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Troy Tulowitzki is baseball's premier shortstop

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The Rockies have the best shortstop in all of baseball, and it really isn't even close.

Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Troy Tulowitzki is not only baseball's best shortstop, but he might just be the league's best player in any position. When healthy, he's capable of singlehandedly winning a game with his bat and glove. As Rockies fans, we've been spoiled by having such a phenomenal player at a premier position since August 30, 2006 — Tulo's professional debut against the New York Mets. His injury history is well known, but there's no reason to believe he's going to land on the DL again this season, which I'll get into a bit later in the article. Although it's probably unfair and probably over-exaggerated, the Rockies' seasons are said to go as Tulo's do. We hear it every year: if Tulo is healthy, the Rockies are contenders; if Tulo is on the DL the Rockies are bottom-feeders. While I personally think the Rockies' problems extend far past the health of Tulowitzki — take the lack of consistency in both the rotation and bullpen, for example — it's clear that when he's healthy, the Rockies certainly do have a very good chance of winning.

Incumbent starter

Tulo's firmly established as our starter, and it is easy to see why. His career slash line is .299/.373/.517, good for a wRC+ of 126. Take a look at his numbers last year, and you'll see absolutely mind-blowing numbers. Tulo's obviously been bothered throughout his career by a number of different injuries, so I don't think his career numbers reflect just how good he really is. Here's a look at his 2014 season. Take a seat if you're not already sitting.

2014 375 71 107 18 1 21 52 13.3 15.2 .340 .432 .603 .444 171 5.1
2015 (Steamer Projections) 600 85 158 31 2 28 92 11.1 15.5 .303 .385 .527 .396 138 5.8
2015 (ZiPS Projections) 457 66 125 23 2 23 70 10.7 14.9 .313 .389 .553 .402 n/a 5.2

His 2014 numbers look like something from a video game on its easiest level. It's like your QB in Madden averaging 450 yards per game or your center scoring 150 points a year in NHL. I'm not going to get too much into explanations about some of the sabermetrics here, but let's take a quick look at wRC+ for kicks. A statistic that is both park and league adjusted, wRC+ has an average rating every year of 100. Every point above 100 represents a percentage increase in hitting ability compared to the league average in respect to runs created. This means that the metric measures Tulo as having created 71% more runs than the league average. 71%! That was good enough for best in the league in 2014. Another common metric used to evaluate a player's contribution to a team is WAR, or Wins Above Replacement. It's not perfect, but WAR is probably the best statistic used to compare players as it encompasses a player's work on both sides of the ball. Mike Trout led the league in 2014 with a WAR of 7.8, which translates to 2.6 more wins added than Tulo's 5.2. But Trout did that in 157 games, 66 more than Tulo played. If you extrapolate both players' numbers to gauge WAR over a full season of 162 games, Trout's WAR jumps to a hair over 8.0. Tulo's rises to 9.25. I realize it's a stretch to compare them like that, but there's a strong case to be made for Tulo being baseball's best player.

Not only is he a stud at the plate, but he's also a tremendous fielder. Twice a Gold Glove winner, Tulo provides excellent fielding at a premier position. Along with DJ LeMahieu, Nolan Arenado, and Justin Morneau, the Rockies have one of the best infields in baseball. I was tempted to embed the video of DJ and Tulo making a sensational play to turn a double play that I used Wednesday, but I have to restrain myself at some point, because I honestly think it's becoming a dangerous addiction. Finally, add the organization's beloved work ethic and leadership qualities that Tulo possesses in spades and you have a truly complete player whose game is absolutely special.

His injury list is long enough to be considered a novella, but let's just take a look at injuries that have kept him out of at least 15 games, courtesy of Baseball Prospectus.

