A funny thing happened to Nolan Arenado. His name used to be the talking point among Rockies fans. When is Arenado going to get called up? Where is Arenado? Does Arenado have a chance of making the team? Can Arenado live up to the hype?
Now that he is with the Rockies he has blended into the crowd a bit. That is not to say that his efforts in his rookie season have gone unappreciated; any reasonable Rockies fan would tell you that his arrival has been a blessing, especially on defense. It is the simple truth that as familiarity arrives, hypes departs.
Arenado has put together a solid rookie campaign: he has posted a .269/.303/.408 slash line with 10 home runs and 51 driven in. What has stood out is his ability to come through with two outs (25 of those RBI with two outs) and his defense: a .973 fielding percentage with an astounding 30 DRS (defensive runs saved).
Fair or not, the Rockies need all of that and more from Arenado next season, especially as far as his bat is concerned. They lacked offensive firepower in key spots this season, and even if Arenado is not going to mash home runs at the rate you would hope for from your third baseman, he can make up for that by wreaking havoc in other ways, whether it be extra base hits, driving guys in, or continuing to take good situational at-bats.
He got a preview of that pressure in Wednesday night’s game against the Boston Red Sox. Todd Helton, in his final game at Coors Field, hit an anti-climactic but nevertheless productive sacrifice fly with the bases loaded. That brought up Arenado in a key situation in a game that was close at the time. If the Rockies have any hopes to be good again soon and in the seasons after Helton, they need Arenado to be one of the guys who comes through in those spots. On this night he did with a ground rule double to right-center field.
2014 will be only Arenado’s second season, his first full season, and he will only be 23 years old. The Rockies are asking a lot of him, but such are the expectations for a prospect of his caliber. Hopefully he is up for the task; for my money, I think he will be.