Top SS Replacement Options for Troy Tulowitzki
Losing Tulo hurts. One quick look at his numberFire Player Page and seeing how many times I've tagged him in Daily Fantasy articles shows how he was a top selection day in, day out. He was our NL All-Star shortstop, rocketing ahead of Jean Segura with some hot play in recent days. You're not going to replace his production; it's just not going to happen.
But just because you aren't going to replace his production doesn't mean you should leave a gaping hole at shortstop. That's where we come in.
With Tulo gone, there are a few shortstops worth pursuing as his replacement. For sake of convenience, I'm going to limit these suggestions to only players owned in less than 70 percent of ESPN leagues. (If you're one of the 19.5 percent of leagues where Alcides Escobar is unowned, pick him up please.) These projections are based off of a standard 5x5 fantasy league, and all of our complete future projections for the rest of the season can be found on our remaining projections page.
Replacement SS Options
Erick Aybar - Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
ESPN Leagues Owned: 47.5%
You like guys who put the ball in play? Erick Aybar is your man. With his 7.9 percent strikeout rate and 2.6 percent walk rate, Aybar has put an amazing 87 percent of his total plate appearances into play this season, a ratio that would sit second-highest in the majors if he held enough plate appearances to qualify (he's about 15 short).
The problem with Aybar so far is that those balls in play haven't been finding holes. His .276 batting average on balls in play (BABIP) is his largest contributor to his poor .286 OBP, his lowest rate since 2007. However, there's reason to believe that low BABIP won't continue; the league-average sits at .296, while Aybar's own personal career average is all the way up at .306. Regression to the mean indicates he's more likely to hit closer to that .306 mark on balls in play as the season wears on.
And if he raises that batting average to our projected .286, the rest should fall in place quite easily. With his speed (a 74 percent career stolen base success rate), Aybar can create havoc on the basepaths if given the opportunity. Despite their highly-publicized struggles, the Angels still hold an above-average .322 OBP and even higher-ranked .422 slugging, and they should give him every opportunity to score runs.
Pete Kozma - St. Louis Cardinals
ESPN Leagues Owned: 4.7%
Pete Kozma's failures to perform this season have nothing to do with balls finding holes in play. His .311 BABIP contributes to the Cardinals' second-best .320 team average, and an above-average 25 percent of his balls in play this season have been solid line drives. If Kozma makes contact, getting on base isn't an issue.
Kozma's fantasy issues come with his lack of extra-base power. Only 23 percent of Kozma's hits this season have gone for extra-bases, down from his 29 percent career average and the 33 percent MLB average so far this season. Without that extra-base power, Kozma has only been able to register one RBI per nine at-bats this season, even in that powerful Cardinals offense. He's got the average, but not much else.
However, in time, we see both his RBIs and his runs regressing towards the mean. His projected 8.11 plate appearances per RBI the rest of the way sits fifth-best among shortstops behind Tulo, Hardy, Desmond, and Peralta, and his .284 projected average sits fifth among shortstops projected with at least 200 plate apperances behind Tulo, Desmond, Gregorius, and Aybar.
Zack Cozart - Cincinnati Reds
ESPN Leagues Owned: 36.6%
Want to try and replace some of Tulowitzki's power? Here's your man. Zack Cozart's 2.2 percent homerun rate so far this season is actually down from his 2.5 percent career rate, even with his six current homeruns sitting fifth among primary shortstops behind Tulo, Hardy, Segura, and Desmond. He's also steady with seven percent of all fly balls going for homeruns, the same as last season.
That's why 10 homeruns over the rest of the season from Cozart isn't surprising may even be a conservative estimate. Not that you should complain: every single other shortstop projected with at least eight homeruns is either owned in at least 98 percent of leagues or is on the DL (Asdrubal Cabrera). And with those homeruns come RBIs (9th-highest projected total among shortstops) and runs scored (13th).
Cozart isn't going to give you Aybar or Kozma's batting average, and that's what bumps him down to No. 3 on this list. However, we see him at least hitting better than his current .246. Cozart's current .266 BABIP should bump up over time given his .280 career rate and his 20 percent of balls in play hit for line drives, the highest proportion of his career.