Nolan Arenado, Third Baseman, Colorado Rockies
2013 season (minors): 18 G, 66 AB, .364 BA, 3 HR, 21 RBI, 0 SB, 1.059 OPS
2013 season (majors): 133 G, 486 AB, .267 BA, 10 HR, 52 RBI, 2 SB, .706 OPS
Following in the footsteps of Troy Tulowitzki, Carlos Gonzalez and Wilin Rosario, Nolan Arenado is the Rockies’ latest big hitting prospect to make the bigs. After a roller coaster 2013 season, the 22-year-old third baseman looks to plant his feet near the middle of the Rockies’ lineup and put together a together a breakout season.
Selected out of high school in the second round of the 2009 MLB Draft, Arenado debuted with the organization that year in the Rookie Leagues as an 18-year-old. There, he showed off his raw talents, hitting .300 with a .351 OBP in 54 games.
The following season found him in Single-A, where he took a big step forward, finishing out with 12 home runs, 65 RBI, a .308 average and .858 OPS in 92 games. But it was in 2011 at High-A Modesto where Arenado really started to come into his own with a 20-homer season. The budding slugger drove in 122 while hitting .298/.349/.487 in his first extended season (134 games). That made him a consensus major league top 40-50 prospect in following year.
Unfortunately, in 2012, Arenado stagnated in Double-A. He managed just 12 home runs and 56 RBIs in the same number of games as the previous year, while his peripherals all dipped. This pushed him off the top-50 lists, but the Rockies didn’t overreact.
The team moved him up to Triple-A to begin last season, and then up to the majors within a month. On April 28, Arenado got his first start, going 0-3 with a walk. The next day was better; he went 3-for-6 with his first career home run, three runs scored and two RBIs. He started the rest of the year at the hot corner in what was an up-and-down season.
Hitting all over the lineup in his first year, Arenado showed flashes, but just wasn’t consistent enough. He’ll have to improve against right-handers this season in order to turn the corner. While Arenado had few issues with lefties, hitting them to the tune of a .296/.349/.496 line, he managed to hit just .256/.281/.370 against righties. This was an issue for him in the Minors too, where he hit almost .100 points lower against right-handers.
As with many young hitters, he also needs to be a bit more patient at the plate and draw more walks. This is a bit of a concern, because he also didn’t get on base at a particularly high rate in the Minors (.345 OBP career, .337 in Double-A). He hit just 10 home runs all of last season, so the Rockies don’t know if they have the guy who hit 20 homers in 133 games in High-A in 2011, or the guy who’s hit 25 in two seasons (spanning three levels) since.
Arenado is still entering his prime, and if the Rockies’ lineup can stay healthy, he’ll have plenty of protection around him. With job security and that year of experience under his belt, he is expected to do bigger and better things in 2014. But will it work out that way?