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How Troy Tulowitzki can help the Yankees

Tulo isn’t projected to play much overall this year, but can he make his time count?

MLB: Spring Training-Pittsburgh Pirates at New York Yankees Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

One of the players that has performed well out of the gate to start spring training is the stopgap shortstop, Troy Tulowitzki. Spring training numbers aren’t a reliable indicator of what a player will wind up doing over the year, but in Tulo’s case seeing him healthy enough to put together some solid contact is the only indicator the Yankees really need to see at this point.

This will be an interesting year for Tulowitzki’s career path. After sitting out all of last season due to injury, he has a chance to reestablish himself in a short-term starting spot while Didi Gregorius recovers from Tommy John surgery. There isn’t a clear return date for Didi, so Tulo’s playing time over the course of the season is largely up in the air.

Steamer took their shot at predicting how much action Tulo will get, and put him just shy of 60 games played. During that time he’s projected to slash .252/.311/.422 with nine home runs and 31 RBI, a line good enough for 98 wRC+ and 0.9 WAR. In other words, hovering right around league average with some pop.

This is obviously not the most optimistic look at Tulo, nor is it reminiscent of his peak performance with Colorado. However, it would be a solid contribution from him, and it’s also pretty optimistic for a shortstop at age 34. The league doesn’t carry many starting shortstops north of 30 anymore, and the most productive one might be Brandon Crawford. Considering that over 151 games Crawford put up a .254/.325/.394 line with 14 homers and 54 RBI as a 31-year-old, the bar is not currently very high.

Tulowitzki is projected to get close to most of those numbers in nearly half the games, but the time frame is perhaps the biggest question mark. Assuming an optimistic return time for Didi, perhaps somewhere in July, there would still be the better part of half a season to play until Tulo becomes a bench player. Tulo could get the lion’s share of those games at short, but will be spelled regularly by DJ LeMahieu and Gleyber Torres. This will cut down on his opportunities a bit, but highly increase the odds that he stays healthy throughout the season.

This is the biggest key, the assumption of health. Tulowitzki is an interesting bet to be a productive player despite his past two years. He may even be a net positive one, considering the Yankees are only paying the league minimum for him. The Yankees will do their best to minimize that risk throughout the year, but ultimately Tulo will have to get through those 50-60 games intact to stay on target. If he can contribute and stay healthy, he can consider it a successful year.