Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

Troy Tulowitzki Cardinals: Fantasy Fallout if Tulo Goes to St. Louis


Given the fact that they haven’t made the playoffs since 2009 or had a winning season since 2010, it would make some sense that the Colorado Rockies would at least explore the possibility of trading Troy Tulowitzki. Whether they’re exploring a trade or not, Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports reported earlier in the week that the St. Louis Cardinals are interested in the Rockies shortstop.

Now, the trade is a long way from happening. But in the event that Tulo is moved to the defending NL Champs, what does it do for his fantasy value?

 

Bad

Any time we’re dealing with a Rockies player potentially being on the move, we have to ask ourselves one question: How will his game play away from Coors Field?

Fortunately, with Tulo (and really anyone else) we can take a look at some home/road splits and get something of a preview. So, let’s do that here. 

 
AB
H
R
HR
RBI
SB
AVG/OBP/SLG
Total352996154315555254.295/.367/.509
Home16395143028531427.314/.387/.547
Away16204472417023827.276/.348/.471

Clearly, Tulo has benefited from hitting at altitude. Still, if you break his road splits down, he averages better than 20 homers and 70 RBI per 500 at-bats, which is well above average for a shortstop. For the sake of his fantasy owners, I wouldn’t like him leaving the Rockies, but that in and of itself isn’t killer.

Here’s the next question, though: How has Tulo fared in St. Louis over the years? Have a look. 

AB
H
R
HR
RBI
SB
AVG/OBP/SLG
68147270.207/.270/.338

I actually had to double-check these numbers a few times to be sure they were accurate. Unfortunately, they are. If you watched enough baseball over the years, you’ve probably seen just about every great hitter consistently struggle at a given ballpark or two. Busch Stadium has been one of those parks for Tulowitzki throughout his career.

For some perspective on just how bad those numbers are, Brandon Crawford has a career slugging percentage of .346. I don’t think many people are rushing to make him their fantasy shortstop. If they are, unfortunately none of them play in any leagues with me.

I will say that 68 at-bats isn’t a great sample size, but it’s not exactly small either. The only parks where Tulo has a lower career batting average than that sparkling .206 mark:

  • Shea Stadium
  • Sun Life Stadium
  • Rogers Centre
  • RFK Stadium
  • Turner Field

Three of those stadiums no longer host baseball, and one of them is in the American League. If you put a lot of stock in those numbers, only a trade to the Braves and Blue Jays would be worse.

If you were trying to be positive, you could point out that stats like runs and RBI are reliant a lot on teammates, and most of Tulo’s teammates have also struggled away from Coors Field over the years. That’s not a false argument, but the home runs and slash line stats aren’t anywhere near as dependent on teammates.

Let’s crunch some numbers here.

First, let’s say that Tulo plays a season and gets 500 at-bats (a generous assumption, given his history). If he gets 500 at-bats and hits at the same rate that he has away from Coors Field throughout his career, this is what we’re looking at: 

AB
H
R
HR
RBI
SB
AVG
5001387422748.276

Again, still a pretty darn good fantasy shortstop.

But now, let’s say that in the half of those games that take place in St. Louis, he generates numbers at the same pace that he has throughout his career there. 

AB
H
R
HR
RBI
SB
AVG*
25052267260.208

*–With 250 at-bats, you can’t hit .207, so I gave him the benefit of an extra hit.

So, if he’s going to get to the above numbers with this kind of production in half of the at-bats, this is what he’d have to do in the other half. 

AB
H
R
HR
RBI
SB
AVG*
250864815488.344

Now, we know that when Tulo gets hot, he’s as dangerous as anyone. But those hot streaks haven’t usually lasted 250 at-bats and they’ve usually been at least partially at Coors Field. If he’s a Card, we’re looking at probably three games per year in Denver.

I’m not saying that Tulo would be that bad hitting at home. But the most optimistic thing I can say is that his numbers there give me a huge pause.

 

Good

Seeing his numbers in St. Louis, it was hard to be especially optimistic about this possible move. Still, four things popped into my mind. The first is that again, 68 at-bats is not a massive sample size and it’s hard to see a hitter like Tulo hitting somewhere below .210, even in only half of his games.

Now for the other three.

 

– 1. He’d no longer have to face Cardinals pitchers when batting in St. Louis. 

The St. Louis pitching staff has been a little schizophrenic throughout Tulo’s career, but they’ve generally been in the top half of the league. For example, in 2013, the Rockies faced Shelby Miller in their first game in St. Louis and Adam Wainwright in their second. Both threw complete game shutouts. If Tulo’s on the Cardinals, he’s not facing them, though Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports did indicate that Miller would possibly be involved in the trade if it happens.

If Tulowitzki becomes a Cardinal, he'll no longer see Adam Wainwright on the pitcher's mound when he's batting. Photo Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

If Tulowitzki becomes a Cardinal, he’ll no longer see Adam Wainwright on the pitcher’s mound when he’s batting. Photo Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Still, look at some of the pitchers that the Cardinals have had throughout Tulo’s career. Wainwright, Miller, Chris Carpenter, Kyle Lohse, Jaime Garcia, Joel PineiroKyle McClellanTodd Wellemeyer, Jake Westbrook, Jason Motte, Lance Lynn, Fernando Salas, Randy Choate, Trevor Rosenthal, Seth Maness, Joe Kelly, and Michael Wacha. These are just some of the guys who have had at least one good season with the Cards since Tulo came into the league. It’s part of the reason why the Cardinals compete for a championship annually.

