In 2014, Nolan Arenado separated himself as the second most indispensable player on the Colorado Rockies roster.
Nolan Arenado is good. Very good. Depending on your feelings on Troy Tulowitzki, he may be the single most important player to the future of the Rockies. He won his second consecutive Gold Glove in 2014, making him perfect in his career at winning the award while also showing glimpses of the excellent offense he was known for in the minors.
The only dark-spot on Arenado's phenomenal sophomore season was the 51 games he missed because he slid head-first and broke his hand. Sliding head-first should be forever banned, like cannonballs from a Dylan song. When he was on the field, he was about as effective as anyone could expect a 23-year old third baseman to be.
At the plate, Arenado put up a solid slash-line of .287/.328/.500 which was good for a 113 wRC+ or roughly 13 percent better than league average. His remarkably low 12.4 percent strikeout rate is a good sign that he can continue or even improve upon these results and is also a testament to how frustrating he can be for opposing pitchers.
Of course, it would be nice to see that 5.4 walk percentage increase and as Nolan sees more and more MLB level pitching, I suspect it will. Perhaps the most promising sign, however, was the power he displayed in hitting 18 home runs in 111 games and slugging .500 on the season.
The shining moment for his offense came in May when he recorded a hit in a team-record 28 consecutive games.
It can be easy to forget considering the way the season unfolded by year's end, but let us not minimize that the Rockies were 27-23 when it was announced that Arenado would be missing a significant amount of time. In my opinion, that was the single most impactful incident of the season, and it completely derailed any hope of contention that the Rockies may have had.
Arenado missed all of June and returned a bit rusty, but by the end of the season appeared to be back to the player we though he was earlier in the year.
And then there is his defense.
I don't know what to say that hasn't already been said about Arenado's defense. If you haven't seen Nolan Arenado play defense at third base, then you haven't seen Shakespeare the way it's meant to be done. Yes, he's so good, it's worth stealing that line from Aaron Sorkin.
If the MLB followed the NBA's lead and had ... y'know ... a 21st century policy when it comes to Youtube, this is the part where I would just post a ten minute long highlight package created by some sophomore visual arts student, showing Arenado doing borderline superhuman things set to Tupac music.
Instead, we'll have to settle for this:
2014 grade: A-
Walk occasionally and don't get hurt next season at this turns into an A+ real quick and easy.
What to expect in 2015
I've got him penciled into the two-hole spot in the lineup and since his injury was a freak thing and not a strain, I am praying to the Lords of Kobol that he stays healthy for the full year. If health is not a concern, he may have the inside track on the next eight Gold Gloves at third base and the Rockies should sign him to a contract extension as soon as humanly possible.
If Troy Tulowitzki ever is traded, Nolan Arenado becomes the guy for the Colorado Rockies. The brief amount of time I spent around him and the team also leads me to believe that Arenado is the leader of this team's future even if Tulo remains. At this time, there is no player that could leave the team that would upset me more than if the Rockies lost Nolan Arenado. He's too young, too good, and too smart to let get away.
Things get complicated. As Dan O'Dowd reminded us, when agents (especially Scott Boras) get involved, and the 7-year $100 million contract that Kyle Seager just signed with Seattle suggests that Arenado may be worth a fortune. Even if Carlos Gonzalez returns to his old self next year, Arenado will remain the second most important player on the team and hopefully he will be in a Rockies uniform for a long, long time.