Date On Date Off Transaction Games Side Body Part Injury Severity Surgery
Apr. 30, 2008 June 20, 2008 15-DL 46 Left Thigh Strain Quadriceps Tendon n/a
June 18, 2010 July 27, 2010 15-DL 33 Left Wrist Fracture Hamate HBP n/a
May 31, 2012 Oct. 4, 2012 15-DL 113 Left Groin Surgery Scar Tissue Near Nerve June 21, 2012
June 13, 2013 July 11, 2013 15-DL 26 Right Trunk Fracture Rib n/a
July 20, 2014 Sept. 29, 2014 60-DL 64 Left Hip Surgery Labrum Tear Aug. 15, 2014

I'm not a doctor, but these don't seem to be the case of a recurring injury, which has been the rhetoric surrounding Tulo nearly his entire career. Excluding his rookie season, Tulo has exceeded 100 games 6 out of 8 seasons. Over the 5 seasons between 2007 and 2011, Tulo averaged about 134 games. It isn't as outlandish as people make it out to be that Tulo could hit this number again.

MLB-quality depth

Would it be wrong of me to just send you to my SotP article on second base I wrote on Wednesday for this section? Depth here is pretty much the same. Daniel Descalso, who spent a number of seasons with the St. Louis Cardinals, will serve as the Rockies' primary utility infielder. He's a guy who can play pretty much every infield position, and his versatility will be valuable. He's not going to impress you with his glove or bat — his career slash line of .243/.313/.341 is somewhat less than encouraging, although he'll likely benefit a bit from playing at Coors — but nonetheless he's a serviceable option at shortstop or second base who can be counted on to be a steady, if unspectacular plug.

Again, Charlie Culberson is next on the list of guys who could provide depth should the Rockies need it. As I mentioned Wednesday, he's been a pretty awful hitter thus far. A wRC+ of 33 in 2014 is kind of mind-numbingly bad, but he has shown the ability to hit in the minors, where he posted a wRC+ of 122 with 14 homers and 64 RBIs in 419 PAs. He's only played 148 games in the majors across three seasons, and he will be entering the 2015 season just 26 years old. It's not unreasonable to think Culberson could figure out hitting in the majors with some more time. Like Descalso, Culberson can play a number of positions and, if nothing else, provides value in doing so. He's a guy some of our staff members think might surprise some people down the road. He's clearly never going to be a slugger, but Culberson could definitely develop into a decent utility guy if he can improve his hitting.

Other options include Rafael Ynoa and Cristhian Adames. Ynoa impressed in his debut, hitting .343/.380/.463 in 19 games. Steamer projects him playing just 12 next year, but I think he could see more than that. He's another guy who's versatile, able to play third, short, and second without being a liability. Adames' glove is pretty much MLB-ready, but he'll have to improve his performance at the plate if he wants to leapfrog Culberson. He's shown the ability to make contact and while he'll never hit for power, Adames could develop into a very useful bench player. His 122 wRC+ in Triple-A last year is encouraging.

On the farm

Trevor Story was once pegged as a five-tool guy at the shortstop position. Scouts have been more negative about him as of late, largely due to issues with pitch recognition and a resultant high strikeout rate of 34%, but I'm still high enough on Story's potential to consider him a potential MLB-starter one day. He's got a good glove and, if he figures out his struggles at the plate, is a guy whose floor is likely that of a solid utility infielder. Although that might be a little discouraging to hear about a guy who was once projected as a possible everyday player, don't discard the value in having a player like Story on the bench, as a good glove and some potential pop provides the manager with a player who won't look out of place stepping in for a starter due to injury or a need for rest.

Ostensibly a second baseman, Forrest Wall could possibly play short in a pinch as well. Taken 35th overall in the 2014 draft, Wall was arguably the best prep bat in the draft. He's also got great speed. Although an arm injury limited Wall to second base in high school, some reports indicate that the severity of his injury may have been overstated and that his arm strength is possibly better than advertised. He'll likely stay at second, or possibly play some in center, but Wall could probably play short if needed.

Emergency options

No one comes close to Tulo. There's no one better than him in all of baseball and second place isn't really close. The Rockies have the best of the best at a premier position. If they need to look outside the organization, other options are again a trade for Jed Lowrie. This is contingent on an unlikely call up for Carlos Correa. Finally, as I mentioned Wednesday as options for second, Kelly Johnson could be a cheap option and a trade might be possible for Stephen Drew of the Yankees, especially if Jose Pirela or Robert Refsnyder are called up.