The first month or so of baseball can be weird — stars can slump and no-names can rake. It’s always fun to find the next shiny new toy, so we’ll believe in just about every surprisingly hot start. Unfortunately, much of the time these small sample size aberrations turn out to be flukes. That doesn’t mean it’s impossible for an early season hot streak to turn into a full season hot streak, but it’s hard to identify when this is the case in the early going.
You might know where I’m going here: baseball’s home run leader, Trevor Story. Story’s bat has been electrifying thus far; his eight home runs in 14 games have been fun to watch. Of course, the question will creep into your mind: “Is that sustainable?” Well, Story probably won’t hit the 92 home runs he’s on pace for, but could we be looking at a worthy replacement for Troy Tulowitzki in Colorado? The key is whether something in Story’s game has changed between 2015 and 2016. There’s a reason why he hasn’t been on a top-100 prospect list since 2013, and unless his biggest flaw has been resolved, there’s a good chance Story’s lofty performance will decline in the near future.
It’s easy to point at Story’s 2015 minor-league numbers, notice the 20 home runs and 22 stolen bases, and get excited about what he may do at Coors Field. But while his minor-league numbers last season were more than respectable, they don’t give a full representation of him as a player. Story’s strikeout rate has long been far too high for a player of his profile, and his walk rate not good enough to compensate. Story has loud tools in his power and his speed, but they weren’t expected to completely play in the big leagues with his mediocre plate discipline and swing-and-miss tendencies.
For Story to take a step to the next level, from a solid player to an elite one, his bat would have to see a big improvement. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like that has happened to Story. The eight home runs in 13 games are head turning, sure, but there’s not much else going on to suggest Story is a different hitter. His 23 strikeouts in 13 games are worse than ever, and so are his three walks. Obviously, we’re just two weeks into Story’s rookie season and he’s 5.5 years younger than MLB average, so things could change for the better. But the early takeaway is, Story is the same player with the same flaws. He has gotten a bit lucky with the longball but otherwise hasn’t done much to impress. A player with that strikeout rate can’t survive in the big leagues, and to expect Story to walk more, strike out less, and continue hitting dingers at a rapid pace is unrealistic.
This isn’t to say that Story is doomed as a player or to dismiss his early season performance. Story may have more power than we thought, and that is even more exciting given his home park. There could be 20 home run seasons in his future, which is awfully tantalizing considering his position and speed. That said, expectations have skyrocketed, and it may be time to bring them back down to earth. Story is essentially the same player this year as he was in 2015, and while that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it may be time to pump the brakes just a bit.