Colorado Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado went 4-for-5 in the team's 14-2 win over the San Diego Padres on Monday night to increase his season batting line to .267/.306/.412.
While Arenado is still below-average offensively (he owns an 85 OPS+), the 22-year-old rookie is hitting .346/.379/.469 over his last month of action. So, is Arenado just going through a lucky hot streak, or is that massive improvement something that should be expected going forward?
Arenado isn't going to maintain his batting line from over the past month, but he's also a better hitter than his current full-season numbers suggest. Arenado hits line drives at a 28 percent clip, which is a few points higher than the league average of 23 percent. You'd think that would result in a BABIP that is above league average -- especially since Arenado plays half of his games in spacious Coors Field -- but it isn't. Even after the tear on which he's embarked over the past month, Arenado's BABIP sits at .285, 11 points below league average.
Even something as simple as making contact is going to help hitters who have otherwise limited skills at the plate. At just 22, Arenado has time to refine his approach and develop more pop, but he's already in elite territory in terms of the percentage of plate appearances in which he puts the pall in play. Only 11 players in all of baseball make the defense work more than Arenado, who puts the ball in play 80 percent of the time.
Arenado is one of the youngest everyday players in the big leagues (only Bryce Harper, Manny Machado and Mike Trout have a similar number of plate appearances at a younger age), and he is doing things that players his age don't often do, which is provide elite defense and contact skills. Those tools will only help him in the future as he figures out how to use his home park to his advantage and adjusts to major league pitching.
The Dodgers picked up former Rockie Eliezer Alfonzo, who was mashing in the Mexican League, on Monday. To make room for the veteran catcher, they released another former Rockie, Ian Stewart, who was floundering at Triple-A Albuquerque.