You don’t need me to tell you Trevor Story is going to slow down. We’ve never seen a player hit seven home runs a week over the course of a full season, and despite his early-career record-setting ways, Story’s not some sort of NBA Jam-style baseball player. Story has enjoyed an incredible start to this season, but he still might not hit even 30 homers. OK? OK.
Right now we can’t be totally sure what Story is in a full 162 games. Is he the second coming of Troy Tulowitzki, but with good health? Is he going to surpass Carlos Correa in the shortstop rankings? Is he the latest Chris Shelton? He could still be any of those, some combination of all of them, or something we haven’t quite imagined yet.
What we do know is that Story is the most interesting early-season fantasy trade candidate that we’ve seen in a long time. If you’re a Story owner, all of your leaguemates will be able to smell a sell-high offer from a mile away. Before deciding if you’re on the buy or sell side of Story, you need to determine if you believe he’s not only a top shortstop, but a potential top-20 player, or if you think he’s simply in the middle of an anomalous power binge that just happened to be at the beginning of the season.
Let’s take a look at Story’s production in the minors. First of all, he was absent from every top-100 prospect list from 2014 through ’16, despite putting up some strong numbers. He split last year, his age-22 season, evenly between Double-A New Britain and Triple-A Albuquerque, posting similar totals at both levels. All told, he slashed .279/.350/.514 with 20 homers (10 at each level), 40 doubles (20 at each level), 80 RBI (40 at each level) and 22 steals—quite the line for a player to be left out of the top 100 prospects.
Go back to 2014, when Story was all of 21 years old, and it’s more of the same. He split that year between High-A Modesto and Double-A Tulsa, slashing .263/.367/.475 with 14 homers, 26 doubles, 48 RBI and 23 steals. We can’t look at video from many of those plate appearances, but the numbers, with regard to level and age, sure do translate to a player who would succeed in the majors.
Let’s return to the present day, but go beyond the cosmetic stats. Story has put 17 balls in play. Just two of them have been on the ground. One of those was in the first plate appearance of his career. Given that, as well as the seven homers he already has to his name, you’d understandably assume that Story has been crushing high pitches. You would be wrong.
The following zone profile, courtesy of Brooks Baseball, shows home runs per balls in play by zone for Story. The number on the left side of each slash shows how many homers Story has hit for each zone.
That’s a lot of damage on low pitches, something we don’t typically see from a right-handed hitter. Story has hit homers with pitch locations here…
Things will start to really get interesting over the next few weeks, because adjustments are coming Story’s way, and he’s going to realize that this game isn’t so easy. Whether or not he’s able to adjust to those adjustments will go a long way toward determining if this is just a fun, one-week explosion, or if Story is another great young shortstop in baseball.
No matter what, however, Story owners need to be trying to sell him right now, unless they’re in a keeper league. His value is through the roof, and the fact that he has a minor league track record to lean on is all the more reason to sell, assuming you can use that to increase the asking price. If I can deal Story for, say, Carlos Gomez, I’m doing it.
Speaking of Gomez, let’s get further into our first trade column of the season.
Carlos Gomez, OF, Astros
Gomez is off to a terrible start this season, but that’s good news if you’re looking to buy. His struggles last season (related and unrelated to injuries) coupled with his early-season issues this year creates a buying opportunity. The Astros have moved him down to the six-spot in the order, bumping Tyler White up to the five-hole. Yes, I realize that I haven’t said anything good yet, but mechanically there’s nothing different about Gomez now and Gomez two years ago when he was putting together his second straight season reaching benchmarks of .284/.338/.477, 23 homers, 27 doubles and 34 steals. Go make an offer.
Joe Ross, SP, Nationals
Ross’s owners may not be all that motivated to sell after he held the Marlins to one run on five hits in seven innings, walking two and striking out five, and that’s perfectly understandable, because this guy is for real. In 76 2/3 innings last year, he posted a 3.64 ERA, 3.62 xFIP, 1.11 WHIP and 69 strikeouts. Ross, just 22 years old, could ultimately be on an innings limit, but hopefully the Nationals learned their lesson with Stephen Strasburg a few years ago, and will understand how to manage his innings load over a full season. No matter what, though, Ross is going to be a factor in all fantasy formats for the entire year. He has the look of a top-40 starter with top-30 upside.
Aaron Nola, SP, Phillies
Nola is right there alongside Ross, though he may suffer in the wins department because of the team around him. Nola has made two starts this season. He went seven innings in both of them, allowing a total of five runs on 10 hits. More importantly, he has fanned 17 batters and has yet to issue a free pass. The 22-year-old pitched his way to the majors last year, amassing a 3.59 ERA, 3.58 xFIP and 1.20 WHIP in 77 2/3 innings. Like Ross, he has top-30 upside. Like Ross, his owner probably isn’t dying to trade him right now. It can’t hurt to make an offer, though. He’s certainly going to turn a profit for whoever owns him this year.
Matt Kemp, OF, Padres
Kemp’s numbers in the first week-plus of action this season look strong enough at first glance. He’s hitting .303 (10-for-33) with three homers and 10 RBI—but all three homers and 10 RBI came in a two-game stretch at Coors Field. In his other four games, he’s 2-for-18 with five strikeouts. He also hasn’t walked yet in 33 plate appearances. See if you can play up his early-season surface numbers, as well as his undeniably strong second half from last season, as proof that he’s closer to the Dodgers version of himself than he has been since leaving Los Angeles.
Zack Greinke, SP, Diamondbacks
If Zack Greinke had the two-start run he just put together in July, no one would have said a thing. When a guy coming off a 1.66 ERA and 0.84 WHIP allows 11 runs on 16 hits and four walks in his first 10 innings, though, people notice. Typically, we’d preach patience in a situation like this. But Greinke is different—he’s 32 years old and does not possess the strikeout upside of the other pitchers who populate his stratosphere. What’s more, you can fetch quite the haul for Greinke on the open market. While I do not believe he’ll be anywhere near a true bust, I do believe he was overdrafted in most fantasy formats. If you can still get an ace price for him, do it.
Justin Upton, OF, Tigers
Upton went 4-for5 on Tuesday, hitting his first homer of the season. In other words, his owners can breathe a little sigh of relief. You knew exactly what you were getting with Upton. He’s a streaky hitter who’s not likely to give you a great batting average, but he’ll hit near 30 homers, take his fair share of walks, and rack up counting stats in the 2-hole for Detroit. That hasn’t changed in the first 10 days of the season. If anyone comes at you trying to steal away Upton based on his slow start, feel free to laugh at them. Or, if you’re into this sort of thing, you can feign interest, making the ultimate laugh that much more satisfying.
Gregory Polanco, OF, Pirates
If you own Polanco, I wouldn’t be surprised if your leaguemates try to acquire the talented Pittsburgh outfielder, and with good reason. The 24-year-old has eight hits and 10 walks in his first 36 plate appearances, striking out just four times. It’s the walks against the strikeouts that has been most the impressive part of his performance at the plate in the first couple weeks of the season.
A word of wisdom to all Polanco owners: When your leaguemates come your way with all those great offers, hang up the phone. Or close out your email. Or stop texting. Immediately cut off that communication medium. Polanco started to figure it out last season, and everything he has done this year suggests he is indeed taking the next step in his career. Remember that this is a player who was a top-10 prospect in all of baseball, according to Baseball America, in his last minor league season. Polanco is well on his way to claiming his spot in the line of succession that includes Andrew McCutchen and Starling Marte. You want to be along for the ride.