Since their earliest days as an expansion team, the Colorado Rockies have consistently been solid at third base. From Charlie Hayes to Vinny Castilla to Garrett Atkins, the Rockies have sported talented third sackers for most of their history. Never has that been more true than it is now, as not only one of the best third basemen, but one of the best players in the game period makes his home at the hot corner at Coors Field.
The Rockies starter at third base, as it has been since 2013 and hopefully will be for many years to come, is Nolan Arenado. Arenado, now entering his age 26 season, has just gotten better every year of his career.
Arenado had his best season offensively in 2016, hitting .294/.362/.570 with 41 home runs and 133 runs batted in, leading the National League in both of those categories for the second consecutive season. Most significant from Arenado last season was the .362 on-base percentage, a career high thanks in large part to him doubling his walk total from 2015, drawing 68 free passes and boosting his walk rate to a quite good 9.8%.
It is not often that a player that has won his league’s home run crown in half of the seasons he has played has a calling card other than his power, but Arenado’s calling card is his stellar defense. Arenado has been a Gold Glove-caliber third baseman since the moment he stepped onto a big league diamond, and that isn’t hyperbole, he has won the NL Gold Glove at third base in each of his four major league seasons. Defensive metrics agree with that assessment as well, as Arenado’s 84 Defensive Runs Saved since the start of 2013 are the second-most in baseball behind Angels shortstop Andrelton Simmons.
Arenado is not just the Rockies’ third baseman, he is the face of the franchise and is quickly becoming one of the faces of the game, something a star turn with Team USA at next month’s World Baseball Classic will surely help.
In the rare event of Arenado taking a day off, it only happened three times in 2016 and six in 2015, both Cristhian Adames and Alexi Amarista have experience at third base and would be his likely replacements.
Should something happen to Arenado that causes a longer-term absence (knocking on every piece of wood available), Rockies shortstop Trevor Story would likely slide over to third base, where he played 73 games in the minors, with first baseman Ian Desmond taking over at short and Mark Reynolds or Jordan Patterson (or both in split time) playing first. Not an ideal situation, but losing your franchise player never is.
On the Farm
The Rockies’ most promising third baseman in the minors, No. 7 PuRP Ryan McMahon, began transitioning to first base last season, but is likely still an option at third at this point. He will likely start 2017 at either Double-A Hartford or Triple-A Albuquerque.
Aside from McMahon, the only other two third basemen to make the most recent PuRPs list, Colton Welker (No. 19) and Tyler Nevin (No. 23) are both at least three years from the big leagues.
If Catastrophe Strikes
Let’s be clear that any scenario that involves Arenado missing a significant amount of time qualifies as a catastrophe. However, if the above depth options are also not available, the Rockies would likely turn to minor league veteran Tim Smalling, who played third base with Albuquerque last season, or there is always the option of Rafael Ynoa.