Is sliding the source of Tulo’s woes? Image courtesy of Craig Welling.
It’s not hard to see why Troy Tulowitzki is so dang appealing to fantasy owners out there. From 2009 through 2011, these were his average numbers: 90 runs, 30 homers, 97 RBI, 13 steals, .304 batting average.
That’s not only the most productive fantasy shortstops, but just one of the best offensive players in fantasy ball. But there’s a problem with Tulo as well. He’s played more than 150 games only twice in his career, and not at all since 2009. In 2012, Tulowitzki was good when on the field, unfortunately that was only 47 games.
So, heading into the 2013 fantasy season, how should fantasy owners view the Colorado shortstop. Let’s take a look.
When you have a guy that can get you numbers expected from an outfielder or first baseman while playing shortstop, it’s not hard to see the pros. Tulowitzki is good for about one or two hot streaks a year and when he gets them, look out. This is how an under-talented Rockies team won the NL Pennant in 2007 and how they won the Wild Card in 2009. When Tulowitzki gets hot, opposing pitchers wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat with him haunting their dreams.
Another pro is something Nash touched on when he wrote about Carlos Gonzalez. When you play half of your games at Coors Field, your numbers will be inflated. Coors is an entirely unique park because it’s dimensions are seriously massive. Outfielders have to play back to cut off the gaps. This leaves plenty of room for bloopers and if a ball ever gets to the wall, a triple is quite possible. Still, the altitude makes the ball fly out of that park just as well as it does in much smaller stadiums, like Citizen’s Bank Park, Yankee Stadium, or The Great American Ballpark. There is no park like it in all of baseball.
Also, the Rockies are a pretty solid offensive team, so Tulo gets plenty of help. Of course, there’s the aforementioned Cargo, but Wilin Rosario is up and coming and I’m very high on him for 2013. Dexter Fowler is a solid top of the order guy, Todd Helton is still decent when he’s on the field, and Michael Cuddyer is made for that park.
Ultimately, the biggest pro for Tulo as far as fantasy stock is that he’s a shortstop. Alcides Escobar had 605 at bats in 2012, playing in 155 games. By the end of the year, he was owned in an overwhelming majority of fantasy leagues. He hit 5 homers. Tulowitzki had 181 at bats over 47 games games. He hit 8 homers. If a guy doesn’t even manage to play one-third of the season and still has more homers than a popular fantasy play at the same position, it tells you all you need to know about how much better he really is than anyone else.
Unfortunately, massive production from a thin position does not tell the full story.
There are two big cons to Tulowitzki. Actually, we’ll start with the less obvious one.
We established that one of Tulo’s strong points is that he gets to play at Coors Field. Great, but the drawback there is that he’s going to get a healthy dose of National League West pitching. So, when he steps into the batters box, let’s take a look at some of the starters he’ll be seeing 60 feet, 6 inches away: Clayton Kershaw, Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner, Ryan Vogelsong, Ian Kennedy, and Wade Miley, just to name a few. If guys like Tim Lincecum, Edinson Volquez, Chad Billingsley, and Trevor Cahill can find their form, the list gets even deeper.
Playing in the NL West also means playing the majority of your road games at Dodger Stadium, Petco Park, and AT&T Park. But Tulo is used to those parks and the NL West has had top of the line pitching since he became a full time player.
To show the biggest problem of Tulo’s, let’s take a look at a few more numbers. After all, they are what matters in fantasy baseball, right?
Does the number 120 mean anything to you? It should, because that’s been Tulo’s games played average since 2007. That means that he’s missed an average of 42 games a year. That works out to an average of nearly three DL trips. Even if I eliminate his 47-game season of 2012 and just look at 2007-2011, he’s playing an average of 134 games, which leads to an average of 28 games on the bench, or just under two DL trips.
That’s a problem.
The injuries have been an ever-present part of Tulo’s story since 2008. Yes, he’s still managed to put up great numbers from a bad position. But in this case, the fact that he’s a shortstop works against Tulo. Yes, injuries can happen to a first baseman or outfielder too, but at least there you have a decent chance of getting a productive player on the waiver wire. That’s not going to happen at shortstop in a 10-team league, let alone 12 or more.
Let’s take a close look at 2011 numbers. 81 runs, 30 homers, 105 RBI, 9 steals, .302 average. That’s incredible, right?
Well, in a roto league, yes, those numbers are amazing and you won’t come close to that with any other shortstop in the league. But in a head-to-head format, those 19 missed games could crush your fantasy team. If they come late in the year (the fantasy playoffs), or during a critical matchup, you could well be trying to scratch through without one of your better offensive players. When you’re looking at an early draft pick, you need to know that he’ll be on the field all season.
The 47 games played in 2012 may be a little misleading. Tulo probably would have played in more games if the Rockies were a contender. They were certainly conservative with him because of how far back they were.
The problem is that 2013 doesn’t look to be any different. Yes, they have a decent looking offense, but their pitching is a mess. At this point, I’d call a 72-90 season a real success. So, if Tulo gets another nagging injury, wouldn’t the Rockies be just as cautious this year as they were last, especially as Tulo gets a little bit older?
Now, age isn’t a huge concern at this point, as Tulowitzki turned 28 in October. But the guy missed 61 games when he was 23, 40 when he was 25, 19 when he was 26, and 115 when he was 27. So, while 28 isn’t old, staying healthy was a problem when he was much younger, it stands to reason that they will become more of a problem as he gets older.
In a recent Mock Draft that we all took part in, Tulowitzki was the first pick of the third round, which worked out to 21st overall. Now, we weren’t drafting based on a specific format and with Tulo, the format makes a big difference.
Numbers are the only thing that really matters in fantasy sports. So, if you can project good numbers despite missed action, you’re still in good shape. That’s especially true in a roto format. In head-to-head, the numbers matter but if time is going to be missed, when the injuries occur is quite important as well.
So, in roto, I think somewhere between 20 and 25 is about right. My suspicion is that when actual drafts take place, he’ll move up into the Top 15. In head-to-head, I couldn’t justify taking Tulo in my Top 35. I know the numbers are likely going to be very good, but I need to have a better feeling that my top picks are going to be on the field at the end of the year. With Tulo, I don’t have that confidence.
Dixon’s Early Projections for Troy Tulowitzki in 2013
|Best Case Scenario||540||168||72||91||37||105||18||.311|
|Worst Case Scenario||350||91||31||50||12||49||3||.260|