The probable signing of Trevor Story by the Boston Red Sox has clear consequences for the team’s infield. However, with Opening Day coming, the trade clarifies the team’s outfield picture.
Kiké Hernández will be the full-time centre fielder in 2022, just as he was down the stretch last season, with Story taking over at second base. Alex Verdugo will return to left field, with some shifts to right, according to manager Alex Cora. That means that, pending any more signings, Jackie Bradley Jr., despite hitting just.163 for the Brewers last season, is expected to earn the brunt of the work in right field.
During his six-year career at Coors Field, Story slashed.303/.369/.972 with 95 home runs, 279 RBI, and a.354 average on balls in play in 1,592 plate appearances. On the road, though, he was a very different performer, hitting.241/.310/.752, with 63 home runs, 171 RBI, and a.317 average on balls in play in 1,544 plate appearances.
So, it’s understandable to be concerned about how the shortstop will perform full-time in a ballpark without the thin “Mile High” air to boost his numbers, as critics believe. There are a few key reasons why the signing might benefit both the Red Sox and Story in the long run.
For one thing, Story is a good player who routinely smashes the ball hard.
Despite the huge disparity in his home-away splits last season, he still ranked above-average in measures like average exit velocity, hard-hit ball percentage, anticipated slugging percentage, and “barrel” percentage. That indicates that he squares the ball up well no matter where he plays. The results are what they are after that.
Another crucial point to remember is that Fenway Park, like Coors Field, is one of baseball’s most hitter-friendly venues.
Fenway Park had the league’s second highest “park factor,” with the second-highest percentage gain in runs scored for players who played there compared to other ballparks. Interestingly, even though home runs are less common in Fenway due to the Green Monster in left field and peculiar proportions in other areas of the park, hitters hit doubles at a much higher rate than at any other park.
If that wasn’t enough, according to Baseball Savant, Story would have hit even more home runs at Fenway Park in 2019 (42 predicted at Fenway vs. 35 hits at Coors) and 2021 (38 anticipated at Fenway vs. 24 at Coors) based on batted balls hit in those seasons.
The basic conclusion is that there’s no reason Story can’t flourish in a Red Sox uniform if he continues to hit the ball hard. Even if his home run totals drop, his slugging percentage should rise as he continues to pummel the Monster with doubles.
Plus, assuming he’s a top-of-the-order bat, he’ll be surrounded by hitters like Rafael Devers, J.D. Martinez, and Xander Bogaerts for at least this season, which might mean he’ll receive plenty of pitches to barrel up. Fenway Park may not be as hitter friendly as Coors Field, but it’s the next best thing. That is encouraging news for Story and the Red Sox.