The Nolan Arenado Era Has Begun

When was the last time the Rockies employed a true offensive threat at third base? While Chris Nelson was decent last year, posting a 105 wRC+, we really have to go back to 2007. That was the last year Garrett Atkins provided the team with strong production at the hot corner. But today, the team made a pair of moves that included designating Nelson for assignment and calling up one time hot prospect Nolan Arenado. It’s almost a guarantee that by the time this article is published, he has already been scooped up in every league he could possibly earn value in. Keeper leagues? Long gone. So rather then debate whether he is worth an add, let’s instead discuss how we should expect him to perform this season.

As I am typing this, FAAB just ran in LABR mixed and he went for a whopping $36. I bid an embarrassing $7. So he’s quite the hot property indeed. Back in 2011 during his first full season in the minors, Arenado hit 26 homers and batted .315. He combined good power with a fantastic contact rate, a rare pairing that suggested big things for the 20-year-old. Fantasy owners were drooling at the possibilities he would eventually be afforded calling Coors Field home for half his games.

Then 2012 happened. The excellent contact rate remained, but his power disappeared. Based on that performance, he suddenly looked like a slightly better version of Jordan Pacheco. That’s obviously not what the Rockies or fantasy owners were hoping for. Spring training 2013 rolled around and once again Arenado flashed some of the skills that made him so exciting back in 2011. Whether it was just a hot couple of weeks or something actually clicked, the performance carried over into his Triple-A debut. While the 3 homers aren’t overly impressive, the addition of 11 doubles that resulted in a .303 ISO was. He also hit .364, which was supported by a high-but-not-outrageous .368 BABIP.

Given his former top prospect status and performance in the lower minors, it’s looking like maybe last season was the fluke after all. The lack of walks is a concern, but more from a real baseball perspective at the moment than for fantasy owners. In fact, if he could nudge it up just a bit, his skill set looks awfully similar to the team’s last good third baseman who was mentioned in the intro — Garrett Atkins. The biggest difference between the two is that Atkins didn’t hit enough fly balls to contribute in home runs early on. That all changed in 2006 though when he suddenly became a fly ball hitter and a power breakout followed.

Fortunately, Arenado has been much friendlier toward worms in the minors, consistently posting ground ball rates below the league average. With his ability to make contact, he shouldn’t require a HR/FB rate much above the league average to sock 20-25 balls out of the park over a full season. He’s going to hit for average as well, or at the very least be neutral in the category. Once again, just like Atkins. Hopefully, Arenado’s ability to hit a baseball better than 99.9% of the world doesn’t last just four years like it did for Atkins.

Due to Arenado’s low walk rate, his value will be higher in leagues that count batting average versus those that use on base percentage. That said, throw any hitter into the Rockies starting lineup and fantasy owners’ eyes widen, and for good reason. Now if that hitter has not only excellent contact skills, but also promising power potential, he’s someone I want on my fantasy team. And since I’m feeling generous, I will even open up my magical projection spreadsheet and calculate what we can expect for his batting average and home run total, given a full season’s worth of at-bats.

550 0.291 20 0.310 38% 11%

Print This Post

Mike Podhorzer produces player projections using his own forecasting system and is the author of the eBook Projecting X: How to Forecast Baseball Player Performance, which teaches you how to project players yourself. His projections helped him win the inaugural 2013 Tout Wars mixed draft league. He also sells beautiful photos through his online gallery, Pod's Pics. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikePodhorzer and contact him via email.

45 Responses to “The Nolan Arenado Era Has Begun”

You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.
  1. Mike says:

    Would you drop Manny Machado to pick him up?

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • jonboy says:

      i second this question

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • The Humber Games says:

        Machado has a year of growing pains behind him already, and was once even higher thought of than arenado, so it’s hard for me to rationalize making that drop.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

    • dancin_bubs says:

      Um… I think Machado has been one of the most valuable 3B in baseball so far. He’s tied with Evan Longoria in WAR. Also, since we’re talking about fantasy here, he’s the #5 3B on ESPN’s player rater (for whatever that’s worth). I hope somebody in my league drops Machado for the next shiny toy.
      I am excited about Arenado, though. I’ve just dropped Moustakas and Youkilis in several leagues to add him and I’m hoping that was the right move.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Jamey says:

      No way do I drop Machado who is finally beginning to scratch the surface of his vast offensive potential. Arenado looks the part, & his minor league stats are positive indicators that lead owners to believe that he will be a plus player at the position, but I need to see him play at this level before parting with a dude who is emerging as a difference-maker at a key roto-position.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  2. mcbrown says:

    So shiny! Must… pick up… right… now!

