Not long after signing him, the Yankees said that Troy Tulowitzki would be the starting shortstop, at least until Didi Gregorius came back. Whatever it is they saw in him while scouting his workouts, it’s translated into game action so far. It’s only spring training, but Tulowitzki has already hit two home runs, including one against his former team, the Blue Jays.
Despite the pair of dingers, there’s still plenty of reason to be skeptical of Tulowitzki’s chances to succeed in 2019, not the least of which is injuries. He hasn’t played since 2017, and even before that, he’s had trouble staying on the field over the years. Beyond his proclivity for injury, he simply hasn’t produced at the plate at a high level since 2014.
Even with the negatives, Tulowitkzi has gone on to generate excitement in camp. If you go way back, he really does have a history of great hitting. He appears healthy now, and he’s started spring as well as he could have. Maybe this does work out, and the Yankees have a first-rate shortstop until Gregorius returns.
In spite of this optimism, though, we have to remain prepared for things to not quite work out with Tulowitzki. Here is my own personal theory on how Troy Tulowitzki’s 2019 season with the Yankees will play out.
Fresh off winning AL Player of the Week, Tulowitzki hits his third home run of the season, helping the Yankees beat the Red Sox. All around the internet, you can find articles, tweets, and the like praising Brian Cashman for locking down the “steal of the offseason.” Jokes fly around about how the Blue Jays’ highest-paid player is helping the Yankees take a lead in the AL East.
The Yankees finish off a sweep of Manny Machado’s Padres. Tulowitzki has slowed down somewhat from his early pace, but is still hitting above average overall. Think something along the lines of a 115 OPS+, to go along with serviceable defense at short. His stats aren’t terribly far off from Machado’s, who has been good but not great thus far in his debut season in San Diego, and people are not afraid to point it out. A few weeks earlier, Tulowitzki had fouled a ball off his ankle and missed a couple games, but he seems to be recovered.
Bothered by the previous ankle troubles, Tulowitzki goes into a slump. His OPS for the month is under .400. Aaron Boone regularly fields questions on his shortstop’s troubles. “We saw what he’s capable of in April and May,” the Yankees manager says. They give him a couple days off to try and get some rest.
It turned out the ankle injury was a bit more serious than expected, and Tulowitzki has to be placed on the 10-day injured list. He is activated right after the All-Star break, and returns by hitting a revenge homer against the Blue Jays.
Tulowitzki’s OPS+ has dropped beneath 100. Luckily for the Yankees, Gregorius has returned, and is slotted back into his starting shortstop spot. The Yankees are a bit hesitant to release Tulowitzki because of what he did earlier in the season, but his playing time in reduced.
With the season wrapping up and the Yankees headed to the playoffs, Tulowitzki will not be joining. His season is shut down with another injury. After everything that happened early in the season, his stats end up below average overall.
This is just one man’s theory. I would very much hope that Tulowitzki does perform well all season, as that will generally mean good things for the Yankees. I can also see the Yankees and the media around them getting smug about his signing and the Yankees being smarter than everyone else, only for everything to blow up in their face.