Over the weekend I had the opportunity to interview Geoff Young, a writer for Baseball Prospectus (the website) who focuses on the NL and AL Western divisions and a contributor to Baseball Prospectus 2013 (the book), the premier guide to the 2013 MLB season. Geoff is the founder of Duck Snorts, a prominent Padres blog, and he's the writer of the Rockies, Padres, and Reds chapters in the book. In this portion of the interview, we discuss 3B and Nolan Arenado. Here is Part 1, which discussed OF defense.
Jeff Aberle: Obviously the Rockies have more problems than just outfield defense. When you look at their 3B rankings in defense, which are a little bit less variable (than OF defense), you see some pretty terrible defenders there by any area of estimation.
It's certainly an area of interest for Rockies fans going forward. Last year we had Jordan Pacheco and Chris Nelson more or less splitting time at the hot corner and 2013 looks to have the interesting variable of two guys: Ryan Wheeler, who was acquired in the offseason in a trade for Matt Reynolds and Nolan Arenado, who was touted as the Rockies' top prospect coming into 2012. The noise on that has been dialed back a bit, but he's expected to be the starter for Colorado in the coming years. What do you think about the Rockies' 3B situation?
Geoff Young: Pacheco, first of all, isn't really a third baseman and doesn't hit for the kind of power you'd like to see from a corner infielder. If you're going to have that profile, you really have to offer enough other attributes - become a Bill Mueller type player - to make yourself valuable and Pacheco didn't really do that. I thought that Nelson did a pretty good job, especially given his flexibility...I kind of liked that guy.
Arenado definitely does seem to be the future at third base. It's weird to say that his stock has fallen but he's still a top 60 guy, still a really good prospect. I'm not sure when he'll break in, probably sometime this year - but let's put it this way: whomever is playing at third base this year is just holding his spot. Short-term is does look like a patchwork arrangement. I'm looking at Wheeler right now...
JA: He's a guy that's in the mold of a Quad A guy who will be helped by playing at Coors.
GY: That's exactly what I'm feeling. I'm looking at his numbers right now, he's a tweener, stopgap guy. Even if Arenado doesn't become the star he might have been hyped as coming into 2012, there's no way that Wheeler is standing in the way of a guy like that.
JA: That's my hope - that Arenado makes the decision moot by killing it.
GY: That's one of the keys for the Rockies going forward, that's one of the spots where they need the guy that drafted and developed to step up and claim his position. I don't want to sound like I'm down on the guy at all, it's just that sometimes people get really high expectations for a player and when you realize that he's not that guy, people are disappointed and unfairly so. After all, a lot of times that prospect turns out to be a great ballplayer. This is going back a ways, but I like to think of a guy like Greg Jefferies, who was so highly touted coming up that disappointment was inevitable, even if he did end up having a pretty great career.
JA: The guy in that situation I think of is JD Drew - a top prospect that actually had a great MLB career, but when you think of him you think of disappointment.
GY: He's a great example. Not to put Arenado in those guy's category in terms of expectations, but if he merely has a good career, I hope people can appreciate that. But we're getting way ahead of ourselves there.
JA: Absolutely. Thinking more near-term with Arenado - the Rockies have a decision with him. Do they, in a season where there aren't a lot of expectations, do they wait to bring him up until the Super 2 deadline has passed sometime in June? (Super 2 status allows a player to have an extra year of salary arbitration) Or do they put him on the team earlier and give him some seasoning at the major league level?
GY: My guess is that he would be brought up sometime this season - teams do like to play those Super 2 games, so that's always a variable. I think that, given the season he's coming off, it might make it a little easier for the management to say with some credibility that he needs to work some more in the minors. We went through that in San Diego with Chase Headley. It didn't end up working, because Headley ended up being a Super 2 player anyway and cost the team a little extra money.
Hopefully in Arenado's case the organization will do the best thing for both the player and the organization, whatever that may be - with regard for Super 2, but I hope they aren't weighting that too much.
JA: The thing I always think about is that, hey, the Rockies only won 64 games last year. What's the incremental value of going from 64 to 75 wins, right? We talk about marginal wins - maybe a move that will win the Rockies one more game this year, like having Arenado up with the team for a longer time, is that really worth the extra money they're going to have to pay down the road?
GY: And there's also some downside to it? What if he's not ready and you have the awkward situation of reducing his playing time or sending him down to AAA? Do you really want to go down that road? For me, Arenado is the kind of player you go, "when it's time, it's time" and when you bring him up you don't send him down again. He's got time on his side, I'm not too concerned about him. Like you say, the team isn't going to win a lot of games this year, so it's better to focus on what is best long-term. The rest should take care of itself.
Tune back tomorrow for Part 3, which will discuss the infamous 4 Man Rotation