Yesterday, when I was looking at the Rockies roster, I noticed something interesting. Of the 26 players to appear in a game for the Rockies so far this season, only five are older than Troy Tulowitzki. Okay, technically that's not quite true; Drew Stubbs, Kyle Kendrick, and Boone Logan are all older than Tulo by less than two months, but if we subscribe to the fact that all of these players are entering their age 30 season, only five guys currently wearing a Rockies uniform are entering a season older than that. (Jorge De La Rosa will make it six when he returns)
This is interesting because Tulo is middle aged as a player, yet he's surrounded by a team that has a significant amount of talent younger than him. Typically, young talent gets better. Not always. Every individual player's case is unique, but if you have a large group of young, talented players, you should be on the upswing. This is where the Rockies appear to find themselves, and it's not getting all that much attention, but maybe it should.
Out of curiosity, I wanted to see what the Rockies looked like in this category compared to the rest of the division, so I made the following table:
(The ages listed below are the player's ages as of July 1st, 2015 in order to pick a date as close to the middle of the season as possible)
Several things stand out here, but let's focus briefly on what we see from each team.
1) The Rockies just might have more 30 and under talent than any other team in the division. Guys like Tulo, Cargo, Logan and Ottavino are all in the prime of their careers, but perhaps even more significantly the Rockies have a bunch of talent already cemented on the major league roster under the age of 27 in Corey Dickerson, Wilin Rosario, Eddie Butler, Nolan Arenado, Jordan Lyles, and Tyler Matzek.
Why is this so important? It means the Rockies can get better as the season goes on because there's still a large and critical chunk of the roster young enough to grow into its talent a little more. The club could see drop offs from guys like LaTroy Hawkins, Justin Morneau, Rafael Betancourt (although anything you get out of him is an upward trend from last season), and Jorge De La Rosa when he returns, but the number of guys trending up on this team seems to far outweigh the number of guys trending down.
This does not mean the Rockies are better than the Dodgers or even the Padres, but it does mean they have a really good opportunity to close the gap and maybe make this a race by late summer.
2) The Giants are really, really old. Since they won last year I guess we can be nice and call them experienced, but they only have eight guys on the roster this year under the age of 30, and of those guys Joe Panik is the only one I look at and think he should be on the upswing. The others like Bumgarner, Posey, Crawford, and Belt all seem already established (I guess Belt could technically still have his best baseball ahead of him too), and the rest of the important roster pieces are either already in decline or are at an age where decline should be a real concern.
It's not difficult to envision a scenario where this team gets toasted and needs to dive into a rebuild project before long. This may sound nuts considering they just won the World Series, but just look at that roster and make a list of players trending up. Somebody with fingers missing could still probably count them on one hand.
3) The Dodgers are actually pretty well balanced despite having seven guys entering an age 33 or older season. They have young, everyday talent in guys like Puig and Pederson, and they've already gotten solid contributions this season from Yimi Garcia and Paco Rodriguez to balance off some of the older players. They still have more guys at risk of dropping off than the Rockies, but they're already ahead of the Rockies on paper, and unless they all take big falls, I think they also have enough guys on the upswing to counteract most of the loses.
4) San Diego has a fairly balanced roster, but with them age is not the big question. Their litmus test is if all the pieces they acquired fit together.
5) The D'backs have the youngest roster in the division, but it's completely raw and not ready to compete.
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I don't know if this will work out for the Rockies. There's too many moving variables. All of their young guys could plateau while Morneau, De La Rosa, and Hawkins all collapse. Then again, all of their old guys might plateau while all of their important young guys take leaps forward. More likely, something somewhere in the middle will happen.
One thing I do know for sure though is that the true talent of any given major league roster is constantly in flux. Baseball teams have a funny way of getting better or getting worse even when you don't do anything to them.
The best players on these rosters right now will not be the best players on these rosters five years from now. You can just look at any MLB leader board over a three to five year period and most of the guys on there will move around drastically, especially in the pitching department.
Change here should be good for most of the Rockies on paper, and change for several important pieces on the Giants, Dodgers, and Padres roster should be bad whenever father time starts to rob some of these guys of their abilities.
The Rockies are not a contender on paper, but when you take all the young talent they have into account, it's pretty easy to see why their stock in the NL West is probably about to trend up. If they do start closing this gap, it could be a fun summer at 20th & Blake. They're not a far off as some think.