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Current Thoughts on Rockies Prospect Nolan Arenado
Several readers have asked me recently for my current thoughts regarding Colorado Rockies third base prospect Nolan Arenado. He had an outstanding season in 2011, hitting .298/.349/.487 with 20 homers in the California League, followed by an excellent performance in the Arizona Fall League (.388/.428/.636, league MVP).
However, his 2012 season for Double-A Tulsa wasn't as juicy, on the surface anyway; .285/.337/.428 with 12 homers, 39 walks, and 58 strikeouts in 516 at-bats. There were also buzzes around the baseball world that the Rockies weren't happy with his off-the-field approach and felt he needed to grow up.
Am I concerned about him?
Not really. He didn't hit as many home runs, but he still knocked 36 doubles. He maintained his ability to make contact, with virtually no change in his strikeout rate (53/517 AB in '11, 58/516 AB in '12) and only slight dippage in walks. He was very hot late in the season, hitting .366/.388/.569 in August/September. He had a bad month in July, but was more productive the rest of the year, including a strong start (.310/.398/.452 in April) to go with the excellent finish.
He continued to progress on defense, improving his fielding percentage, showing good range, and erasing any doubts that he can stick at the hot corner.
As for the intangible thing, Arenado is just 21 years old, so at this point I'm not concerned about maturity issues. I had him as a Grade A- pre-season. The slippage in power production is enough for me to drop him down a notch to Grade B+, but that's still as strong grade and I still regard him as one of the best third base prospects in baseball.
He'll need a year of Triple-A, but I remain an optimist.