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Troy Tulowitzki Injury: Josh Rutledge Becomes Fantasy Relevant

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San Francisco, CA, USA; Colorado Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki (2) connects in the first inning against the San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park. Giants won 6-5. Bob Stanton-USA TODAY Sports

Troy Tulowitzki was an incredibly risky draft pick this season after sitting out more than 100 games in 2012 with a groin injury. Owners that took a shot on him were rewarded quickly as he put up a .347/.413/.635 line with 16 HR, 51 RBI, and 41 runs over just 61 games. Unfortunately, his season has been stopped in its tracks by a broken rib suffered while diving for a ball, leaving a crater-sized hole in the Rockies lineup and fantasy lineups alike.

With Tulowitzki out anywhere from four-to-six weeks, the Rockies’ middle infield situation looks dim but there is a chance to strike gold with a sleeper like Josh Rutledge who had been sent down just a few weeks ago. Let’s take a look at the Rockies’ middle infield situation and how it’s going to affect your fantasy season going forward.

Josh Rutledge: I was excited about Rutledge’s chances to be an impact player at a shallow position this season after he put up a .274 BA, eight HR, 37 RBI, 37 R, 20 2B, and seven steals in 73 games last year. Instead, Rutledge followed up his rookie campaign with a pedestrian .242 BA, five homers, 13 RBI, 26 R, and five steals in 43 games. The Rockies sent him down to Triple-A where he’s seen a nice resurgence, owning a .348/.438/.565 line with two homers, 10 RBI, 13 R, nine doubles, and a steal in 69 at-bats. The Tulo injury couldn’t have come at a better time for Rutledge who now has the chance to prove his worth.

Whether he plays short or second moving forward, I expect Rutledge to put up production similar to last season. He’s a guy who usually has a solid batting average and the ability to steal 20 and hit 15 home runs. He’s a good doubles hitter, though he hasn’t shown it much in the Majors this year, which is a highly underrated trait. If you’re missing Tulo, you can do a lot worse than Rutledge.

Jonathan Herrera: Herrera got first dibs at the starting shortstop gig when Tulo went down but a fantasy producer he isn’t. While he owns a solid .284 average this season, he’s not a guy who has ever contributed on offense, owning career highs of three home runs, 21 RBI, four steals, and 34 R. I wouldn’t expect much more than that so let’s just go ahead and leave him on the free agent market.

DJ LeMahieu: LeMahieu is an interesting player and I’m not as quick to dismiss him as I am Herrera. He put up a very solid .297/.332/.410 line last year and while his RBI/run production this season has been dreadful he has added steals to his game with seven swipes through 27 games. Based on what we’ve seen so far and his minor league production, he’s a guy who has a pretty good average, doesn’t strike out or walk, can steal about 15+ bases (though he get’s caught a lot), and gets extra-base hits. If you need steals in deeper leagues, he’s not a bad option with more playing time likely coming his way.

Troy Tulowitzki: As much as it sucks to lose a guy who was likely your best fantasy player, Tulowitzki owners got off easy on this one. The term injury prone has been tossed around a lot since he went down but that’s not entirely fair. Prior to last year, he only missed about 58 games over the previous two seasons. Not great but not a huge injury risk. The biggest concern was his leg health which hasn’t been a problem and a broken rib isn’t an injury that happens because one is prone to them. His legs are healthy, though his steals have evaporated completely after he stole 20 back in 2009. That’s the most important part. Sure, you miss him for four or five weeks but fractures are much easier to recover from than muscle injuries and he should be good to go the rest of the way following the All-Star break. There’s no reason he can’t make a run at 30/100/85 when he returns.

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