DENVER - Sophomore slump might be the first thing you think about when discussing Trevor Story's 2017 season.
Offensively this is fair. The Colorado Rockies shortstop is far from the version of himself from last season that hit .272 with 27 homers. The mashing has fallen from just a year ago as he's stepped down to a .223 average with 16 dingers.
Defensively, though, Story has been stellar. Stepping up from a liability in his first month in the big leagues to now one of the more pristine shortstops in the National League.
The transition in itself has been impressive. But Story's glove even without that context has been worthy of classifying a second generation in the Coors Shield era with Arenado, LeMaheiu and Reynolds playing particularly well on defense. While Story can't yet be compared to his predecessor—one of the better defensive shortstops ever at his peak—Troy Tulowitzki, it's worth taking a peek around the league.
Among players with over 600 innings played at shortstop Story is tied for fourth best in baseball with seven errors. Only Jose Iglesias, Brandon Crawford and Didi Gregorius have been cleaner. That may be an antiquated way to look at it, but the fancy stats will tell you the same story.
Total Zone Total Fielding Runs Above Average which encompasses every aspect of fielding and estimates how many runs above the league average a player has saved tabs Story as tied for fifth in baseball with Corey Seager and Addison Russell. Only Milwaukee's Orlando Arcia bests Story in the NL with a number of 14 compared to Story's 8.
"It’s tough I’m not gonna lie," Story said when discussing his terrific glove coming at the same time as his slumping stick. "When you’re out there, once you’re taking your warm-up throws at first I feel like after that you gotta flush it. It’s time to be a shortstop. That’s first and foremost for me so, like I said, I like to take pride in that."
Story came into the season with a focus on improving his defense.
"I feel like if you play shortstop you need to be dependable and that’s what I try to pride myself on," he said. "Just being there...I feel like you get the most ground balls. So really just trying to be consistent and having that show up in BP and early work."
A key, he says, is a lack of fear when attempting the spectacular.
"It’s kind of an anticipation kind of thing," the 24-year old said. "I try to map out what’s going to happen and just be ready to make the play and don’t hesitate because there’s no time for that. I just try to have a feel of what plays could be made and what plays are kind of pushing it. Just doing it with confidence."
"We practice those plays a lot just so we can make those plays in the game," he said. "I learned doing that stuff from Tulo and Nolan...they practice those plays, so it doesn’t just come out of nowhere when you do make them in a game."
While Story has made some other sweet plays like diving in the hole, and of course the jump throws it's the spin up the middle and his arm gunning people at the plate which has really stood out.
"Yeah, that’s awesome. I love that play," Story said after recently getting another runner at the dish. "That’s probably my favorite play is getting to try and throw somebody out at home on a relay like that. But it all really depends on the first throw. GP made a perfect throw...it was where I could get a good transfer and get it to Hanny...you know Hanny made a great play catching the short hop like that."
Story has also made a memorable straight six-to-two putout in the last few weeks with the infield back of all things.
But these plays, along with the few errors he made, has bumped him into the rare category of not costing you anything and saving you even more.
So here it is, this is the official start to the campaign that Trevor Story belongs in the Gold Glove conversation.
"It would be cool, but I’m not really an accolade kind of a guy," he said. "I really just like to be a...I like to work hard at my craft and defense is a huge part of that. But yeah, that would be cool."
"I don't think it's anything but reps and confidence," Mark Reynolds, Story's first baseman of two years said of his vast improvement. "He's been lights out over there and we've needed it. Our whole infield is legit."