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Third Base Watch: Nolan Arenado

The Colorado Rockies’ record stands at 21-29. They are 11 games back of the division leading Los Angeles Dodgers. They’ve just put their star Troy Tulowitzki on the disabled list and recently designated for assignment the warm-the-cockles-of-your-heart story, Jamie Moyer. The latter move is ostensibly to to keep space available for Christian Friedrich or Drew Pomeranz when Jorge de la Rosa ultimately returns.

The Rockies would need to go 69-43 for the remainder of the season, a .620 winning percentage, in order to get to 90 wins. 65-47 for 86 wins, if you think that would do the trick for the second wild card, which would mean a .580 win percentage from here on out. Neither are particularly likely.

So the move towards youth might be on (or on the close horizon) and the next logical place to look for the Rockies has to be third base.

After the failed effort to squeeze life out of Casey Blake, the Rockies have used four players at third base over their first fifty games – Jonathan Herrera, Jordan Pacheco, Chris Nelson, and D.J. LeMahieu. They’ve mostly relied on Chris Nelson and Jordan Pacheco, neither of whom would call third base their natural position. Neither have been particularly comfortable at the dish so far this season either.

Chris Nelson (currently on the DL) has a slash line of .219/.313/.288 with no home runs and seven RBI. He’s shown decent patience at the plate with a 12% walk rate, but absolutely no power and a below average glove. His RC+ of 47 is among the worst in baseball at the position.

As of Thursday night, Pacheco stands at .287/.300/.425 which is decent enough, although rather uninspiring. Pacheco walks like he’s mortally afraid of taking a pitch, he’s hit just one home run and five doubles over 26 games and hasn’t thus far demonstrated much range at third base.

Nolan Arenado is currently at AA, and over 208 plate appearances he’s hitting .305/.346/.432 with three home runs, 15 doubles, and 29 RBI. Not enough to force the hand of the Rockies brass, but enough for a team unlikely to make the playoffs to consider call up as they evaluate their talent for 2013. There was some hope that Arenado would break camp with the big club after demonstrating an ISO just shy of .200, swatting 20 HR’s and driving in 122 runs in the California League in 2011, but he hit just .192/.222/.346 in Spring and the club sent him down for seasoning.

Arenado is clearly their future hope at third base and considering the recent production at the hot corner and the current state of the standings, there’s not much reason to wait. His power hasn’t developed at a rate the club probably hoped for, but running a converted catcher and a converted shortstop out there in order to produce below-replacement production doesn’t make a heck of a lot of sense right now.

If you’re in a deep league, it’s worth taking a flyer on Arenado at third now. If you’re in a standard league, weigh your third base situation with your current roster and whether you can stomach carrying a minor league player for a few weeks to see if he gets the call.

Arenado could have an immediate fantasy impact in a place like Colorado and it’s becoming increasingly apparent that the club is in a situation where they ought to give him a chance to compete at the major league level.