Rockies unearth a shortstop keeper in Tulowitzki

As the seventh overall pick in the 2005 draft, Troy Tulowitzki entered the Colorado Rockies’ organization with tremendous expectations after his career at Long Beach State.

Like most young players, the former Fremont High School of Sunnyvale star struggled with the adjustment to pro ball, but now, midway through this season, he looks like a legitimate NL Rookie of the Year candidate, a potential building block for a historically mediocre organization and a prize pickup for most fantasy baseball league owners.

Tulowitzki got a brief call-up to the Rockies in 2006 after playing less than a full season of minor-league ball and he hit .240 with a home run and six RBIs in 25 games at shortstop.

Because he did not register enough at-bats, the 22-year-old entered this season still with rookie eligibility and in the early stages of 2007, he certainly looked like one. He was hitting just .188 in late April and appeared to be on the verge of losing his starting shortstop job, but he has come alive over the past two months to quell any doubts about his status.

Through Wednesday, Tulowitzki had raised his average to a respectable .285, scored 48 runs and rapped 13 doubles. Recently, he has also displayed an improved power game.

After hitting just three homers through the first 71 games, Tulowitzki blasted five home runs in an eight-game stretch from June 21 to June 28, giving him nine home runs and 37 RBIs on the year.

Tulowitzki does have the benefit of playing in the thin air of Coors Field, but his home numbers (.301, four homers, 20 RBIs) are not as drastic in difference as his away statistics (.260, four homers, 16 RBIs) — except in average — indicating he will not be a weekly fantasy casualty whenever his team hits the road.

Also, at 6-foot-3 and 205 pounds, Tulowitzki is unusually big by traditional shortstop standards, meaning he has the physical upside to transform into an aggressive, power-hitting infielder in the mold of Alex Rodriguez.

With the flashes he has shown this season, Tulowitzki is a risk worth taking on the fantasy market.

WHO’S HOT?

» James Loney, 1B, Dodgers

» Rich Harden, SP, A’s

» Mike Jacobs, 1B, Marlins

» Jake Westbrook, SP, Indians

» Javier Vazquez, SP, White Sox

WHO’S NOT?

» Reggie Willits, OF, Angels

» Randy Wolf, SP, Dodgers

» Shaun Marcum, SP, Blue Jays

» A.J. Burnett, SP, Blue Jays

» Michael Barrett, C, Padres


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