In his eighth career plate appearance, Colorado Rockies rookie Nolan Arenado did something last night that Chris Nelson was unable to do in 71 plate apperances this season: hit a home run (insert "one game or one month does not a season make" caveat here). Nevertheless, former Rockies third baseman Ian Stewart ripped the team via Twitter early Sunday morning for designating Nelson for assignment to make room for Arenado.
"They (the Rockies) screwed me over and (I) know they're doing the same to my boy Chris Nelson," Stewart said in a since-deleted tweet (click here for a full list of Stewart's recent Twitter activity). "He didn't deserve that. (He's) a good player and even better person and clubhouse guy."
"(I'm) not sure the guy coming for (his) job is much of an upgrade -- no knock on Arenado," Stewart added.
Truthfully, Arenado is an upgrade. Once looked down upon for his defensive skills, Arenado has turned his glove into a strong asset, says Minor League Ball's John Sickels, who profiled Arenado in his "Prospect of the Day" feature on Tuesday.
Nelson, meanwhile, struggled badly at third base in 2012, posting a UZR/150 of 26.9 while posting a .931 fielding percentage. Nelson has shown the ability to hit at the big league level, most recently in the second half of last season, during which he hit .344/.381/.500.
Still, Nelson does not exhibit a great eye at the plate, posting career 162-game averages of 30 walks and 109 strikeouts, or about 3.6 strikeouts for every walk. In the minors, Nelson was better, but still struggled at times en route to a rate of about 2.3 K/BB. Arenado has posted a number worse than that in just one minor league season, and for his career on the farm, struck out just 1.5 times for every walk drawn.
Of course, projecting how a player will do in the big leagues based on prospect pedigree and minor league performance can be tough. As Patrick Saunders notes, Stewart was a prized prospect in the Rockies organization for several years after being drafted No. 10 overall by the club in 2003. Stewart hit 30 homers as a 19-year-old at Asheville in 2004 and was an extra-base hit machine throughout the rest of his time in the minors before breaking in the Rockies on a full-time basis in 2009.
Stewart flashed promise throughout his tenure with the Rockies, particularly when he posted a 102 OPS+ in limited duty in 2008 as a 23-year-old and hit 25 home runs a year later for a playoff team. However, his apparent stubbornness and, as Saunders puts it, perceived lack of passion for the game prevented him from making obvious adjustments (go back and read the absolute treasure that is Andrew T. Fisher's 2010 offseason review of Stewart -- parts 1, 2 and 3 -- for more on this), and the Rockies dealt him prior to the 2012 season.
Naturally, Stewart doesn't blame himself, but rather the organization for:
1. Not designating Nelson for assignment two years earlier.
"they could have made the move 2 years ago and kept me f%#k"
2. Not thinking his rather pedestrian statistics were the sign of a superstar.
'08: .250 with 10 and 40; '09: 25 HR 70 RBI; '10: .260, 18 HR 60 RBI before missing last month with oblique strain; '11: hurt wrist, tried to battle through and hit .150 before shutting it down. Rocks chose no surgery traded (me) in (the) offseason.
It's no wonder that the Rockies were very cautious about Arenado's maturity level; I'm sure they want to make absolutely sure that their current prized third base prospect doesn't turn out like their last one, who is hitting .111/.298/.139 with 14 strikeouts in 47 plate appearances at Triple-A Iowa.
As for Nelson, he will catch on with another big league club. The Dodgers certainly have a need as we saw last night, with Luis Cruz and his .091/.121/.091 line manning the hot corner. The Rockies weren't shy about making a deal with the Bums for another recently-DFA'd player, so perhaps we'll see another one. But, as of now, there are no actual rumblings about any deal involving the 27-year-old former first-rounder.