Colorado Rockies 2012: Can Older Lineup Contend in NL West?

Jonathan BieleckiContributor IFebruary 22, 2012

Todd Helton, 38, is one of four projected Rockies starters over 34.
Todd Helton, 38, is one of four projected Rockies starters over 34.Christian Petersen/Getty Images

For years, the Colorado Rockies front office was telling fans, “We’re building from within. Be patient with us. You’ll see results.”

The tune was abruptly changed during the past off-season.

Only a handful of players remain from the original “Gen-R” youth movement trumpeted by the Rockies, and, at least for the 2012 season, the direction of the team going forward is again a mystery to fans.

The stated goal remains the same. The question is, can the Rockies older lineup actually contend for the NL West title in 2012?

The average age of the Rockies projected 2012 Opening Day roster is over 32 years old. By comparison, the average age of the players who started the most games in 2011 was 29.5.

Granted, last year was a disaster for the Rockies, so it could be argued that increasing the age and experience of the starting lineup is a change the team needs to gain a little more consistency.

However, it’s hard to imagine that the entire 33-and-older group of Ramon Hernandez, Todd Helton, Marco Scutaro, Casey Blake and Michael Cuddyer will be able to stay healthy all year, much less stave off the inevitable effects of age in the stat column.

Don’t be surprised if young talents like Nolan Arenado and Wilin Rosario push Blake and Hernandez by later in the season—and have an effect on the average age—but the set of circumstances that needs to happen in order for the younger players to get the call points towards another rebuilding year at 20th & Blake (a tired term at this point).

Outside of Coors Field, the odds really begin to stack against the Rockies.

The Arizona Diamondbacks shocked the National League last year by winning the NL West, and they didn't hurt their chances of a repeat by bringing in starting pitcher Trevor Cahill and left fielder Jason Kubel to bolster a young lineup that seems like it’s coming into its own.

In San Francisco, scoring runs will again be a problem for the Giants, but the strength of the pitching staff is never in question. They've proven they can win a World Series without changing their current team makeup.

The Los Angeles Dodgers are led by Matt Kemp and Clayton Kershaw, both of whom are arguably the best at their respective positions in all of Major League Baseball and capable of carrying a team for an extended period of time. Of course, everyone is picking the San Diego Padres to finish last in the NL West, but the same was said in early 2010 and they went on to win 90 games.

Spring Training is barely underway and there is much that remains to be seen. But, at this point, it's hard to argue with those picking younger Diamondbacks and Giants teams to again battle each other for the NL West crown.

It won't be surprising to see the Rockies start strong out of the gate in April and May, and if Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez can get hot at the same time—which is distressingly uncommon—perhaps they will be jockeying for position in the early summer months.

But, the sad truth that fans may have to realize is that the lineup as it stands now is probably not built to succeed for the duration of an entire season, based on age.