Story's New Chapter

Photo Credit: Sports Illustrated

by: Rich Daniels

Anyone that doubts the existence of the "Sophomore Jinx" should have a conversation with Rockies shortstop Trevor Story. 

He has endured the phenomenon and emerged on the other side the better for it. In just about two seasons worth of games, Story has experienced the rollercoaster ride that comes with being a big league player.

Story burst into the National League in April of 2016 season driving balls over fences all over the league. He had fans evoking the hallowed names of Ruth and Maris with the frequency of his home runs until injuries slowed his roll. The shortstop's rookie season ended with 27 home runs in 372 at-bats and a fourth-place finish in NL Rookie of the Year voting. The former first-round pick was positioned to pursue his place in the stars. 

Then opposing teams seized on Story's Achilles heel. 

His lack of contact at the plate in those initial 372 at-bats produced 130 punchouts for a 35% clip. For a player tabbed as a middle-of-the-order threat, that's a lot of swings and misses. That tendency carried into a dismal 2017 season where Story whiffed a league-leading 191 times. As a result, the young star's productivity suffered with his batting average dropping 33 points to .239 to go along with 24 homers and 82 RBI's over a disappointing 503 at-bats.

The questions about his ability at the Major League level were as thick as the accolades had been the previous year. 

At a time when self-doubt would have been easy to embrace, Story ramped up his off-season workouts and prepared intensely for the 2018 season. He came out of spring training confident but didn't see much improvement early by batting only .236 through the end of May. Just when it seemed the right-handed hitter might be in for another dismal campaign, his hard work paid off.

Story began working deeper into counts and making more contact which produced a .333 average through June and a blistering first two weeks of July with a .417 clip. 

The Rockies' cleanup hitter's turnaround has netted him his first All-Star game appearance, and for good reason. 

Story rolled into the All-Star break with a .291 average, 20 HR's, 68 RBI's and a .910 OPS. To provide perspective, Story's productivity is on par with what teammate Nolan Arenado has amassed thus far this season, and the third-sacker is on pace for the best season of his career.

Story has already achieved career highs in triples (5) and steals (12) and currently ranks second in the National League in extra-base hits (52) and total bases (204). That resurgence has given the playoff-hungry Rockies a true triple-threat with Story, Arenado and center fielder Charlie Blackman.

The strikeout bug is still biting for Story (102 in 366 at-bats), but his productivity shows he's doing much more with the contact he's making.

One positive factor that has remained steady is Story's defense. While not Gold Glove caliber, the shortstop has maintained a fielding percentage (.980) above league average (.974) throughout his 337 career games and coming from a player that mans a very demanding defensive position almost every day, it's a boost to his team most clubs don't enjoy. 

So, the rollercoaster ride continues. Up, then down, now up again. 

What will the season's second half have in store for Trevor Story?

It remains to be seen if the young slugger has found a way to exit the carnival ride and consistently produce like the superstar Colorado thought he'd be when he was drafted. One thing is for sure, the playoff hopes of fans in Denver will rise or fall with Story's productivity.

Heading into the All-Star break just two games behind the Arizona Diamondbacks in the NL West, the Rockies could surely use more peaks than valleys from their budding superstar.

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