Nolan Arenado has come out swinging in Spring Training, literally, he hasn’t taken a walk yet but he does have three bombs. For a kid who had a down year and some questioned his mental preparedness he has come out swinging to start Spring Training in an effort to get a strong look and make his case for the Colorado Rockies starting third baseman to start the 2013 season.
In 14 at-bats Arenado has posted a triple slash of .357/.357/1.071. He has only struck out once, not taken a walk but four of his five hits have gone for extra bases (three of them wall clearing shots).
And check out the perennial All-Star pitchers he has taken deep:
- On February 25th against the Texas Rangers Arenado blasted Neil Ramirez in the eighth inning. Ramirez is a household name in the Ramirez household. He has played in the PCL (AAA) twice and has a career minor league EAR of 4.52. He has not played in the Bigs. Yet. But when he does I bet it is in a middle reliever roll!
- On March 2nd against the Oakland A’s Arenado showed Andrew Wener what pitching against muscle-bound-third-baseman is all about and took him deep in the sixth inning. Werner is a top prospect who, well, he wasn’t drafted out of school, but, um, he did appear in two games with the San Diego Padres last season.
- On March 3rd against those same A’s, this time at Salt River, Arenado took Oakland starting pitcher A.J. Griffin out on a long ball date. This one might be worth remembering as Griffin went 7-1 with the A’s last year while posting a 3.15 ERA in 82 1/3 innings and helped the Athletics win the AL West.
OK, so maybe we need to take this early hot start from Arenado with a grain of salt, but in all seriousness why can’t he start Opening Day for the Rockies? If he truly is the third baseman of the future for the Rockies why not let him cut his teeth in the Major Leagues in 2013? The Rockies aren’t winning the division in 2013, heck, they might not win 70 games. What does the team have to gain by giving Chris Nelson or Jordan Pacheco time at third? Nelson and Pacheco don’t have the upside that Arenado has at the plate and they surely don’t have the glove that Arenado brings to third base. In a year in which the Rockies pitching will surely struggle again the team cannot give away outs in the field and the better the defensive unit that Walt Weiss can run out on a daily basis will do the team good.
According to Baseball Info Solutions Nelson and Pacheco rated worst on the Rockies in Defensive Runs Saved in 2012. Nelson cost the team 22 runs and Pacheco 14. Just to test against another defensive metric; according to Ultimate Zone Rating on Fangraphs Nelson was worst on the team (of those who saw at least 200 innings defensively) in UZR/150 and Pacheco was fourth worst.
Nelson and Pacheco are liabilities in the field. By all accounts Arenado is a good defensive third baseman.
If Arenado can continue to hold his own at the plate this spring there is no reason to send him to the minor leagues to start the season. Let’s see Arenado and Troy Tulowitzki man the right side of the infield. While I don’t really buy this, some would say that by having Arenado at third it will also help Tulo stay healthy. The rationale is that Arenado will cover more ground to his left, thus saving Tulo from having to cover as much to his right and help save his legs.
Give it a few more weeks and hopefully 70+ at-bats and see where Arenado is at, but even if his slash drops to .270/.320/.400 I would rather see him at third to start the year than Pacheco or Nelson.