After his phenomenal catch last night, I wanted to take a quick look at our stud third baseman.
Nolan Arenado was drafted by the Rockies 59th overall in the 2009 MLB Draft. A high school star, Arenado was named to the Los Angeles Times' All-Star team after hitting .456 with 32 RBIs. He was named to the team again his senior year, in which he hit .517 and committed to play ball at Arizona State. Instead of going to college, however, Nolan signed with the Rockies upon being drafted and made his debut that year with the Pioneer League Casper Ghosts.
Arenado had experience at both shortstop and catcher coming into the draft, and some thought he'd be drafted as a catching prospect. An early draft report from MLB had this to say about him:
Arenado is a strong high schooler with some serious ability with the bat. He's quick to the ball and has excellent raw power. The main question is where that bat will play best as a pro. He plays shorstop now, but he'll be a third baseman or a catcher in the future. He's caught before, so it wouldn't be a conversion. Although he's not very experienced, his plus arm and quick feet have some believing he can do it. If a team is convinced he can catch, he could go off the board in the first couple of rounds.
He'd always been regarded as a guy with a great bat, but there was also some doubt as to his glove. A 2010 ROTOscouting report by Mike Newman said Arenado was "the most advanced hitter I have seen ... this season," but called his footwork so awkward that "the first impression left was that of a prospect destined for first base or left field." On Nolan's future at third, Newman thought he had seen enough to consider Nolan a possibly average option at third moving forward.
Arenado has quite a bit of work to do to project as an average third baseman, but he has time, and makeup on his side.
Newman concluded by predicting that Nolan would quickly rise in the organization's prospect rankings, but with the caveat that questionable defense may hinder his value. A scouting comparison by Mark Anderson on FanGraphs in 2012 looking at Arenado and Anthony Rendon concluded that Nolan "maxes out as a steady, average defender."
So, while he'd always been considered gifted offensively, there were doubts as to how good he'd be at highest level defensively. In his debut season, however, it wasn't his bat that stood out. It was his phenomenal glove.
He finished 2013 having hit just .267/.301/.405, netting him a wRC+ of 77. His BB% of 4.5 was also far less than his K% of 14.0. Low walk numbers and high strike out numbers combined for BB/K of just .32. While he didn't do as well at the plate as his minor league numbers suggested he might, Arenado surprised many with his play in the field. In 1,110 innings of work, Nolan committed just 11 errors, contributed to 24 double plays, and had a FP of .973. Those numbers, combined with a DRS of 30, RZR of .799, and an UZR/150 of 22.5, won Arenado a Gold Glove in his first season. Although he had an Offensive Value of -14.8, according to FanGraphs, his Defensive Value of 22.6 helped him finish with a 2.5 WAR.
His sophomore season was even better. Although an injury limited him to 111 games, he hit to the tune of .287/.328/.500 and knocked in 61 runs. In 54 fewer ABs, Nolan also belted 8 more home runs than in 2013 while both increasing his BB% from 4.5 to 5.4 and decreasing his K% from 14.0 to 12.4. This time around, his wRC+ was 113. He went from being 23% below league average in run creation to 13% above it in 2014. Arenado also won his second Gold Glove in 2014. In 967 innings, Nolan was credited with 26 double plays, a FP of .959, a DRS of 16, a RZR of .751, and an UZR/150 of 6.3. While his Defensive Rating fell to a 7.6, he was able to raise his Offensive Rating to a 5.5, good enough for a WAR of 3.0.
This year, Arenado has been off to a scorching hot start. He's hit to the tune of .333/.412/.700 and has 2 homers and 7 RBIs in just 8 games. That's good for an early Offensive Rating of 2.9 and a wRC+ of 187. It's early goings yet and you'd expect these numbers to normalize, but thus far his BB% is an astounding 11.8 and his K% just a 2.9. Though 72 innings of work in the field, Nolan is yet to commit an error, has contributed to a double play, owns a RZR of .762, and a Defensive Rating of 0.1. He's been good for 0.4 WAR already.
Hindsight is 20-20, but looking back at early scoring reports it's comical how far off many were in regards to his defensive projection. He's developed into one of baseball's best gloves, and his bat has been coming around since his debut. The Rockies are truly fortunate to have a player of such ability on the roster, and it is a true pleasure to watch him work his magic on a nightly basis.
NSFW- Highlights of Nolan Arenado
Truly insane. Most people wouldn't even go for this one, but Arenado said he knew the wind at AT&T would keep it in a give him a play on the ball. Regardless, he showed a total lack of fear in making the catch. He had to have figured he was going to end up in the stands. To show the wherewithal to nearly double up Pagan — he got to third suspiciously quickly, by the way — is just incredible.
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Video in which MLB Tonight's Dan Plesac interviews Arenado. Nice footage and demonstrations of his uncanny ability at fielding those dribblers to third that require him to make off balance throws on the run, as well as his ability at starting double plays. He's easily one of the best in the league at making the tough bare-handed grabs.
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A few highlights from Nolan's second Gold Glove campaign.
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Diving stop and a throw to first from one knee? Just another day at the office for Nolan Arenado.
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Catches a liner and dives back to the bag to double up McCutchen. What a play.
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Highlights from 2013. Love Jose Fernandez's little fit after being called out. Dude just can't believe it.
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The commentary from all these clips is fantastic. Just lots of "Oh, c'mon!" "Can you believe it?" "Oh stop, just stop already!" Seriously, is it too early to give him his third Gold Glove?