A look at Troy Tulowitzki

We haven’t done a player profile in a while, so I thought today might be a nice day to do one. If you guys have any suggestions for future player profiles, feel free to let me know!

Troy Tulowitzki was drafted in the 24th round—on average—in 12-team expert leagues this season. Well, it’s nearly September, and the Rockies rookie is currently the number No. 8 shortstop in fantasy baseball.

If we look at his first half and second half splits, we see that he has been even better since the break. He had a .286 batting average with nine home runs in the first half, and a .314 average with nine (in half the at-bats!) in the second half. Let’s decide what we should expect in the coming five weeks and in 2008.

2006 minor league numbers

First, let’s check out his minor league numbers from last year. His 83% contact rate was only all right, but his 10% walk rate was nice to see. His batted ball numbers, though, were a little less than inspiring. His line drive rate was a little below 14%, but low line drive rates don’t seem to be uncommon among minor leaguers, even the top ones. In 96 major league at-bats last year, he put up a 21% line drive rate.

Given his nice power numbers this year, we might expect to find a better HR/FB than 12% for Tulowitzki in Triple-A. His 34% flyball rate was even worse to see.

While his Triple-A numbers were noticeably unspectacular, they weren’t completely devoid of promise, especially in light of his brief major league experience in 2006. Last year, he put up just a 74% contact rate, but his 9% walk and 21% line drive rates were very encouraging. While he hit only one home run, it did go 442 true feet, according to HitTracker.

2007 first half numbers

Going into this season, it was completely reasonable to think Tulowitzki might struggle. While he didn’t dominate, he did hold his own in the first half of the year. He put up a respectable 78% contact rate, but his 9% walk rate was very nice for a rookie. His 20% line drive rate was also quite good.

His power—on the surface—was only okay with an 11% HR/FB and 35% fly ball rate, but there was reason to expect an improved second half. Of the eight homers HitTracker had data on, five went further than 400 true feet. The furthest went 471 true feet, and another went 444.

2007 second half numbers

With 455 major league plate appearances under his belt, Tulowitzki was ready to make a jump in the second half. He improved his contact rate to 81%, and his walk rate remained relatively steady at 8%. His line drive rate improved a little to a very good 21%.

He made some (seemingly) nice strides in power, but they really weren’t unexpected to the alert fantasy owner. His 40% fly ball rate might not have been predicted, but it was certainly welcome. His HR/FB rose to 18%, as we had thought it would, and the spike in fly balls only helped to emphasis Tulowitzki’s good power. Of the eight home runs HitTracker has data on from the second half, five went further than 400 true feet (and one was just shy at 399).

Future expectations

Tulowitzki’s .342 BABIP on the year is too high, but with a reasonable adjustment to .315, his batting average would still be .275. If we adjust his power, it gets even higher. Let’s say we expect an 18% HR/FB given his HitTracker data. That would raise his batting average to .289, not much lower than it currently is. As Tulowitzki progresses, he could put up a HR/FB even higher than that, and when you realize that his contact rate could eventually improve a little (remember, it was 83% in Triple-A last year), Tulowitzki could be a legitimate candidate to hit .300 in 2008 and beyond.

I don’t think there’s much doubt over the legitimacy of Tulowitzki’s abilities, but does he have the lineup to allow him to produce RBIs and runs? It’ll depend on where the Rockies decide to hit him next year, but he has some quality players in the lineup (assuming none get traded in the off-season) with the likes of Matt Holliday, Todd Helton, Garrett Atkins, Brad Hawpe, and Ryan Spilborghs. Even Kaz Matsui and Willy Taveras would be able to help Tulowitzki a little with RBIs if they batted ahead of him.

There’s certainly plenty of talent in Colorado, and even if it isn’t used 100% efficiently, Tulowitzki still figures to be a pretty good bet for RBIs and runs. His good power and patience only improve his prospects.

Concluding thoughts

We typically expect rookies to put up worse peripheral numbers than they did in the minors, and Tulowitzki’s mostly paralleled his Triple-A numbers from last year. Still, he has been pretty consistent this year, not dropping off in the second half, so he could certainly sustain his numbers. I’d say to be wary of his power, but the HitTracker data really don’t lie. He has crushed some balls, and I don’t see how that is a fluke.

Be cautious, but I could see Tulowitzki jumping onto the list of the top five shortstops next year. He will probably be a good guy to hold onto in most keeper leagues, and will might come at a bit of a discount in redraft leagues.

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