The Rockies have it pretty good at third base.
MLB Network recently ranked Nolan Arenado as the third-best player in the game on their Top 100 Right Now special and the best in the National League, behind only reigning AL MVP Mookie Betts and all-everything outfielder Mike Trout.
It makes sense, in 2018 Arenado won his sixth Gold Glove (in his six MLB seasons) and led the NL in home runs for a third time in four years with 38. Those kinds of numbers and awards have put Arenado on a path to Cooperstown. Entering his age 28 season, he is already fourth in Rockies history in WAR among position players, ninth in hits and seventh in home runs and RBI.
I present to you, Nolan Arenado:
There was a perception among some people that Arenado had a down year in 2018. For the record, last season he hit .297/.374/.561 with 38 home runs, 110 RBI and 5.7 fWAR. Arenado did only have 5 DRS in 2018, a career low, but other defensive metrics rated him as good as, if not better than, he had been in previous seasons.
He also started the All-Star Game, won his sixth Gold Glove, fourth Silver Slugger and finished third in NL MVP voting. If that’s what people percieve as a “down year” for you, you’re doing just fine.
The elephant in the room, of course, is whether Arenado will be at the hot corner for the Rockies beyond 2019, and to borrow a term from former Rockies manager Jim Tracy, it would behoove the club to make sure that is the case, or this will be a very different article in a year’s time.
Arenado has played at least 156 games in each of the past four seasons, so all the depth the Rockies have needed at third base has been someone to fill in on the rare days that Nolan does not get the start at third (that has happened just 26 times in four years.) In that scenario, the obvious fill in is Ryan McMahon, who started his pro career at third base before moving to the right side of the infield in search of playing time.
If, however, Arenado does happen to get injured, it is quite possible that he could be replaced by his cousin, Josh Fuentes. Fuentes followed up a strong season at Triple-A Albuquerque last season with an equally impressive performance in the Arizona Fall League, putting himself on the Rockies’ radar for the 2019 season.
Top prospect Brendan Rodgers is also a depth option at third base, though he will likely see more time in middle infield.
On the farm
Beyond Fuentes and Rodgers, the best long-term third base option in the minors is No. 3 PuRP Colton Welker. MLB Pipeline rated the 21-year-old as the No. 95 prospect in baseball after he hit .333/.383/.489 with 13 home runs and 82 RBI in 114 games at High-A Lancaster in 2018.
Another name to look at on the farm is 2015 sandwich round pick Tyler Nevin, who was also at Lancaster last season and hit .328/.386/.503 in 100 games, though he saw more time at first base than third with Welker’s presence on the JetHawks.
Farther from the big leagues is 20-year-old Ryan Vilade, who had a .720 OPS in his first taste of full-season ball with Low-A Asheville in 2018. Vilade was drafted as a third baseman, but thus far has only played shortstop as a professional.
The present at third base for the Rockies is Arenado, and perhaps the biggest question surrounding the team in 2019 is if he will be the future at the hot corner, as well.