Before I start this post, I’ll give the normal disclaimer, asterisk, or whatever you want to call it: it’s spring training, and all stats should be taken with a grain of salt. Ok, that’s over with now. That’s a relief. Today I want to talk about Nolan Arenado. This isn’t a new topic for me. In fact, my first Rox Pile post was about Nolan Arenado. Even then, I thought that Arenado should hit near the top of the lineup for the Colorado Rockies. It’s safe to say that I love Nolan Arenado.
With that being said, it’s refreshing to see how well Nolan Arenado has been playing in spring training. I’m not the only one paying attention. In 26 spring training at bats, which is something more than a meaningless sample size, even in spring training, Arenado has 10 hits, including four for extra bases. He is hitting .385 with a .429 on base percentage. He just hit a home run, which was the inspiration for this post. So Nolan Arenado has been playing great. But again, it’s spring training; so what? Well, it’s not just the stats that have been so impressive. Arenado has said that he wants to improve his strike-zone discipline, and he has been working at it. It’s not that Arenado struck out a ton last season, because he didn’t. It’s that he didn’t take very many pitches, and as a result didn’t walk much. His on base percentage was just .301 last year, which isn’t good enough for a leadoff or two hole hitter. We can’t take much from his early returns in this regard; Arenado has walked twice in 28 plate appearances, or about 7% of the time. His walk rate was 4.5% last year, but even I’m not going to point to the two walks in 28 as clear evidence that he has improved his plate discipline and batting eye. I can take solace from the fact that he is trying, because that is more than a lot of hitters do. The fact that he has recognized his biggest offensive weakness is important, and he is young enough and talented enough to correct this very correctable weakness.
Nolan Arenado is still being projected as the Rockies’ six or seven hole hitter. If he keeps hitting like this, that will change quickly, because I don’t buy the idea that Charlie Blackmon, Drew Stubbs, Justin Morneau, or even Michael Cuddyer, who was incredibly lucky this season and could be in for some serious regression, is a superior hitter to Arenado. He was the best defensive third baseman in the National League last year, which is what made him valuable even in the midst of a lackluster offensive season. But Arenado’s defensive prowess is a mixed blessing: it gets recognized, but people also dismiss him as a one dimensional player. I don’t think that’s fair, and I think Arenado is going to change that perception this year, which by the way is only his second. Arenado doesn’t turn 23 until this month, and based on his spring training performance to this point, it looks like his age-23 season could be when he puts it all together. I hope so, because I’ve definitely gone all in on Arenado.