Analyzing another lineup option for the Rockies, one that creates chaos at the top of the order?
Most assumptions about the Rockies everyday lineup for 2013 include Carlos Gonzalez in left field, Dexter Fowler in center, a platoon of Michael Cuddyer and Tyler Colvin in right and Todd Helton at first base.
However, there is perhaps another option with Eric Young Jr. in left field, Fowler in center, Gonzalez in right, the Cuddyer/Colvin platoon moving to first base and Helton becoming more of a part time player.
Before I make my argument for EY2 in the starting lineup, let me first address Helton moving to more of a bench role.
Helton is without a doubt a legend in Colorado baseball lore, he was the face of the franchise for years, his number will rightly be the first one the club retires and in my humble opinion he's a Hall of Famer. However, it's 2013 and well time for the player, the club and the fanbase to face reality, and the reality is that Todd Helton turns 40 in August. Forty. The big 4-0. Unfortunately, there aren't many 40-year-olds playing every day in MLB, now or ever.
And Helton isn't just 39 pushing 40, he's 39 pushing 40 with a bad back, which means he's likely going to miss time anyway. He's only logged 500 plate appearances in one season since 2007, the season in question being 2009. Not only has his playing time been limited, he hasn't done a whole lot with the at-bats he's been able to have. Helton has only logged a .400 OBP once and an .800 OPS twice in the last five years.
It may be best for both he and the team if Helton were to accept playing a couple days a week, getting 200-300 at-bats and ride off into the sunset a Rockies legend.
A good candidate to take some at-bats from Helton is 27-year-old Eric Young Jr.
Young seemed to find a home in the outfield last season, looking much improved defensively and setting career highs in nearly every offensive statistic. He hit .316 with an OPS of .825 and 14 stolen bases in 2012. Granted it was in just 196 plate appearances, but sometimes you have to rely on the good old-fashioned eye test.
The Eric Young Jr. I saw in 2012 looked like a totally different player than the one that played in Denver from 2009-2011, he just seemed much more confident and comfortable at the Major League level, and sometimes that's all a player needs to reach his full potential.
Also, the addition of Young could provide a serious boost for the lineup overall. Take the example of the Dominican Republic squad in the World Baseball Classic. The Dominicans hit Alejandro De Aza ninth, Jose Reyes leadoff and Erick Aybar second and those three have been creating chaos on the basepaths, especially when De Aza can reach base.
Putting EY at the top of the Rockies lineup with Fowler and Gonzalez could have the same effect. Pitchers get so focused on the speed on the bases and in the batters' box, they're much more prone to making a mistake. And a guy like Gonzalez, Troy Tulowitzki or even Fowler can turn a mistake pitch into a crooked number quite quickly, especially at Coors Field.
With Tony La Russa as a mentor, Walt Weiss could even try out hitting Young ninth behind the pitcher, I'm not saying that's the best idea, but it would be a very La Russa-esque thing to try for a couple of games.
With a guy that can do the kind of things offensively that Young can, it would be doing the team a disservice not to carve out a decent number of at bats for him. He proved in 2012 that he is definitely more than a pinch runner.