Fantasy Baseball: Maybe don’t sell high on Trevor Story –

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Trevor Story is unbelievable.

And by that, I mean he’s doing things you can’t and shouldn’t believe.

No other player in baseball history has begun his career by homering in each of his first three games, much less hitting four during that stretch. But news flash: Trevor Story isn’t the best player in baseball history.

That should be a fairly obvious statement, but any time a player does something historically significant over a short period, we can only guess where he’s going to level off. Is he the best shortstop in baseball history? What about for just this year?

Again, it’s fair to assume the answer to both questions is no, but if you continue down that line of thought, eventually you’ll reach a yes.

And if you’re looking to sell high on Story, you’re betting that your yes is lower than someone else’s.

That’s a pretty bold claim considering no one can predict the future and, as a general rule, seasoned owners approach new players with the same level of skepticism. I can come up with only three reason why you believe you can pull it off:

  1. You’re playing with a bunch of novices who don’t understand the ebb and flow of a baseball season or even basic concepts like regression to the mean, in which case you should probably seek out a greater challenge or break in these guys a little more delicately if you want them to stick around.
  2. Your idea of selling high is landing that pet player who somehow eluded you in the draft, using a stock-up Story to right the wrong.
  3. You don’t actually know what it means to sell high.

There it is: The reason I hesitate to label any player a sell-high. Of all the writer-reader exchanges I’m destined to relive with this sort of job, the most depressing one is this:

Reader: Hey man, I just traded Story for Boring Player X. Pretty good, right?

Me: Um … why?

Reader: You know, sell high and all that.

Me: But what is Boring Player X going to do for you?

Reader: Hey, man! At least I got something!

And … scene.

This is the great sell-high fallacy: the presumption that by simply trading a sell-high player, you’ve accomplished something when in reality you may have dumped a red-hot player with genuine upside for a not-so-hot player with limited upside.

It’s like as soon as a player is branded a sell-high by someone of some authority, he’s radioactive and keeping him on your roster only risks polluting the rest of it.

That’s ridiculous, of course, but the newness of the season instills in us a reckless sense of urgency that blinds us from the actual worst-case scenario of Story remaining productive for a brief time before petering out, ceding his job to Jose Reyes and becoming a midseason roster casualty. And if that’s the worst that can happen, it’s still a win given what you paid for Story. Hey, he carried you for a couple weeks.

As for the best that could happen … well, again, nobody’s predicting he’ll overtake Carlos Correa for top honors at the position, but what about a declining Troy Tulowitzki struggling to replicate his Coors Field numbers? A Xander Bogaerts still looking for his power stroke? A Francisco Lindor who a high percentage of the analytics community believes overachieved last year, or a Corey Seager who’s completely unproven?

Why couldn’t Story be the second-best shortstop in Fantasy Baseball? He has genuine power, having hit 20 homers (not to mention 40 doubles and 10 triples) in the minors last year, and including his spring numbers, he now has 10 homers in 67 at-bats this year. Coors Field is a magical place that turns ordinary power hitters like Vinny Castilla and Michael Cuddyer into Fantasy monsters, and oh by the way, Story has yet to play his first game there.

And I’m not even trying to argue that he will be the second-best shortstop. He wasn’t the most disciplined hitter in the minors, wasn’t highly touted by all the prospect gurus, and indeed has the specter of Jose Reyes, who awaits a suspension for a domestic incident this offseason, hanging over him. I’m just asking if it could happen and, judging by the facts, yes, it’s more than plausible.

So in your quest to dispose of radioactive material, might you be looking a gift horse in the mouth? We all want that late-round sleeper, that player who could put us over the top at a nominal cost, and now that you appear to have found him, you immediately want to hit the eject button? Weird.

I’ll admit it’s a pain working with unknowns. Just like you have to factor the best-case scenario into your assessment of Story, you have to factor in the worst-case scenario, and there’s no magical formula for that. All I can do is tell you what I’d do.

Fielding offers is only reasonable, but with the understanding that it’s probably futile. Remember: The operative word in sell-high isn’t sell but high; otherwise, you’re just giving away upside. I rank Story only 10th at shortstop going forward, so while I’m intrigued, I haven’t gone head over heels yet.

It doesn’t necessarily mean I’d trade him for Nos. 8 and 9, though. In a shallower league where upside is paramount and the threshold for a replacement-level player is high, I’d probably need my No. 6,
Jung Ho Kang
, to part with Story. Continuing with my rankings by position,
Travis d’Arnaud
would be the minimum requirement at catcher,
Albert Pujols
at first base,
Jason Kipnis
at second base,
Kyle Seager
at third base,
Matt Kemp
in the outfield,
Yu Darvish
at starting pitcher and
Huston Street
at relief pitcher. And of course, anyone I rank ahead of any of those players at their respective positions would also work.

That’s selling high. Anything less, and the chance of Story continuing to dominate for someone else is the greater danger than the chance of him falling flat for me.