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Saturday, May 03, 2014

Perry: Nolan Arenado of the Rockies: Emerging star in 20-something set

Given the notable early-20s positional talent around the league—Mike Trout, Manny Machado, Bryce Harper, others—it’s easy to overlook Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado. However, given Arenado’s skills and skills growth, it’s time we start thinking of him as one of the top young performers in the game today. Indeed, he’s emerging as a star, and he’s proving himself to be a core contributor with the bat and glove.

First, the defense. Arenado won the Gold Glove last season, so it’s not as though his fielding chops are any kind of secret. Still, calling him a “mere” Gold Glover may actually undersell how special he is defensively. Per Ultimate Zone Rating, Arenado in fewer that 1,400 defensive innings has saved 21.9 runs relative to the average MLB third baseman.

Arenado particularly excels at making the impossible and near-impossible play. Over at FanGraphs, the Inside Edge scouting service grades players on their ability to make plays of varying difficulty. When it comes to plays that between 10 percent and 40 percent of major-leaguers would make, Arenado leads all third baseman since 2013 (minimum 1,000 defensive innings) with a success rate of 63.2 percent. In terms of those plays that 10 percent or less of MLBers would make—i.e., the “impossible” snare—Arenado, with his percentage of 14.3, ranks behind only Manny Machado since the start of last season.

...Offensively, Arenado is still developing, but developing he is. This season vs. last, he’s increased his OPS+ from 82 to 104 while also lowering his strikeout percentage, showing stronger fly-ball tendencies and, per Jeff Zimmerman’s data, increasing the angle on those fly balls. As well, his gains in BABIP and home runs as a percentage of fly balls aren’t so extreme as to suggest that luck is the driver.

Let’s also keep in mind that Arenado showed lots of offensive upside in the minors despite being younger than his peer group at every stop. He turned 23 just a couple of weeks ago, and he’s showing signs of what’s a more typical offensive aging curve. That is, the best with the bat is almost certainly yet to come.

Taken together, Arenado’s offensive ceiling and his present defensive exellence make him one of the more intriguing young players in the game. As for the hype he deserves, the column inches will come soon enough.

Thanks to Butch.

Repoz Posted: May 03, 2014 at 04:51 PM | 6 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: rockies, sabermetrics

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   1. Tiboreau Posted: May 03, 2014 at 08:50 PM (#4699811)
Seems like I hear about a Nolan Arenado defensive gem every night. Appears to be a very exciting player on at least one half of the diamond; hopefully he can at least be a useful player at the plate as well. (Looking at his stats reminds me that baseball in Colorado is a bit different from baseball in Seattle. . . . )
   2. Tom Nawrocki Posted: May 04, 2014 at 01:16 AM (#4699876)
He had a grand slam and a double along with at least one legitimate Web Gem tonight. He also kicked a grounder away, which he still does a little too often.
   3. Tom Nawrocki Posted: May 04, 2014 at 04:30 PM (#4700037)
First and third with one out against the Mets, and there was a fly ball to medium left field. Carlos Gonzalez threw the ball toward the plate - Arenado cut it off and flipped it in one motion to the shortstop covering third base, who tagged the runner out as he scrambled back to the base. A beautiful play. Is the third baseman supposed to be the cutoff man on that play? I would have expected him to stay on the base.
   4. Matt Welch Posted: May 04, 2014 at 08:57 PM (#4700125)
Is the third baseman supposed to be the cutoff man on that play?

Yes.
   5. Walt Davis Posted: May 05, 2014 at 12:17 AM (#4700183)
The 4 BB in 135 PA (or 27 for 649 career) does not bode well for his offensive development.

   6. Boxkutter Posted: May 05, 2014 at 10:12 AM (#4700234)
The 4 BB in 135 PA (or 27 for 649 career) does not bode well for his offensive development.

This isn't unusual for him. His walk rate this year is the lowest it's ever been in pro ball, but he has always been a low walk, low strikeout hitter. He usually struck out in the neighborhood of 10% and walked 6% of the time in the minors. Of course those numbers are worse in the majors, but his game is all about putting the ball in play.

His power surely shows more in Coors Field, but his BA/OBP are much better on the road this season... if you can take anything from only a month of games.

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