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  3. Kevin says:

    It is certainly not worth dropping Machado for Arenado. Machado already has MLB experience, has shown a great propensity for adjustment and hits in hitter friendly park, though obviously not Coors.

    Though right now, I’m considering doing what Dancing Bulbs has already done and dropping Mike Moose-tacos for Arenado.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  4. e123 says:

    Still floating around in my league but I would have to drop either Seager or Aoki. Seager has been on a tear and without Aoki my team is awful for steals. Thoughts?

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Nope, like I responded to the Moustakas owner, there’s gotta be someone worse on your team to drop! I have Seager on my team as well and managed to FAAB Arenado, but I’m certainly not going to be starting Arenado over Seager now.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  5. KJ says:

    In a 10-12 team/redraft I don’t see it. I have to imagine he’ll take some time to get adjusted and certainly not hit as many road bombs. In the end I just can’t see him finishing as top 12 (ROS) to be worth the while.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Doesn’t your league have a corner infielder position? Plus, a utility guy. So it’s more like a top 18-20 third baseman to be worth starting on a team, which he could easily be.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  6. MLB Rainmaker says:

    Given how shallow 3B is this year, I think NA will end up being top 12 at the position. Just look at who he’s facing to round out that 12th spot — Middlebrooks, Moustakas, and Seager — thats doable.

    While his BB% is low, he also has a low K%, so his OBP should be decent. I think Pods HR projection is a little generous though. He’s just turned 22, and he doesn’t have the frame for that kind of power today — will need to grow into his frame a bit more.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  7. sjorourke says:

    Thoughts about dropping Reynolds for Arenado, even with Reynolds’ hot start?

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • As always, try to trade the hot starter first before dropping him outright. That said, if power isn’t as much of a need, then yes, I think Arenado will outearn Reynolds RoS.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  8. Brave Soul says:

    In my 10 team 5×5 league, I have Zimmerman 3B, Freeman CI, and for UTIL options Moss, Span, and Kubel. I also have Josh Donaldson filling in at 3B for Zim, and he is performing extremeley well (showing great improvement in his plate discipline so maybe this is for real), and I need to keep a 3B option in case of more injuries to Zim, but someone will have to be dropped when Zim returns next week. Arenado is still available in my league. Would you pick him up to serve as a UTIL in a mix with a couple of these other guys, depending on matchups? I really need runs, home runs, and average, and with Arenado hitting down low in the COL lineup and not being profiled too much as a HR hitter, it’s hard for me to judge whether he’ll help my situation that much. I hate to pass up a potential ROY though. Any thoughts?

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • A 10 team league is rather shallow, but you do have Donaldson, and in terms of overall value, I’m sure everyone would have pegged Arenado to earn more. But yeah, Donaldson’s walk and strikeout rate improvements are intriguing. If you didn’t need runs, I’d say drop Span, but you do need that category, while the other two will help in homers. Arenado may only be a positive in batting average, while being neutral in homers, though in a daily league, love the idea of starting him at Coors.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  9. oregonjed says:

    Interesting article and comments. Arenado was available in my 6×6 league this morning and I debated dropping Lawrie for him. In the end I dropped Ryan Madson as I was not yet ready to cut bait on Lawrie’s slow start. Ultimately though I have three 3rd baseman (Middlebrooks too) and will need to get rid of one of them. Anyone have any thoughts about which one of the three to drop? Thanks.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  10. oregonjed says:

    Forgot to mention that I’m in a 10 team league.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  11. Shamir says:

    Is NA a better option than Yonder Alonso at CI / U?

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  12. ryan says:

    Arenado worth picking up for any of the following:
    carpenter, he qualifies at 2,3,o

    Thanks guys!

