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Shortstop Profile: Troy Tulowitzki

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The oft-injured star shortstop is always a divisive fantasy asset due to his amazing stats and injury-shortened seasons. How should we value him in 2015? How valuable is he if we include the injury factor?

Tulowitzki can certainly hit, but what do we do about his health?
Tulowitzki can certainly hit, but what do we do about his health?
Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

When it comes to shortstops, there is certainly no one that is more productive on a per-game basis than Troy Tulowitzki. He is miles ahead of his nearest competitor. If he could stay healthy for an entire season, he would probably be worth the first overall draft pick. But, as everyone on the planet knows, he can't stay healthy. The table below shows his plate appearances for each season he has been in the league and Steamer's projected 2015 number.

Year PA
2007 682
2008 421
2009 628
2010 529
2011 606
2012 203
2013 512
2014 375
2015 (Steamer) 600

Steamer is uncharacteristically bullish on Tulo's playing time this year, especially considering he hasn't had over 600 plate appearances since 2011. I don't think he will get there, personally. I would expect more in the 400-450 range.

What we can take away from this table is that he has been mostly healthy just three seasons out of the past eight, which is not inspiring any confidence in him. Sometimes, taking Tulo in a draft is like being a Cubs fan: maybe this is the year. Maybe this is the year he finally stays healthy and is the MVP. I'm going to tell you today that he doesn't have to stay healthy all year to be the top shortstop in fantasy baseball and I'll show you why in a minute. But first, I thought I should show you a table of all his injuries to give you an idea of the types of injuries he has experienced.

Date Injury
6/3/07 right groin injury (DTD)
7/24/07 illness (DTD)
4/30/08 quadricep injury (DTD)
5/3/08 placed on 15-day DL with torn left quadriceps tendon
7/5/08 placed on 15-day DL with lacerated right hand
5/14/09 elbow injury (DTD)
6/3/09 left hand injury (DTD)
8/21/09 viral infection (DTD)
9/8/09 back injury (DTD)
5/10/10 right quadriceps injury (DTD)
6/12/10 groin injury (DTD)
6/18/10 placed on 15-day DL with fractured left wrist
8/30/10 groin injury (DTD)
7/5/11 right quadriceps injury (DTD)
9/9/11 hip injury (DTD)
9/11/11 hip injury (DTD)
9/14/11 hip injury (DTD)
9/23/11 hip injury (out for season)
5/9/12 groin injury (DTD)
5/31/12 placed on 15-day DL with strained left groin
4/29/13 shoulder injury (DTD)
5/7/13 leg injury (DTD)
6/14/13 placed on 15-day DL with fractured ribs
8/25/13 oblique injury (DTD)
9/2/13 leg injury (DTD)
4/9/14 right quadricep injury (DTD)
7/4/14 groin injury (DTD)
7/20/14 left thigh injury (DTD)
7/22/14 placed on 15-day DL with strained left hip flexor
8/1/14 surgery on left hip (date approximate)
8/19/14 transferred to 60-day DL recovering from surgery on left hip

So, he has injured his: right groin, right quad, left quad tendon, right hand, elbow, left hand, back, right quad again, groin again, left wrist, groin again, right quad again, hip, left groin, shoulder, leg, ribs, oblique, leg again, right quad again, groin again, left thigh, and left hip flexor. Whew!

The only body parts he hasn't injured are his head, knees, feet and maybe one of his elbows. Last season was ended by hip surgery. You will notice that a hip injury ended his 2011 season as well. Maybe this surgery finally fixed his hips. I'm no doctor, but perhaps his bad hips were putting more pressure on his groin and quads, leading to injuries there, since all those muscles interact with one another.

For what it's worth, he says he's feeling much better.

''Honestly, I can say I feel as good as new,'' Tulowitzki said Saturday at Rockiesfest, an event in which fans mingled with players at Coors Field. ''But at the same time, no one is going to believe me until they see me go out and see me play. Come to spring training, watch me play and then make your opinion.''

''It's been a battle for me. No doubt,'' he said. ''Hopefully, all these things are passed me and I can move on and go out there and play 140, 160 (games), however many games it is. I'd love to do that. I have every intention to. We'll see how it goes.''

I agree with him that no one is going to believe him until he does play a full season and prove that he can stay healthy. But, back to my point earlier, what if he doesn't stay healthy again this year? How should we value him in fantasy baseball?

I'm going to reference Rotographs' end-of-season 5x5 rankings (based on the FVARz scoring method) here, so here's their list of the top 12 shortstops from 2014:

Rank Name G PA AB HR R RBI SB AVG $$$
1 Ian Desmond 154 648 593 24 73 91 24 0.255 23.56
2 Jose Reyes 143 655 610 9 94 51 30 0.287 21.64
3 Alexei Ramirez 158 657 622 15 82 74 21 0.273 20.82
4 Troy Tulowitzki 91 375 315 21 71 52 1 0.340 16.08
5 Jimmy Rollins 138 609 538 17 78 55 28 0.243 16.01
6 Alcides Escobar 162 620 579 3 74 51 31 0.285 15.57
7 Erick Aybar 156 641 589 7 77 68 16 0.278 15.21
8 Hanley Ramirez 128 512 449 13 64 71 14 0.283 15.03
9 Jhonny Peralta 157 628 560 21 61 75 3 0.263 12.8
10 Starlin Castro 134 569 528 14 58 65 4 0.292 11.81
11 Asdrubal Cabrera 146 616 553 14 74 61 10 0.241 9.73
12 Elvis Andrus 157 685 619 2 72 41 27 0.263 9.21
13 Brandon Crawford 153 564 491 10 54 69 5 0.246 5.28

I cut it off at 13 because I am assuming a 12-team league and that would be a replacement-level (waiver wire) shortstop in 2014. First off, we see that Tulo finished fourth despite playing in only 91 games! That shows just how awful the position was in 2014 and how great he was at the same time. Let me now show you how Tulo was actually the number one shortstop last year for many fantasy owners (including myself). If you had a backup plan (drafted or waiver wire), you could survive Tulo's injury and benefit from all of his early season awesomeness. Let's now compare a full season combo of Tulo and Crawford (the replacement level shortstop you would have to draft or pick up to replace him when he went down) to the top shortstops. I used Crawford's stats from 7/19 on, since that is when Tulo went down. This table shows the combo of these two guys and their combined stat line.

Name G PA AB HR R RBI SB AVG
Tulo + Crawford 150 588 505 23 88 81 4 0.309

Now, I don't have access to the dollar-value generator Zach Sanders at Rotographs used, so I can't translate this into dollars, but I can use my own standings-gain-points (SGP) calculator. Using SGP, this Tulo-Crawford combo comes in at 12.83 points. That slots solidly as the number two shortstop, with Desmond at 13.22 points the only one in front. Reyes is next at 12.47. Now, if you were lucky enough to get a better backup like Peralta (who I snagged) or anyone else above Crawford on the list above, or even Danny Santana, who came on strong at the end of the season, you would have finished with the number one shortstop in fantasy. That is how you can finish with the best shortstop even with Tulo missing more than a third of the season. He is good enough to carry a replacement level shortstop's stats for that much time and still finish on top.

So, sure, this strategy does require you to use a roster spot on a backup shortstop and potentially a draft pick, but finishing with the best player at the shallowest position is a huge advantage and helped me win my league last year. Don't shy away from Tulo because of his injury history, he is still worth a late first or early second round pick because of his insane hitting ability at a very shallow position, just make sure you have a good backup plan and you'll be fine. Tschus!