Why Trevor Story is the most important player on Red Sox' roster

Why Trevor Story is the most important player on Red Sox' roster originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

Back in 2013, Trevor Story was coming off a disappointing season at Single-A Modesto that had seen him fall off every top-100 prospect list in baseball. The last thing he expected was a text from the player whose job he hoped to take.

And yet there it was, an invitation from Rockies All-Star shortstop Troy Tulowitzki to join him in Las Vegas for a week of private workouts that December. The two busted their tails together, the 29-year-old slugging Gold Glover and the 21-year-old former first-round pick trying to find his way to the big leagues.

When they finished, Tulowitzki asked Story a simple question.

"Do you think anyone else worked harder than us? Anybody in the league?"

"I don't think so," Story replied.

"That's what it takes to be the best shortstop in the league," Tulowitzki said.

Jump ahead a decade, and Story is paying it forward. He recently held his first "Story Camp" in Texas with a number of Red Sox infield prospects, including David Hamilton, Vaughn Grissom, and Nick Yorke. Top prospect Marcelo Mayer could not attend because he hadn't been cleared to resume baseball activities following a season-ending shoulder injury, but young first baseman Triston Casas joined the group.

They hit the weight room and batting cages, took infield together, and played pickup basketball. As one of the few established veterans on the roster, Story took it upon himself to guide the next generation, just as Tulowitzki had helped him.

"Being around Tulo and seeing his leadership, seeing the way he worked, really just had a big imprint on me and it carried me a long way, and it still does," he said. "So being able to hopefully relay some of that to these young guys ... just trying to create that culture a little bit more."

Story might be the most pivotal player on the roster. With the Red Sox completing a disappointing offseason that saw them add very little net talent to a last-place team, Story represents the one potentially significant upgrade.

The Red Sox improved their wretched infield defense when Story returned from elbow surgery in August. Despite appearing in only 43 games, he rated as eight outs above average at shortstop, good for fourth in the American League. Had he played a full season at that rate, he would've easily won his first Gold Glove.

Making the performance even more impressive, he did it with one of the weaker arms in the game, the result of modified Tommy John surgery last January. The procedure impacted his entire offseason and also led to timing issues at the plate, where he hit just .203 while striking out 55 times in 168 plate appearances.

With a full offseason to prepare for 2024, Story hopes to regain the form that made him a two-time All-Star in Colorado. For the Red Sox to have any chance of exceeding expectations, they'll need Story to play like the all-around star he can be.

Red Sox shortstop Trevor Story
Story tallied eight outs above average in 43 games at shortstop in 2023, good for fourth in the AL.

"That's important to me, because I pride myself on being a well-rounded player," Story said. "And I know that's who I am. And I haven't shown that over the first couple years here in Boston. The defense has been there, but I'm really excited to show Boston and the fans who I am as a total package. I feel like it's kind of the first time I'll be able to do that."

His teammates and coaches already see the change.

"That's a guy that was playing through some things and we all know the athleticism he brings," said hitting coach Peter Fatse. "You see him walk around here, the physicality. I was down with him last week, and we hit the last couple days when he was in Boston prior to this, and he looks great. He's moving well. And ultimately, those are the kinds of signs you want to see at this point.

"He's explosive. I think his offseason program was really good and it's the first time in roughly three years he's had an offseason structure like this. So I think that's going to be huge for him."

Beyond adding Story's talent, the Red Sox suffer from a major leadership vacuum, since veterans Justin Turner and Adam Duvall are gone and the one superstar on the roster, Rafael Devers, is more of a follower. Story is attempting to fill that void.

It's a lesson he learned a decade ago from the man he would ultimately replace as Colorado's franchise shortstop. Maybe one of his young charges at Story Camp will do the same to him some day, but it's about the big picture.

"You want good players around you," Story said. "That's it. That's the only way to win. I definitely took that same approach with (Tulowitzki). And even though these guys technically play the same position as me, it's about the team and it's about growing that culture to where we can have this thing sustained for a long time."