Colorado Rockies fans expect to see Troy Tulowitzki starting every Opening Day for the next decade. And well they should, after the 10-year contract he signed with the Rockies during the offseason. It was a well-deserved contract for a shortstop who finished fifth in NL MVP voting for the last two years and won his first Gold Glove and Silver Slugger awards in 2010.
He was a 6.8 and 5.6 Wins Above Replacement (WAR) (via Baseball Reference) player the last two seasons, but his 5.6 in 2010 would have been higher had he not missed a month due to a fractured wrist. One less errant fastball and Tulowitzki would likely have had a stronger case (and stats) to top the MVP voting. He tried to make up for that with a torrid start to September. From Sept. 1-18, Tulowitzki hit 14 homers and drove in 33 runs. But after the 18th, the Rockies pretty much rolled over for the rest of the season. The only win the Rockies had after that point was a 10-9 victory over the Giants in which Tulo went 4-for-5 with five RBI, including the game-winning RBI double in the 10th inning.
What does Tulowitzki have in store for 2011? Long-term security in the form of a new contract won't change how he plays the game. Like the name of his college team, Tulowitzki is a "dirtbag" who wants to get his uniform messy and wants to win a World Series. His string of MVP-caliber seasons should continue
His backup will be Jonathan Herrera, who will make the team as the utility infielder. Herrera spent much of his time in the minors as a shortstop, but after breaking into the majors he has played the majority of games at second base. While he will not impress anyone with his bat, he is a solid defender and can make pitchers work while he is in the batter's box.
Down on the farm, most shortstops seemed destined for a change of position in the future. Chris Nelson, best known for his steal of home in a September game, began his career as a shortstop, but will not spend time at second and third bases to maximize his potential. Hector Gomez is a soon-to-be 23-year-old shortstop who has been lost in the shuffle due to multiple injuries over the last three seasons. If he can stay healthy and finally have a breakthrough, his ticket will likely be at second base.
If one day Tulowitzki does need to move over to third base, the Rockies will hope that 18-year-old Rosell Herrera will be able to step right in. Herrera played in the Dominican Summer for the 2010 season and will player for the Casper Ghosts in 2011. At 6-foot-3, 180 pounds, Herrera fits the same mold as Troy Tulowitzki as a shortstop. Only time will tell if he can approach that level.