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Mac says:

      I’m struggling with keeping the 37 year old Konerko rostered. He’s getting more K’s and less BB’s than ever before in his career. Age catching up? The power’s there but not much else. Arenado has the strength of position and otherwise profiles as a similar HR and AVG guy.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  13. Brian says:

    Have Victor Martinez and can only play him at DH—would you pick up Arenado for him?

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  14. Greg says:

    David Freese is killing me in my starting lineup. Is he dropable for Arenado?

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  15. Matt says:

    Have to drop a pitcher for him. Estrada from mil. Or maholm or medlen from atl. Help

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  16. Andrew Wolfe says:

    He is going to be very protected in a Rockies line-up that includes Tulowitzki, Gonzalez, Fowler, Rosario, and Cuddyer. I don’t think he will be needed to hit over 20 home runs a year, and mentally that should help increase his wOBA. as well as lower his BB%.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  17. Stephen D says:

    I need a SP and should drop someone at 3rd but I have Johnson from ATL who had a decent start to the season but since has dragged a bit. Do I go ahead and drop him? I picked up Arenado already and also have Longoria.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  18. Morris Hsu says:

    I get Chase Headley and David Freese at 3B but still want to add Arenado. Is it worth if I drop Dan Uggla for him? Uggla is now on my bench and I have enough 2B/SS. Thanks.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  19. Willis says:

    a .291 final average seems rather optimistic, but the rest of the numbers seem reasonably attainable… No way he hits over .285… and even that’s possibly 10-20 points overly generous.
    His K% is indeed very low, but as you pointed out, he rarely takes walks… He’s a free swinger who is skilled at making contact…
    His skill set appears to be comparable to a poor-man’s Pablo Sandoval, in my opinion… I’d predict a final average around .275 with 19 HR…
    decent enough to challenge as a top 12 3rd baseman, but certainly not worth $36 when you could get a Juan Francisco at a fraction of that price and get comparable stats, in my opinion.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Seriously, no way he hits over .285? His K% currently sits at a sterling 7.7% and he’s still batting .270 despite a .226 BABIP! ZiPS projects a .278 average. Do you realize just 4 more hits would give him an average above .285 in those projected ABs? If he somehow maintains that contact rate, he might actually be a lock for .300.

      How does not taking walks affect a hitter’s batting average? Average is a function of strikeout rate, BABIP and home run rate, walks are not part of the equation. A .275 average assumes a BABIP of well below the league average. Is that what you expect from him?

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  20. Willis says:

    His minor league average is .270…
    What makes you think he is going to suddenly be a .290+ hitter against Major League pitching???

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  21. KD says:

    I was lucky enough to nab NA in a 12 team league where I have Headley. I’ve been offered Shelby Miller straight up for him and could use help with pitching since I’m mostly playing NA as a CI option. This is a keeper league and both players would have same keeper value. Pull the trigger?

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Interesting. With similarly valued players, I always prefer the hitter to the pitcher, but who would replace Arenado if you traded him?

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • KD says:

        My initial thoughts are like yours regarding hitter vs pitcher.

        Probably Loney/Dunn until I get Youks “back” (pun not intended- just acknowledging that’s a risky bet). We’re talking the CI here so the rest of my hitting lineup is deep with talent but my SP is barren aside from A Sanchez and Peavy right now.

        As mentioned, I almost always prefer the hitter in 1:1 but I’m starting to think this could be a good way to move some value around where I need it most. Was curious to get thoughts on their comparative values for ROS and going forward.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Well I do own Shelby in several leagues, so I’m a fun. Somewhat nervous though about his reliance on his fastball. But he has a great lineup backing him, is in a pitcher’s park, and has all the other skills. So if you need pitching, then the trade works for me.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

  22. KD says:

    The vote of confidence helps- wanted to make sure there wasn’t an unseen landmine I was missing. Tough to tell with the call ups sometimes… Thanks!

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  23. Crazy Guy says:

    How you feeling about Arenado, now? Optimistic/Pessimistic? Will he get good? I’d stash him, but with Miggy and Beltre on my roster and my worst players arguably being Desmond Jennings and Yovani Gallardo, I have a hard time dropping anyone for him. Do you disagree?

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Still very optimistic. Excellent strikeout rate, strong batted ball distribution that should lead to a much higher BABIP. Would be nice if he stuck in the 2 hole, but it could come as soon as his batting average rises.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Current day month ye@r *