Third base, the hot corner, the stomping ground of the Rockies best player and one of the future faces of baseball. No doubt about it, third base for the Rockies should be a position that is secured for years to come, pending the Rockies make the right move and sign their young third baseman for many years to come. I am talking of course about Nolan Arenado.
Nolan Arenado, my favorite player on the Rockies (sorry, Cargo) and one of the most exciting players to watch in all of baseball. There is not a day that goes on during the season where I don’t expect Nolan to show up and play his heart out. At only 24 years old, Arenado is entering his fourth season in the Majors and is coming off one of the best seasons in Rockies history, and the best at third base, since the humidor era at Coors Field. With Nolan’s glamor stats (home runs, RBI, Slugging%), he earned his way into the MVP conversation in 2015. A league leading 42 home runs, 130 RBI, and 354 total bases will do that for you. Oh, and not to mention the gold glove defense that comes from Arenado. Make no mistakes, Nolan Arenado will be entering the 2016 season as the best player on the Rockies, arguably the best third baseman in baseball, and one of the most complete players in the game as well.
Nolan Arenado: Matching his production in 2015 will not be easy to do, and with the season he put up last year, he will be on many teams radars as a player to pitch around. This is where Nolan can either turn into an MVP candidate year after year, or just an extraordinary baseball player with numbers potentially influenced by the Coors Field effect. There is one part of Nolan’s game that needs to be improved upon, his ability to get on base with a little more consistency. Nolan has the power and raw hitting ability to be a superstar and MVP. In my opinion, he only missed out on the MVP award last season for two reasons: One, he plays at Coors Field and the voters like to treat Coors as an easy place to hit, and two, he didn’t have a great OBP. Nolan needs to walk more. It is as simple as that. He has the production from last year that should earn him the respect of pitchers. If he turns that respect into walks, he will be an MVP candidate in 2016. The Rockies as a team struggle with walks and it is something the team needs to work on as a whole, but in 2015 Nolan only earned 34 walks. That number needs to increase. I don’t care as much about his home/road splits. His average was 60 points higher at home, but he hit more home runs on the road. If he can increase his average and OBP just a little bit on the road, it will help, but it is not imperative. Players play better at home, especially when your home is Colorado.
For 2016, I expect big things out of Nolan, if that wasn’t obvious enough already. If spring training is any indication of what to expect, Nolan will hit .500 and win the MVP unanimously. Obviously that isn’t going to happen, but Arenado’s spring is still reason to get excited for what is to come. Nolan is a smart player and even though I’m sure he is happy with the numbers he put up last year, he will be looking to improve his game where it needs improving. I expect a slight drop in the power numbers and driving in 130 runs is likely not going to happen again, but a 30 home run season with 110 RBI is definitely within reason. Where I believe Nolan will make the biggest jump is his patience. He has never been a super patient hitter and has never walked a lot, but last year he struck out a career high 110 times, almost 40 more than his previous high recorded in his rookie season. With patience will come more walks and an increase in OBP. I also believe Arenado’s spring training average will continue into the season. Not at the current clip of .600 that he leads spring with now, but hitting around .295-.305 is certainly reasonable. Nolan was 39th overall in OBP last year with .323. This year anticipate a climb to around the .350-.360 number due to a heightened average and an increase in walks. His offense was off the charts last year and was historic for Rockies third basemen. This year will be another one of those years for Nolan Arenado.
Now I haven’t talked about his defense that much yet, so I will do that now briefly, because it is worthy of a little discussion. Nolan Arenado is the best defensive third baseman in baseball and advanced metrics and other statistics support that. If you aren’t much for advanced statistics, the classic eye test is more than enough to show you how spectacular of a defensive player Nolan is.
Seriously, how can you not marvel at plays like these, and these aren’t even the best ones, nor do they scratch the surface of what Nolan does everyday on defense. He is spectacular, a defensive wizard, and is already cementing himself as one of the best defensive third basemen EVER. Three consecutive gold gloves since entering the league will do that for you.
Pending some sort of negative curse put on Nolan by the baseball gods themselves, this young man will have another memorable season. He will put up MVP numbers, he will play gold glove calibur defense everyday, he will win the silver slugger, and he will be the replacement to Troy Tulowitzki that Rockies fans deserve. All the Rockies ownership needs to do now is give this man the contract he deserves and lock him up as the face of the franchise and a player to build a playoff team around. He is a leader, a competitor, and more than anything else, a baseball player. Players like him don’t come around all that often, and I feel lucky to have watched him turn from a great defender and solid bat into a flourished star of the game of baseball. Here is to the primary reason I will be watching Rockies’ games this season, Nolan Arenado.