For part two of our struggling rookie series, letís shift our attention to Coloradoís Troy Tulowitzki.
THE DAMAGES: Itís been brutal so far. Tulowitzki is hitting .190/.282/.254, and when your slugging percentage is lower than your OBP, youíve got problems. He also has yet to homer.
CAN HE IMPROVE SOON? My hopes arenít high. Three big concerns Ö
First, Tulowitzki has shown absolutely zilch power. His ground ball-to-fly ball ratio is 3.13. Thatís OK if youíre Ichiro or Luis Castillo, not so hot if youíre a power-hitting shortstop. We canít expect more homers from Tulowitzki until he starts driving the ball with authority and regularity. Right now he appears far from being able to do that.
Secondly, the strikeouts are a worry. Tulowitzki has whiffed 17 times in 63 at-bats. At that rate, he would fan 135 times if he received 500 at-bats. Thatís much too many, especially for a guy who isnít driving the ball.
Finally, I think it will take Tulowitzki awhile to get going due to his inexperience. Heís never played at Triple-A, and heís still just 22 years old. As with Alex Gordon (whom we discussed yesterday), Tulowitzkiís big-league learning curve is steeper than it is for hitters who have faced Triple-A pitching.
WHAT DOES THE LONG-TERM FUTURE HOLD? Itís still very bright. Tulowitzki was very good at Double-A last year, showing an adequate batting eye (71/46 K/BB) and plenty of power (13 homers, 34 doubles). Heís got the skill. Itís just going to take awhile before that skill results in big-league success.
Obviously, you keep Tulowitzki in a keeper league. In a yearly league Iíd keep him as well, but I would move him to my bench. His production isnít even replacement level now, and Iím sure you can find a more adequate shortstop to fill in until Tulowitzki gets going.
As with Gordon, a big second half wouldnít surprise me. But Tulowitzki has a long way to go.
Tomorrow: San Diegoís Kevin Kouzmanoff.
Keeper league alert: Dallas Braden may not be the household name other prospects are, but make sure you put a claim in on him Ö and not just because he pitched well last night. The 23-year-old struck out 135 batters in 140 innings at Single-A and Double-A in 2005, so heís got pretty good stuff.
Short-term, though, Braden isnít someone Iíd plug into my rotation (unless youíre in a very deep league). Braden missed most of last year due to a shoulder injury and has precious little experience in the upper minors, so heís going to suffer some growing pains for however long he stays in Oaklandís rotation. He doesnít need to be on your active roster while he gets the seasoning he needs.