Fantasy Baseball: Is Troy Tulowitzki Being Overlooked?

With the loss of Edwin Encarnacion, the Blue Jays will rely on Troy Tulowitzki for more production. Should you be doing the same in fantasy baseball?

Although he was leaving the comfy confines of Coors Field with the Colorado Rockies, Troy Tulowitzki was supposed to bolster one of baseball's most feared and powerful lineups in the Toronto Blue Jays upon his arrival in the middle of the 2015 season. Unfortunately, the five-time National League All-Star has struggled significantly at the plate with his new team since arriving north of the border.

His struggles with the bat prompted manager John Gibbons to plugging his new shortstop into various spots in the lineup, including leadoff for the first time in his career. It didn't help him get going, and he still fell short of his past successes despite a fresh start in 2016.

Now entering his age-32 season in 2017, Tulo's fantasy baseball stock has plummeted -- he's currently not one of the top-10 shortstops according to NFBC, who tabs him as the 11th player coming off the board with an average draft position (ADP) of 159.28. He used to be a no-brainer first-round pick, but now he's available until the 13th round.

Is he being overlooked by fantasy owners?

There's No Place Like Coors

Tulowitzki is a career .292/.364/.501 hitter, but fell way short of those numbers last year by slashing a mediocre .254/.318/.443 in 544 plate appearances.

Obviously, he's no longer playing half his games at Coors Field, and while the Rogers Centre isn't exactly a pitcher-friendly park, he's not experiencing the same success he's used to producing when at home. Check out his stats in front of the home crowd since becoming an everyday player in 2007.

Rockies Home .323 .395 .565 .961 .341
Blue Jays Home .258 .332 .445 .777 .287

Clearly, the merits of hitting at Coors Field are reflected in the above numbers -- especially when comparing them to what he's done with Toronto since the trade. However, he was still a pretty good hitter on the road while playing for the Rockies.

Rockies Away .278 .350 .472 .822 .303
Blue Jays Away .243 .303 .409 .713 .267

His production was slightly worse overall, but respectable. The unfortunate trend we're seeing here, though, is it doesn't matter whether Tulo is hitting at home or on the road lately -- he's experienced decline everywhere. What's been the cause?

Patience is a Virtue

Having solid plate discipline is normally a prerequisite for being a good Major League hitter, and Tulowitzki has displayed this throughout his career.

However, his swings outside the strike zone (O-Swing%) and inside the strike zone (Z-Swing%) have increased over the past two years without an equally significant increase in the respective contact rates. To make matters worse, Tulo's swinging-strike percentage (SwStr%) has steadily increased, resulting in his strikeout percentage (K%) also going up.

Season Team O-Swing% Z-Swing% O-Contact% Z-Contact% SwStr% K%
2012 Rockies 27.2 % 58.2 % 85.3 % 91.8 % 4.4 % 9.4 %
2013 Rockies 24.0 % 59.9 % 76.3 % 87.5 % 6.5 % 16.6 %
2014 Rockies 27.5 % 60.6 % 71.8 % 89.6 % 7.1 % 15.2 %
2015 2 Teams 29.7 % 63.7 % 68.4 % 85.0 % 9.4 % 21.3 %
2016 Blue Jays 28.4 % 63.5 % 72.1 % 85.8 % 8.4 % 18.6 %

Tulo's hard-hit rate has also seen a steady decline over the past three seasons. After posting a career-high 42.2% hard-hit rate in 375 plate appearances during 2014, it decreased to 37.5% in 2015 before settling in at 34.2% last year (his lowest since 2012).

Hitting the ball hard at a lower frequency and making less contact overall is not a good combination to have. Whatever the reason is behind this trend, it's an alarming one that needs to at least be slowed.

Where Should He Be Drafted?

As the 11th overall shortstop, it's not surprising to see him ranked behind Addison Russell and Aledmys Diaz, given their potential to take a leap forward in 2017 as young players. However, he's also looking up at Eduardo Nunez and Elvis Andrus based on recent performance.

When comparing their 2016 campaigns in the table below, Tulo's numbers aren't much different than his peers. However, their respective ages and ability to stay productive combined with Tulo's apparent decline could easily make them more valuable.

Addison Russell 151 598 21 67 95 5 .238 .321 .417
Aledmys Diaz 111 460 17 71 65 4 .300 .369 .510
Troy Tulowitzki 131 544 24 54 79 1 .254 .318 .443
Eduardo Nunez 141 595 16 73 67 40 .288 .325 .432
Elvis Andrus 147 568 8 75 69 24 .302 .362 .439

It's also worth nothing that Tulowitzki's awful two-month start to last season did suppress some of his overall stats. Through the end of May, he was hitting just .204/.289/.383 with 8 home runs and 23 RBI in 190 plate appearances. But over his final 359 plate appearances, his line improved to a much more acceptable .277/.331/.468 with 16 homers and 56 RBI.

So, his season could've been a lot worse than how it actually ended up.

Given the various factors at work here, it's easy to see why he's ranked where he is. Since shortstop is a premium (and deep) position, you should have one on your squad well before the 13th round, making Tulo more of a bounce-back pick with the hope that the last four months of 2016 could lead to some value.

Value in Context

Once the first eight shortstops have homes, a case can be made for any of the five we've been talking about to be the next one off the board. Why? Well, FanGraphs' Steamer projections are expecting similar performances from each.

Addison Russell 557 18 61 68 5 .247 .321 .417
Aledmys Diaz 557 16 71 64 7 .283 .342 .454
Troy Tulowitzki 503 20 62 66 1 .260 .329 .445
Eduardo Nunez 493 10 51 51 24 .268 .312 .397
Elvis Andrus 553 6 61 53 21 .277 .337 .382

At this point in a fantasy draft, it's a good time to make a quick assessment and see what your squad needs the most. If more power is needed, which isn't a bad idea, Tulo would be a fine choice.

But if you're looking for help in other categories depending on your strategy -- such as batting average or stolen bases -- then it may be best to look elsewhere.