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Troy Tulowitzki: Fantasy NL LVP

If you need to see the definition of LVP, then please check out Eno’s article where he describes the fantasy awards that we’re doling out here. You can also just accept that it stands for Least Valuable Player and stay with me right here. It’s pretty self-explanatory, right? And with the title of the piece, obviously you know who won. But rather than just declare Troy Tulowitzki as the guy who screwed fantasy owners over the most and walk away with the shortest article in RotoGraphs history, let’s look into it a little further.

With 17 RotoGraphs writers voting, here’s how the ballots tallied for the category:

Troy Tulowitzki  (12)
Tim Lincecum  (3)
Justin Upton  (1)
Lance Berkman  (1)

While the voting wasn’t unanimous, Tulo was the clear-cut winner in a landslide vote. And why wouldn’t he be? He was a no-brainer, first-round draft choice and likely even a top five pick in numerous leagues. His auction value in standard, non-keeper, mixed leagues was likely between $25 and $30 while in NL-only play he probably cost anywhere from $30 to $35.  And for that price, fantasy owners received 203 plate appearances that netted them just 33 runs scored, eight home runs, 27 RBI and a pair of stolen bases.  Not quite the return on their investment they were expecting, was it?

After a modest start in April, Tulo began to turn it up in May and it looked as if he was going to be worth every auction dollar or first round draft pick. Unlike Jacoby Ellsbury, who won the AL LVP award, Tulo was doing just fine to start the season. Across the board, his numbers were both strong and comparable to his career totals with sound showings in rate stats such as ISO and wOBA. He even had a slightly lower than usual strikeout rate, but again, the 200-plus plate appearances is still a relatively small sample.

He was on his way to another year as the league’s top shortstop until a groin injury hit at the end of May. By the end of June, surgery was deemed necessary and his return for the season was in question. While owners were teased with hope for a return on occasion in August, he was officially shut down in September and never played another game in 2012. Your first round draft choice was a bust. Your auction dollars were wasted.

It’s all pretty cut and dry really. Given his injury history, you knew that there was a risk that he would lose some time during the season, but never did anyone think that he would lose four of the six months to the year. What can you do? That’s the way it goes. Injuries happen and some are obviously more severe than others. Should that deter you from investing in Tulo again next year? Probably not. Obviously it would linger somewhere in the back of my mind, but when it comes down to drafting in 2013, you have to be smart and realize that, when healthy, he’s still the best fantasy shortstop out there.

Of the others who received votes, it’s easy to understand why they got the nod, but also why they weren’t the final winner.  Upton has been both injury prone and inconsistent throughout his five and a half seasons and, in my opinion, a questionable first-rounder to begin with, Lincecum’s numbers have been in significant decline for the last three years, and did anyone really think Berkman was going to repeat his previous season’s totals? OK, maybe one guy did. But while none of these guys paid a decent dividend on their investment, they still cost less and provided more than our “winner”, Mr. Tulowitzki.