2005 draft ties two budding stars together forever
Ryan Braun and Troy Tulowitzki were both drafted out of college in the 2005 Major League Baseball draft. Braun was selected 5th overall by the Milwaukee Brewers out of Miami while Tulowitzki was taken 7th overall by the Colorado Rockies out of Long Beach State. Tulowitzki arrived in the majors first playing in 25 games in 2006. After a strong 2007 spring training he broke camp as the starting short stop beating out Clint Barmes.
Braun got called to the bigs in late May of that same season when the Crew had struggled to score (and win) after a great start. Braun had been on fire in the minors and was immediately placed at third, hitting third. His call up was the beginning of one of the best Rookie of the Year battles in recent memory.
Tulowitzki had an incredible Rookie campaign hitting .291 w/ 24 HR’s and 99 RBI. He was above average in the field and led his team on one of the great late season runs in baseball history; winning a ridiculous 21 of 22 games they made the playoffs with an extra inning Matt Holiday face plant. They went on to romp through the NL playoffs 7-0 before being swept by Boston in the World Series.
Unbelievably, Braun was even better. The late call up translated into 150 fewer AB’s yet Braun hit .324 w/ 34 HR’s and 97 RBI and an OPS of 1.004. The Brewers led the NL Central for most of the season but faded in the end – a stark contrast to the Rockies finish. Braun was not the reason as in September he ranked 3rd in Runs and RBI and 5th in HR’s among ALL Players.
Another disparity was the abysmal defense played by Braun. His fielding percentage of .895 was the worst by a regular in 30 years. This mattered little to the Rookie of the Year award voters as Braun took home the honor from three major outlets – The Sporting News, Baseball America and the Baseball Writers Association of America.
Both players were rewarded quite early by their respective franchises. Tulowitzki signed a six-year deal with a club option for 2014 in the off season. In May of 2008, Braun signed a seven-year extension that is the richest ever to a player with such limited time-of-service. Tulowitzki’s had been the previous high and both contracts amounted to exactly 45 million dollars.
The numbers were just as similar on the field. Braun moved to left field and has been better than expected in the field committing few errors and making some great plays. Some question his range and my dad would tell you that you can’t make an error if you don’t even get there. He does make some outstanding plays and has a cannon. Watching him every day you also begin to notice a knack for getting there when it matters.
My perception may be warped of what a good outfielder is after watching Carlos Lee do whatever it was he did out there before Braun. But he is not killing the Brewers out there and Carlos Gomez in center more than makes up for anything Braun lacks.
Tulowitzki finished in the top 5 in MVP voting in both 2009 and 2010. He won his first of what will likely be many Gold Gloves last season and is arguably the best player offensively and defensively at his position.
Injuries however have been a bit of a concern. He missed 61 games in 2008 after a torn quad. After returning to action on June 20th he was out again on July 5th after lacerating his hand while smashing a bat in a tunnel. This was after being removed from the lineup during a slow start coming back. He was again injured in 2010 missing 40 games with a fractured wrist after being hit by a pitch.
While certainly not “chronic” injuries and more bad luck; this missed time has allowed Braun to amass almost 500 more at bats over the past three seasons. The result – 70 more runs, 160 more hits, 25 more HRs and 100 more RBI.
The numbers are extraordinary when you project out the average numbers for each player over a 162 – game season. The two are so statistically similar over that large of a sample that you could argue that both players are the best in baseball.
|*162 Game averages from www.baseballreference.com – Remarkably similar…|
This last off season, Tulowitzki signed a massive contract extension through the 2020 season. He will make $163 million if the contract were to play all the way out. Tulowitzki cited Cal Ripken and the departure of Matt Holiday as reasons for reaching out to the team to discuss an extension. He decided he wanted to be one of those players that spent his whole career with one team.
Last week, Braun signed a massive contract extension through the 2020 season. He will be paid slightly less, again based on the contract actually playing out and has deferred money into 2030. Braun would actually make more in 2020 if both clubs exercised their options.
Braun cited players like Robin Yount and Cal Ripken as idols that he wanted to replicate. He reached out to the team for this extension. Both players are in the prime of their careers and are vibrant and exciting players.
The career paths of these two budding mega-stars are remarkably similar and both have lifted up franchises and performed in key moments. They got paid without much of the rhetoric that goes on with today’s athletes and agents.
Stats do not tell every story by they are a key way to compare two players. The evidence suggests they are both phenomenal. Tulowitzki is in everyone’s current argument regarding the best in the game – at any position. I don’t hear Braun’s name mentioned very often. I’m not sure how important the argument really is when they both perform at such a high level.
As a rule at the youth levels the best player plays short and the left or right fielder is generally the most adept hitter with the least chance of losing you the game in the field. Braun is much better than that and I’m not sure they aren’t each the best.
But Braun’s home for a long time is the place where we all learned you can’t have ties in baseball so I must declare that just like when we were kids the best player is playing short.
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