Troy Tulowitzki has started his Spring Training with a bang, but fans shouldn’t get too excited about his early success.
Troy Tulowitzki has gone from being New York Yankees reclamation project to the toast of Spring Training. The former All-Star shortstop has looked good early on in camp. Not only is he hitting well, but his infield defense has drawn the praise of manager Aaron Boone.
Still, fans should not get too used to seeing Tulowitzki in pinstripes. Don’t get me wrong. The Yankees were able to sign him for the veteran’s minimum, and that’s better than any Black Friday deal. The Toronto Blue Jays releasing Tulowitzki and paying him the remaining $38 million on his deal proves that.
The truth of the matter is regardless of how well or poorly Tulowitzki plays as a Yankee, he is still very much a placeholder and not so much a key player.
A scrappy spring
Troy Tulowitzki’s numbers alone probably have more than a few Yankees fans excited. He has two home runs and four RBI early on, batting .500 and also holding his own in the field.
Now, before we go any further, let’s get one thing clear. Troy Tulowitzki’s roster spot is not guaranteed. Moreover, in this writer’s opinion, the mere idea of signing him was a mistake. Even if he is fully recovered from double heel surgery after a full season off, being able to add a former star at a discount doesn’t mean one should actually follow through.
And though Tulowitzki does look locked in at the plate, there are multiple factors to consider. First, Opening Day is still nearly four weeks away. It’s way too early to pencil him in as the everyday shortstop.
Second, the man has played in just two of the Yankees’ five Spring Training games thus far. Two. Not only that, but his two home runs are also his only two hits of spring. The first, though an impressive shot to the opposite field, came off of Blue Jays righty Marcus Stroman and can be called dumb luck. The second was off of Pittsburgh Pirates lefty Steven Brault, who has made just 16 starts in 61 career appearances. It’s not as though Tulowitzki has been overly tested with top-of-the-line pitching.
Too many infielders
More importantly, let’s be honest. Troy Tulowitzki easily needs the New York Yankees more than they need him. He’s really just a placeholder until Didi Gregorius comes back from Tommy John surgery this summer.
The Yankees also didn’t even need Tulowitzki when Gregorius’ injury was announced last fall. Regular second baseman Gleyber Torres is a natural shortstop who could easily slide to the left until Gregorius is ready. Former top prospect Tyler Wade can handle second in that case, while also playing all around the field. Like Tulowitzki, Wade has also started hot in Spring Training and is hitting .625. Four of his five total hits have gone for extra bases.
And where is DJ LeMahieu in all of this? The Yankees signed him to a two-year contract in hopes of making him a super-utilityman. Yes, Boone views LeMahieu as a backup first baseman, but let’s not forget he won three Gold Gloves at second base with the Colorado Rockies. LeMahieu also hit .348 in 2016 and won the NL batting crown. The Coors Field effect definitely played a role, but he is also a strong contact hitter.
Look at it this way. The New York Yankees are the Avengers and DJ LeMahieu has just been cast as Hawkeye. He’s the quietly brilliant team member who doesn’t get nearly enough respect.
Troy Tulowitzki, meanwhile, seems to be getting full-on Iron Man treatment when he’s really Ant-Man. Not much should be expected of him but he comes through, it should be viewed as a pleasant surprise.
That all being said, I don’t want Troy Tulowitzki’s attempted comeback with the New York Yankees to crash and burn. The man was excellent and fun to watch early in his career. To see injuries and ineffectiveness rob him of his second chance would be highly disappointing. If he can play shortstop at a high level until Didi Gregorius is recovered, the starting job is his.
And even though his time in pinstripes has opened with a bang, fans should look at Tulowitzki with low expectations. He has just as much chance of batting .192 the rest of spring training as he does batting over .500. His early home runs could easily be followed by a few hitless efforts.
Now, let’s assume Tulowitzki makes the team out of Spring Training and holds his own at the plate and in the field for two months. Around June, Didi Gregorius intensifies his rehab and a return date is set. At this point, given LeMahieu and Wade’s collective presence, odds are greater than none Tulowitzki and his discount contract will be traded to another team. The minimal money involved makes a deal easy to make, and maybe even the Yankees can get some young talent if they sell high.
Best case scenario, Troy Tulowitzki adds to the Yankees’ depth and provides stability until Gregorius comes back. Worst case scenario, he was a low-risk, high-reward signing that just didn’t work out.
Regardless of what happens, no one should be disappointed whether his New York tenure ends in two and a half weeks or two and a half months.