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Nolan Arenado Called Up: What To Expect

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ZiPS and other projection systems gives us an insight into what to expect from the Rockies new third baseman. Scouting report included, so Happy Nolan Arenado day everyone!

Christian Petersen

Rockies prospect Nolan Arenado will make his major league debut later today. Arenado has been a hyped prospect since he enjoyed a breakout season in 2011 in Modesto and later earned the Arizona Fall League MVP award, which leads fans to wonder: what can we expect from this kid?

Arenado has a freakish feel for contact. He adjusts so quickly to the path of the ball that he can make contact on virtually any pitch thrown to him. -Mark Anderson, Scouting Comparison: Anthony Rendon vs. Nolan Arenado

Nolan Arenado was drafted in the second round of the 2009 draft out of El Centro, California. He had already committed to playing college ball for Arizona State when the Rockies offer of $650,000 lured him into the professional ranks. Nolan is known for being a hard worker, having overcome several obstacles in the minors including losing weight and improving his defense.

Fangraphs projection system known as ZiPS, calculated Nolan's season if he played a full year in the majors. The result was a .281 average with 36 doubles -- that's enough doubles to rank in the top 5 of all third basemen last year. The Bill James projection system nearly agrees with ZiPS, but figures he would play less than 100 games on the year so his counting stats are slightly lower. With 138 games left in the season, Arenado should fall somewhere in between the two if he can stick in the majors. For a definition on ZiPS and other projection systems this article at Fangraphs is a suggested read.

Type

G

PA

1B

2B

3B

HR

AVG

ZiPS

150

644

111

36

2

17

.280

Bill James

98

383

66

24

1

9

.281

Steamer

78

290

48

17

1

8

.275

Nolan has few weaknesses: in his minor league career he has as many extra base hits as strikeouts. One area Nolan hasn't excelled in is drawing walks; however, his career on base percentage sits at .345, about 46 points higher than his batting average. It's not an Achilles heel, but it's something to keep an eye on, as Arenado's minor league teammate Josh Rutledge has also struggled in this area for the Rockies and he had a .374 career OBP on the farm.

Lack of home run power has been a label attached to Nolan and was acknowledged by ZiPS, projecting him to hit only 17. His best minor league season was 2011 when he hit 20 in the hitter-friendly Cal League, but his next best season produced a mere 12 home runs.

Nolan's strength is his gap power, similar to what Todd Helton had when he debuted for the Rockies. Nolan can drive a ball with power and since he only turned 22 a couple weeks ago, there's still time for him to grow and he has the frame to put on more upper-body muscle.

Nolan Arenado doubles in the Arizona Fall League

Rockies fans are hoping for a better glove at third base, where Colorado has ranked in the bottom third of the league for the past two years. Arenado has overcome defensive liabilities, working hard with Troy Tulowitzki in the offseason to become a stronger glove at the hot corner. Scouts who I talked with rank his glove at somewhere around 55 on the 20-80 scale. Some say he's better than that and point to his 2011 California League Defensive Player of the Year award as proof.

Overall, the player who fans are getting to see, is someone who plays the game hard, works rigorously to make himself better, and shoots missiles off the wall in the gaps. Nolan shouldn't be compared to Bryce Harper or Mike Trout -- even though he's debuting on the same date as them a year later. Arenado should at least provide stability at the hot corner and perhaps make a run at the Rookie of the Year -- I mean he's won so many other awards already.

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