MODESTO -- When Trevor Story was named earlier this month by Baseball America as the shortstop with the best defensive tools in the California League, it not only was a tribute to his glove work, but his maturity as a baseball player.
It takes a lot of moxie to continue to play top-notch defense every day when things haven’t been going well at the plate.
“I pride myself in being a shortstop first,” Story said prior to Tuesday’s home game against San Jose. “Defense has to be the priority. You obviously have to hit, but defense comes first and I do try to separate the two. I will never let it affect my defense.”
Story set his own bar high last season when he hit .277-18-63 in Asheville as a 19-year-old in his first full professional season. Had Story been able to come close to duplicating those numbers this season at the High-A level, he’d be on Colorado’s fast track.
But consistent plate contact has been an issue this year, and Story entered the series hitting .227-10-51 in 111 games. That average actually is a high point this season, since Story has hit .343 in his last 10 games.
“It’s been tough,” Story said. “I haven’t struggled like this in all the years I’ve been playing. It’s better that this happens to me now then later on. I’m going to try to learn from it and not let it happen again.”
He also is enduring one of the most difficult parts of being in a prolonged slump. Everybody wants the best for you, and expresses it in the form of the magic bit of advice.
“When you’re struggling, a lot of people want to help you,” Story said. “Not only coaches, but family members and all kinds of different people. You listen to it and take what you feel is going to be beneficial.”
One of the ways Story helped his cause mentally was to declare the all-star break the end of the first season, giving himself a fresh start for the final 70 games. It’s worked. He hit .205 in the first half and is hitting .257 in 48 games since the break, with his on-base percentage rising from .268 to .330.
And again, the most impressive part has been the steadiness of his defensive play.
“He’s played great defensively,” said Nuts’ manager Fred Nelson. “I can’t remember him making defensive mistakes other than the occasional goosing of a ball to first base instead of turning it loose. He’s aggressive going side to side and coming in on the ball. I’ve been really impressed. He’s made spectacular plays look very easy. He has plenty of arm strength, he has plenty of range and great hands.”
And Nelson, too, has been pleased with the way Story’s defense remains at a high level through his offensive woes.
“He’s gone through some patches when he’s been really good and then he starts to revert back,” Nelson said. “I have the feeling he’s on a long stretch of being more consistent and seeing the ball better. I think he’ll be fine. This is a difficult league for a young guy and he is underage for this league. That’s not an excuse, but the truth is that some guys get it at different stages.
“Trevor will tell us when he’s ready to move. When he gets it, we’ll all know it and that will be the time to push him to the next level. He’s going to be a good player.”
MARQUEE MATCHUP SCRATCHED
Tuesday’s pitching matchup was set to be a battle of 2011 first-round draft picks, with San Jose sending Kyle Crick (1-1, 1.78) against Modesto’s Tyler Anderson (0-2, 3.70.) But Crick was scratched from the start with slight stiffness in his back, with his next start moved to later in the week. So only the Nuts will be sending first-rounders to the mound this series, with Colorado’s 2013 No. 1 pick Jon Gray scheduled to make Wednesday’s start for Modesto.