Anyone ranking Colorado Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado anywhere else besides the best third baseman in baseball is just wrong.
Biases aside for the Rockies, MLB Network ranking Nolan Arenado as the third best third baseman is just wrong. This is according to “The Shredder” which aggregates traditional and advanced stats based on offensive and defensive production. MLB Network so far has ranked the top 10 first basemen, left fielders, center fielders, catchers and relievers.
Out of all of those rankings, Arenado is the only player from the Rockies to make it on these lists so far. Outside of Trevor Story when they rank shortstops, these two are likely the only players in Denver to be on this year’s lists. The Rockies don’t even have a long term strategy for Trevor Story, not to mention Arenado so it looks like 2021 is going to start much the way 2020 started for the Rockies. With a ton of uncertainty.
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But that’s for another article. For now let’s stick to this third basemen list. There are nine of 10 third basemen back on this list from last year. Gio Urshela of the Yankees is the only new entrant and the biggest change from last year was a flip of the top two spots. Anthony Rendon after his first year for the Los Angeles Angels landed the top spot over last year’s title holder Alex Bregman.
The Astros’ third baseman and much of the rest of the 2017 Astros started 2020 by expressing little to no remorse (in the best case scenario) for cheating. So Bregman has about as good an argument of being the best third baseman in the league as Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens have of being in the Hall of Fame. Besides he hit .243 with a 1.0 WAR last year. Hardly inspiring.
So Rendon, the third baseman actually from Houston, will be the best comparison for Arenado. Rendon had a good first year in Anaheim hitting .286 with a 2.1 WAR and nine homers. To be fair, Arenado had one of his worst years at the plate in his career with a .253 average and a 1.6 WAR. He did hit eight homers and and drove in 26 compared to Rendon’s 31 RBIs. But Nolan won yet another Gold Glove for the seventh season in a row. Rendon and Bregman have a combined three All-Star appearances. Arenado has five. This is the title for the best third baseman right?
So this must be coming down to what have you down to the what have you done for me lately category. Rendon came off won of the greatest campaigns ever in 2019 helping lead the Washington Nationals to their first ever championship. He then signed a giant contract and the only player better than him on his team is the best player in the sport, Mike Trout. Bregman did help lead a club with a losing record in the regular season to one win away from going to the World Series to face the Dodgers yet again. With more consistency and games, Arenado is likely to return to form at the plate. He will always be a vacuum at the hot corner. It comes down to what he can do with the Rockies.
That sentiment is starting to mirror the trajectory of Todd Helton. In 2000, the legendary Rockies first baseman hit .372 (I repeat, .372!) with 147 RBIs and 42 home runs with an 8.9 WAR. He didn’t win the Gold Glove that year but went on to win three the following four years. To put it in perspective, Bonds hit 49 homers that year. All of that to say that Helton was ranked fifth in MVP voting that year. Jeff Kent beat his teammate Bonds for the award with a 7.2 WAR. The difference was that the Giants nearly won 100 games that year compared to the very average 82-80 Rockies.
There are two points to be made with Helton’s stats. First, get Helton in the Hall. Second, Arenado is the best third baseman in baseball. Still. But he won’t get the recognition and the title he deserves unless the Rockies improve dramatically. Or if he moves on to a more competitive team. Let’s all hope for the former.