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Nolan Arenado cemented himself as a superstar in 2016

Nolan Arenado proved that his stellar 2015 was no fluke with an even better 2016.

Milwaukee Brewers v Colorado Rockies Photo by Joe Mahoney/Getty Images

Watching Ben Zobrist’s game-winning double in Game 7 of the World Series, I couldn’t help but think that Nolan Arenado would have turned it into a double play. For the record, here is the double:

Yes, it’s a tough play, but was it any tougher than this?:

Arenado has made a career of making tough plays look routine, and 2016 was his best defensive season since his rookie year in 2013. He was first among infielders with 20 Defensive Runs Saved this season, earning his fourth gold glove. His 84 Defensive Runs Saved are fifth-best in baseball since 2010; again, he debuted in 2013.

The scary part for opponents and the fun part for Rockies fans is that Arenado’s offense has caught up with his defense. Arenado earned his second straight Silver Slugger award this season, hitting .294/.362/.570 with 41 home runs, 116 runs scored and 133 runs batted in.

With the combined efforts of his bat and glove, Arenado accumulated 6.5 rWAR, second only behind Kris Bryant, and was fifth in NL MVP voting in 2016. Arenado was just three points behind Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo for fourth place in the voting, thanks in large part to the one voter who put him 10th on his ballot.

Arenado didn’t just hit at Coors Field, either. In 81 games on the road in 2016, he had an .832 OPS, not outstanding by any means, but better than his full season marks in 2013 and 2014. He also hit 16 home runs away from altitude.

Perhaps most importantly at the plate, Arenado doubled his 2015 walk total in 2016, going from 34 to 68 and raising his walk rate to 9.8 percent, better than league average.

Arenado also continued to be a particular thorn in the side of the San Francisco Giants, hitting .333/.398/.693 in 19 games against them this year, with 16 extra-base hits, five of them home runs, and 24 runs batted in. He now has 19 home runs and 61 RBIs in 69 games against the Giants in his career.

Off the field, Arenado assumed more of a leadership role with the Rockies. It is no accident that Trevor Story’s locker was placed right next to Arenado’s this season. He was also, along with Carlos Gonzalez, the player the media went to when they were looking for comments on the larger issues surrounding the team, something he handled well.

All of this has come before Arenado’s 26th birthday, which means that he will be a star for years to come, and it would, to use a favorite term of former Rockies manager Jim Tracy, behoove the Rockies to make sure his star stays in Colorado.

2017 Outlook

Since the team’s inception, the Rockies have had a player finish in the top two in NL MVP voting in every year that ends with a 7, with Larry Walker winning the award in 1997 and Matt Holliday finishing second (he should have won it) in 2007. It would not surprise me at all to see Arenado continue that trend in 2017.