No, he hasn’t had to face all of them in St. Louis in his career, but he’s had to see a fair amount of them. That will account for some ugly offensive numbers, especially in a pitcher’s yard like Busch. If he does go to the Cardinals, Tulo won’t be looking at such a daunting group of pitchers every time he takes an at-bat in that park.

 

– 2. The Cardinals lineup is absolutely loaded

In 2013, no National League team scored more runs than the Cardinals, but only the Giants and Marlins hit fewer home runs. If you’re not parking home runs, the only way to score a bunch of runs is if you have great lineup depth, and the Cardinals have it.

That’s not a knock on the Rockies, who are generally one of the better offensive teams in the NL. But there are two big problems with them.

  1. As we went over before, Tulo is not the only Rockies’ player to struggle away from Denver.
  2. Like Tulo, many of their other top hitters are also prone to injury. In 2013, Nolan Arenado led the team in games played with 133. He wasn’t even on the Major League roster until the end of April. Michael Cuddyer played in 130, and Carlos Gonzalez played in 110. In contrast, Jon Jay (157 games), Matt Carpenter (157 games), Carlos Beltran (145 games), Pete Kozma (143 games), Matt Holliday (141 games), David Freese (138 games), Yadier Molina (136 games), and Allen Craig (134 games) all would have led the Rockies in games played.

Tulo himself is injury prone. That’s something the Cardinals (or any team) need to consider when they’re thinking about making a trade for him. It’s also something fantasy owners need to think about. But it’s nice to know that even if he misses 30-40 games, that when he’s out there, the best teammates possible will be the ones getting on base for him, and driving him in once he’s there.

It’s also nice to know that some of those players are pretty dang good. If Tulo goes to the Cardinals, he’s likely going to fit somewhere in between guys like Carpenter, Holliday, Molina, Craig, and Freese. Not bad.

 

– 3. The Cardinals generally contend. The Rockies generally don’t.

If you’ve followed his career, you know that Tulo can be a bit brittle. That’s not going to change with a move from Denver to St. Louis. I’m certainly not a doctor, but there have been a few times where it seemed like Tulo was being treated very conservatively in terms of returning. The one that jumps into mind is 2012, when he missed more than 100 games. The team was also dead last in the National League West that year, so there was no real reason for Colorado to rush him back.

Anything can change over the course of one season. Aside from the Dodgers, the NL West is pretty open, and even the Dodgers have struggled to be consistently good over the course of a full season. But again, we’re talking about a team that hasn’t had a winning season since 2010, or made the playoffs since 2009.

The Cardinals on the other hand are usually at least contending for a playoff spot. So, while Tulo will still likely suffer some injuries, they’re likely not going to be anywhere near as conservative in bringing him back. If a team is in the heat of a playoff race, Tulo’s the kind of guy you want in the lineup. If you don’t believe me, the 2007 and 2009 Rockies would probably attest to that.

 

The Final Verdict

Tulo’s just not the kind of guy who’s going to hit in the .200 range for half of his games. I could certainly see him struggling in St. Louis, but more likely in the .240 – .250 range over those games. If that happens, I’d see him hitting .260 in a bad year, and .280 in a good one. Given his career road numbers, it’s pretty safe to say that he won’t be a .300 hitter anymore, at least not annually.

Tulo’s numbers are going to take a hit if he is traded to the Cardinals, or pretty much anywhere. Durability is also an issue. While he may return to the field quicker if he’s on a contending team, it’s still a major plus if Tulo gets to 140 games and/or 500 at-bats. When you’re missing time, but still getting to play half of your games in Colorado, you’re numbers may not take as big a hit as they normally would.

I’ll close with some projected numbers if the trade happens. We’re just going to say he’ll get 500 at-bats in a season. Obviously, if you draft Troy Tulowitzki, you know that that total is far from a guarantee, but there’s no real way to project severity of injuries.

But if Tulowitzki is traded to the Cardinals, this is the range that I’d expect from him. 

 
AB
H
R
HR
RBI
SB
AVG
Baseline5001266517621.252
Ceiling5001449629916.288
Realistic5001358322813.270

The numbers in St. Louis are scary, but the quality of the team and the fact that he won’t be facing Cardinals pitchers would bump them up. Unfortunately, it’s hard to top Coors Field. If you look at his numbers from last season and compare them to the “Realistic” group above, he had more homers and RBI despite not even reaching 500 at-bats. He also hit 46 points higher.

In other words: If you have Tulo in a keeper league, or are strongly considering drafting him, hope that he stays with the Rockies. If he doesn’t, be aware of the struggles in St. Louis, but don’t let them completely freak you out.

Tags: Colorado Rockies Popular St. Louis Cardinals Troy Tulowitzki