The great Troy Tulowitzki is no longer a Colorado Rockie, now what?

Jake Shapiro Avatar
December 2, 2015

 

It’s been five months since the Colorado Rockies changed the course of their franchise and traded superstar shortstop Troy Tulowitzki to the Tronto Blue Jays, and still many questions remain. For instance, what is the direction of the franchise? Will they tear it down and rebuild? What does this mean for Carlos Gonazlez? Where does this leave Jose Reyes? There are many more questions, but the main one is, now what?

We’re coming up on five years since the Denver Nuggets traded Carmelo Anthony to the New York Knicks and the Denver hoopsters are still looking for a star to replace Melo. For the Rockies, Nolan Arenado is the star to take over as the face of the Rockies franchise. But that might be the only question the Denver Nine have answered when it comes to the question of replacing Tulo.

They’ve been slow to make any major move since the pre-deadline deal of the star shortstop opting to instead move around smaller pieces. They have done plenty of that, whether it be having Jon Gray and Tom Murphy make their big league debuts, the fast-tracking of Trevor Story through the minors or the club’s offseason 40-man roster shakeup. However, if they are rebuilding they haven’t moved anyone of substance in hopes of competing down the road.

Not only is the future of the Rockies franchise undetermined, but there is still the big question of how do you replace Tulowitzki?

First let us not forget how good Tulowitzki was in his 10 years with the Rockies. The five-time all-star and perennial MVP candidate long held the title as the best shortstop in MLB. Not only offensively was he elite, batting .299/.371/.513 in his 1048 games for Colorado, but defensively he was a phenom. At shortstop, baseball’s premier position Tulo was anywhere from way above average to the best player in all the majors at the position. The Rockies still have the Gold Glove-winning Arenado on the left side and former winner DJ LeMahieu up the middle, but with the loss of Tulo, the Rockies infield defense (aka the Coors Sheild) takes a major hit. Tulowitzki on defense saved about 10 runs a year at the position with a career dWAR of 88.2, his fielding percentage never dipped below 98.3%. He led the league in that stat as a shortstop four times (2007, 2010, 2011, 2013). He also led National Leauge shortstops defensively in Range Factor per 9 innings five times, double plays turned three times, total zone runs once, and assists and putouts once.

So who replaces that defense at shortstop? Reyes? Story?… Daniel Descalso?

Reyes has never been a great defender, and he is a shell of his former self. His last positive defensive season from an advanced metrics standpoint was in 2007.

Story hasn’t had a fielding percentage above 96.8% at shortstop in the minors and he is still an unknown because he has not made his big league debut.

Descalso although versatile, is hated by the advanced metrics at every position besides second base. Even traditional stats reveal his deficiencies at shortstop. Plus his lack of offensive production makes him hard to even get onto the field.

The short answer is nobody.

The long answer is, wait and see. Story could blossom, the scouts absolutely love him. Down the line, 2015’s third overall pick is shortstop Brendan Rodgers could be the answer, but the absolute earliest he would be in Denver is late 2017. Yet, there is still a chance the Rockies never have a shortstop as great in all assets of the game as Tulowitzki.

Offensively Tulo’s abilities are well known. His right-handed power from the shortstop position is Hall of Fame caliber.


Source: FanGraphsTroy Tulowitzki, Ernie Banks, Cal Ripken


Source: FanGraphsTroy Tulowitzki, Ernie Banks, Cal Ripken

Reyes is not the same style of player as Tulowitzki but even looking at OPS, Reyes hasn’t OPS’ed over .800 since 2011, something Tulo did every single full season he played in Denver. Reyes does have something Tulowitzki doesn’t and that is speed. He led the league in stolen bases three times, but Reyes hasn’t stolen more than 30 bags in a season since 2012.

Story on the other hand, has shown he does have similar pop to Tulo’s. The Rockies prospect hit 20 home runs between Double-A and Triple-A this season. He has routinely OPS’ed above .800 when healthy too. He really could help the Rockies from the right side of the plate.

That’s one of the keys of trading Tulo. Almost every great Rockies hitter has been left-handed, even now looking at the team’s best offensive weapons, most come from the left side. Carlos Gonzalez, Corey Dickerson, Charlie Blackmon and Ben Paulsen are all left-handed. Really their only right-handed power bat is Nolan Arendao.

Replacing Tulowitzki won’t come in 2016, and if it comes, it probably won’t come until their current crop of prospects is fully developed. An almost annual 5+ WAR is something only the best players in the game do, and the Rockies won’t be adding any of those this offseason out of left field. But the fact that the Colorado Rockies still have a face to their team in the form of either Carlos Gonzalez or Nolan Arendao is a huge luxury most teams don’t have after trading away their franchise’s star.

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