Red Sox: Is Trevor Story the best defensive second baseman in MLB?

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - JUNE 17: Trevor Story #10 of the Boston Red Sox throws to first during the ninth inning against the St. Louis Cardinalsat Fenway Park on June 17, 2022 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Paul Rutherford/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - JUNE 17: Trevor Story #10 of the Boston Red Sox throws to first during the ninth inning against the St. Louis Cardinalsat Fenway Park on June 17, 2022 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Paul Rutherford/Getty Images) /

Red Sox second baseman Trevor Story has impressed with his defense

Boston Red Sox manager Alex Cora made a bold statement following Friday’s win over the St. Louis Cardinals. When it comes to defense at second base, there’s nobody better than Trevor Story.

This evaluation qualifies as bold considering Story has been playing the position for fewer than three months. After spending six seasons as a shortstop for the Colorado Rockies, Story made the switch to second base when he signed with the Red Sox as a free-agent, allowing incumbent shortstop Xander Bogaerts to retain his position.

Story had to learn a new position on the fly with only about a week of spring training to prepare due to signing late after the lockout. According to MassLive’s Christopher Smith, Cora is impressed by Story’s ability to adapt to his new position and the manager already views him as an elite second baseman.

"“I know it’s been a grind for him but he doesn’t take a play off,” Cora said. “Right now I can say that probably he’s the best defensive second baseman in the big leagues.”"

His defensive skills were on display against the Cardinals. Story made a diving stop on Harrison Bader’s 94.7 mph grounder up the middle, jumped to his feet and fired an accurate throw to first base for the first out of the third inning.

Cora also praised Story for a backhanded play that he made in the shift with two runners on to end the fifth inning. Story fielded Tommy Edman’s 97.5 mph grounder and made a cross-body throw for the out at first. It looks like a routine play in the box score but there was nothing routine about it with Story’s momentum pulling him away from the bag.

If that ball gets through the infield, a run potentially scores, which would have been pivotal considering the Red Sox ended up winning by only one run. If Story’s throw is late, the Cardinals have the bases loaded with the opportunity to do some damage.

The eye test tells us that Story is capable of making excellent defensive plays but what do the numbers say? Were Cora’s comments simply manager-speak to pump up one of his players or does he have a point?

Story is tied for third among major league second basemen with 7 defensive runs saved this season, per FanGraphs. Story has committed only three errors this season. Only three qualified second basemen have committed fewer and all three of them have been charged with two errors. Story’s 4.4 Defensive Rating ranks fourth at the position.

Statcast has Story tied for fifth at the position with 4 Outs Above Average. He’s also fifth with 3 Runs Prevented.

Infield defense was expected to be a weakness for the Red Sox but Story’s presence up the middle has helped solidify them. Boston has shown a notable improvement when aligned in a shift with Story in the mix. The Red Sox don’t shift often against right-handed hitters (17.1%). When they do, they are holding them to a .272 wOBA, which ranks second in the majors. Boston uses the shift 70.5% of the time against lefties and they are holding those hitters to a .280 wOBA (sixth in MLB).

Story’s experience at second base is limited but it’s hardly unprecedented for a converted shortstop to thrive at second base. Marcus Semien was primarily a shortstop with the Oakland A’s but moved to second last season when he signed a one-year deal with the Toronto Blue Jays, who had emerging star Bo Bichette locked in at shortstop. Semien won the AL Gold Glove at second base in his first year playing the position on a regular basis.

Could Story follow in Semien’s footsteps by taking home the hardware this season? He joins Detroit’s Jonathan Schoop, Cleveland’s Andres Gimenez and Toronto’s Santiago Espinal as the only American League second basemen to rank in the top-four in Defensive Runs Saved, Defensive Rating and Outs Above Average.

Story isn’t the front-runner for the Gold Glove but it’s clear that he’s in the elite class at the position. Cora might have been slightly exaggerating when he called Story the best defensive second baseman in baseball but it’s not a stretch to consider him in the conversation.

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