Nolan Arenado didn’t crack the Opening Day roster in Colorado, but he’s already serving notice that his stay in AAA could be a short one.
It was a disappointing end to a strong camp for the young hitter. Arenado had clubbed four homers and knocked in 12 runs during Spring Training in his attempts to win a spot with the Rockies, but was beaten out for the third base job by Chris Nelson.
Well, beaten out may be a generous term. Let’s just say he wasn’t able to overcome the advantages Nelson had. Nelson is coming off a solid season at the dish for the Rockies (.810 OPS), but didn’t exactly tear the cover off the ball in the Cactus League. Still, Nelson probably did enough to make Colorado’s decision justifiable. Arenado is Colorado’s top prospect and ranked number 55 on our pre-season Top-115 Prospect list.
Arenado will be just 22 years old when his birthday comes around later this month and coming into this season he had yet to see a pitch above Double-A, so it’s not exactly a travesty that he didn’t make the big club out of camp. No matter the disappointment, Arenado is off to a flying start for the Sky Sox and drew raves from former Major League all-star and current Reno Aces manager Brett Butler, as quoted by Brett Biggeman of the Colorado Springs Gazette.
“When you talk about a guy who you say is a can’t miss, he seems to be that,” Butler said. “He’s got a tremendous approach at the plate, he looks like he can do everything. I’m impressed by him. He can play.”
“He’s still,” Butler said. “He’s very quiet and you can see the confidence he has at the plate. There are guys that you look at, (Evan) Longoria was a lot like that at the plate. You can just see the confidence.”
Arenado homered in his PCL debut on Thursday night and followed that up with a 3-for-3 night that included a single, a double, and his second home run of the young season.
Though he’s much more a line drive hitter than a traditional slugger, the right handed bat Arenado brings to the plate is a lethal one and scouts project that eventually many of the line-drive doubles he produces will carry over the wall, much the same way they have begun to for Kansas City’s Billy Butler.
He’s not a five-tool guy, which probably why he doesn’t rate higher on the various top prospect lists. Arenado is not a fast runner and his defense at the hot corner is adequate but not outstanding. He has worked to become better, losing some weight to play at a more moveable 205 lbs, and that effort has resulted in better agility and range at third base.
Of course, the Rockies would like to hold off on bringing him up until they’re sure he’s done all he can to develop in the minors. Along with the usual concerns about service time and wanting to avoid an extra year of arbitration, Arenado is not on Colorado’s 40-man roster, which currently stands full. Still, Arenado has the chance to become an elite Major League hitter, and not just because he’ll play his home games at Coors Field.
Those home games could come sooner than expected if he handles Triple-A pitching well.