Nolan Arenado was drafted out of a California high school in the 2nd round of the 2009 MLB Draft by the Colorado Rockies. Arenado played some catcher in high school, but he was drafted as an infielder, which seems to be a good choice by the Rockies, considering their top prospect’s quick ascension through the minors.
To see how productive Arenado has been, you need to look no further than his career minor league statistics:
Statistical Areas of Focus:
Arenado showed very good plate discipline as an 18-year-old in short-season ball, which didn’t hold in his first full season; however, while he didn’t take as many pitches in Asheville in 2010, he didn’t strikeout at an alarming rate and his gap power (41 doubles) was a nice preview for his 2011 breakout season. In 2011, Arenado’s statistics were aided by the bandbox stadiums of the California League, but he maintained a tremendous contact rate, while showing similar gap power (32 doubles) with a slight increase in home runs. His 122 RBI in 2011 are impressive on paper, but they don’t represent a number that can translate to the majors as a “normal” counting statistic. In 2012, Arenado was, in a way, a disappointment. He maintained his contact rates but his power dropped off. He seemed to miss the thin air of California in the Texas League in 2012, but his 36 doubles still showed a solid approach, and at the age of 21, Arenado still possessed some projection.
Arenado has 11 doubles and three home runs in just 44 total at-bats, which leads to an impressive .909 slugging percentage in the early going. Arenado’s statistics will likely take another leap forward in 2013 due to the thin air of the Pacific Coast League, particularly in Colorado Springs, the Rockies Triple-A affiliate. Arenado’s 18 RBI lead the minors right now, and it wouldn’t be crazy to think that he could become a huge producer in a very impressive lineup in Denver, as Dexter Fowler, Troy Tulowitzki, Carlos Gonzalez, and Wilin Rosario create a tremendously dangerous lineup.
Why the Rockies Need Arenado:
I’d be lying if I said that the Rockies GOTTA HAVE Arenado right now. Colorado’s third basemen (Chris Nelson and Reid Brignac) are hitting a combined .309/.361/.345 with two doubles, five RBI, and six runs scored, while posting an 11:5 K:BB over 55 at-bats. The only issue is that Nelson and Brignac have just the two extra-base hits, which is why the slugging percentage is so low. While that is one reason to clamor for Arenado’s immediate call-up, especially with his current production in Colorado Springs, the Rockies can allow their current third basemen to get on base at a solid clip, allowing their mashers to clear the bases later. Arenado would be a huge offensive upgrade to the Rockies lineup, though, so there is no shame in utilizing Nelson and/or Brignac in utility roles, as both players could get at bats at second base, spelling Josh Rutledge on occasion, as he is hitting just .226/.288/.358 in 53 at-bats for Colorado.
While it would be great to allow Arenado to get more experience in Triple-A, where veteran starters could possess better breaking balls than his lower-level opposition, Arenado could force the Rockies’ hand in the coming weeks. Chris Nelson, who has handled the majority of starts at third, was tremendous in the second half last season, posting a .344/.381/.500 line over 180 at-bats, but he doesn’t possess the power and skill-set that Arenado does. Nelson would still have a major role as a super-utility player, but Arenado could get the call to Coor’s Field by mid-June, and have an immediate impact on a suddenly strong Rockies team. They just need some health, especially with Tulowitzki, to be taken seriously.