Arenado will start 2013 with the Sky Sox. Image: Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

Chris Nelson Named Third Baseman; Nolan Arenado To Minors

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There were more reasons to keep Nolan Arenado in the minor leagues to start the season than there were to put him on the Rockies. Experience, maturity, service clock, etc. There could be only one reason that would overrule those factors and make him the opening day third baseman: if he absolutely blew the doors off the Cactus League and left them no choice. Darn it if he didn’t try…

Entering today’s game against the Milwauke Brewers, Arenado is batting .288 with 4 home runs and 12 RBI. The .288 mark represents Arenado’s decline in the last few games; the home runs show the kind of power outburst he is capable of. Ultimately it makes sense to show patience. With their most valued position player, the Rockies can learn from their mistakes with their young pitching and not rush him into a position for which he is not ready.

Chris Nelson‘s performance should not be discounted. With everything going on around him (trade chatter included), Nelson was still able to build on the solid second half he enjoyed in the 2012 season. That included some flashes of power in his bat. He has knocked a couple home runs of his own this spring, including an impressive opposite field shot to right-center this week. The Denver Post’s Troy Renck has further analysis:

And let’s not forget that Chris Nelson finished strong. Had he keep slumping or attracted more trade interest, perhaps this decision goes the other way. But in the end Nelson hit just like he did in the second half of last season. He earned his spot. And I am sure he realizes he has to keep performing to keep the job with Arenado potentially a hot streak away.

Nelson is not getting the job by default because Arenado was not yet ready. He went and got it. Tracy Ringolsby sees good things for Nelson this season:

If today’s lineup is a preview of the opening day lineup, the Rockies could do a lot worse than Wilin Rosario batting 7th and Chris Nelson batting 8th. That might not quite be worthy of an American League lineup, but it’s a heck of a deep order nonetheless.

Nelson. Image: Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

Nelson needs to keep hitting and needs to show that his athleticism can translate to good defense at the hot corner. Having Troy Tulowitzki back at shortstop should help in that regard. If Nelson can do those things, the job is his to keep in the short term, even if the long term is already spoken for.

So Rox Pile faithful, what do you think? Did the Rockies make the right decision with Arenado?

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