Evaluating the Talent: Todd Helton

Oh Todd Helton. I’m not even sure where to start in proclaiming my love for him. The fact that he has played more games in a Rockies uniform than anybody else makes me so happy, because there are few active baseball players I respect more than Helton. No doubt Troy Tulowitzki will be the long-term face of the franchise, but Helton was the first one.

And how about Helton’s 2o11? After 2010 it seemed like he might be closer to done than we’d first thought; his offensive numbers were way down and his back problems were pretty serious. But last season, he reminded us just exactly why he’s one of the best. Injuries and age have no effect on things like plate discipline, defensive instinct, and a willingness to approach every at-bat in terms of how best to benefit the team. Helton gave everyone a master class in the art of playing like a pro last season, and I’m looking very forward to seeing him do it again in 2012.

Just what did he contribute from a numbers standpoint? His 2.6 WAR was the 5th-best on the team (and the top 4 guys were all at least 12 years younger). His 14 home runs were also 5th-best. That’s impressive no matter how you look at it, but when you consider that the Toddfather is pushing 40, it’s borderline incredible. Helton was the only Rockies besides Tulo to hit over .300 (both hit .302) in 2011. His consistency and steadfastness were a marvel. And he’s still one of the best defensive first basemen in the business. His UZR was 4.0, 4th-best in the National League. Considering his age and diminishing flexibility, that’s very special.

Okay, I’ll stop praising him long enough to straight talk about where he will find himself next season. He’ll be the starting first baseman and will most likely hit 5th in the lineup (perhaps 6th when facing a left-handed pitcher, in which case Michael Cuddyer would bat 5th). He will need frequent days off and will be covered by Jason Giambi, but let’s hope those days won’t be too frequent. If nothing else, the Toddfather is a total class act, and I want him where I can see him.

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