. Compare this to Story, who managed 70 HRs (albiet in 537 games) and an OPS of .817. So based on their minor-league careers, Story was a better slugger than Lindor, but not quite as talented as Correa.

Throughout their brief MLB careers, Lindor has 12 HRs (in 101 games), while Correa has 25 HRs (in 102 games). Story, as we mentioned, has 7 HRs in 6 games. Though this is obviously not a sustainable pace, Story looks well on his way to becoming the next star power-hitting SS.

Let’s look at what Story is doing right so far early in his major-league career, by examining each of his HRs. On Opening Day, Story managed his first 2 HRs. This was the first:

Story’s first HR came off Zack Greinke of all pitchers, a notoriously stingy pitcher in the HR department. This HR is impressive for two reasons: Story hit the ball opposite-field, and he did so well behind 0-1 in the count. For a mortal, 1 HR off Zack Greinke is an impressive feat. Story refused to stop there, however.

Just one inning later, Story would have another crack at Greinke, and he didn’t disappoint. This time, Greinke was more careful, to a fault. Falling behind 2-0, Greinke’s 85-MPH slider stayed in the zone long enough for Story to hook it to LF this time, and to allow Story to make history:

Trevor Story is the first player in MLB history to hit 2 HRs in his major-league debut on Opening Day. The Rockies, fans, and Story for sure, will remember that day for a long time to come. But Story hasn’t stopped there, adding 4 more HRs in his next 3 games. Let’s look at game 2:

Behind 1-0 in the count, similar to his last HR, Story punishes Shelby Miller’s 83-MPH changeup out to LF, for a beautiful pull-side HR, the 3rd of Story’s career. So far, Story is not afraid of any pitch, hitting his 1st off a 4-seam fastball, his 2nd off a slider, and his 3rd off a changeup. Now, on to Story’s 4th HR, and thankfully for the Arizona Diamondbacks, his last of the series.

This time, now batting second in the order, Story takes a 92-MPH 2-seam fastball to left-center field, off Arizona’s Patrick Corbin. Aside from his first career HR (opposite field), Story has shown an ability to pull the ball with authority. Story became the first player in MLB history to hit a HR in his first 3 MLB games.

Now on to Friday, where Story really pushed the boundaries of the small-sample size, mashing in 2 more HRs, for a grand total of 6 on the season.

Trailing 6-3, the Rockies hoped Story could help them climb their way back into the game. Always aiming to please, Story delivered, with his 5th HR, 1st on the day. On the first pitch of the AB, San Diego Padres pitcher Colin Rea thought he could surprise Story with a 78-MPH curveball, but it didn’t work; Story took it for a ride out to LF, and circled the bases once more. Story didn’t stop at just 1 HR on Friday though.

In a rare losing effort, Story still did his best to try to help the Rockies back into the game. Story had been devastating early in the count in his previous HRs, but this time Story ran the count full to 3-2. Ryan Butcher missed on 3 straight before fighting back to a full count, but Story was not to be denied; he took the 93-MPH 4-seam fastball to LF, for his 6th HR in just 4 games.

On Saturday, something rare happened; Story failed to hit a HR. This was the first time Story did not hit at least 1 HR in a game. However, his drought didn’t last long. On Sunday, to close out the week, Story hit another HR, his 7th in 6 games.

Now late in the game, Story gives the Rockies some insurance to secure the victory. The count was even at 1-1, and Story had just taken an 83-MPH slider for a ball. But when Brandon Maurer delivered the same pitch, now in the strike zone, Story didn’t miss; he hooked it to his favorite spot in LF, and this HR was actually historic.

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This HR puts Story in ridiculously good company. Per MLB.com, Story’s 7 HRs to begin the season are the most through 6 games in MLB history; the previous record of 6 was held by Willie Mays, Mike Schmidt, and Larry Walker. This is some very impressive company that Story is keeping.

trevor-story-hr-040416-getty-ftrjpg_1iad82orrpxtw1x7u0iazyvh21Throughout this first week of the season, no batter is more terrifying than Trevor Story, that much is clear. Can he maintain this pace? All signs point to “no,” especially since Story’s current 189-HR pace would blow away the record 73 HRs from Barry Bonds in 2001. But no one has been able to slow him down yet.

If Story can keep hitting the ball with authority, one thing is certain: the Rockies will more easily forget about Troy Tulowitzki.

Statistics provided by: MLB.com, baseball-reference.com, and FanGraphs.com

Images thanks to: MLB.com, kdvr.com, Getty Images, Grantland, and sportingnews.com

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