Third Base Profile: Nolan Arenado

Christian Petersen

Is Nolan Arenado ready to be a fantasy contributor?

I never really subscribed to the Nolan Arenado prospect hype. I didn't believe in the power and thought he was going to have to move off of third base. Arendo worked extremely hard to stay at the position and finished the 2014 season with 30 defensive runs saved, good for second at the position. Arenado showed that a lot of the maturity concerns the Rockies had were no longer an issue and he handled the pressures of the big leagues pretty well. Arenado got the call on April 28th and played 128 games, batting .267/.301/.405 and getting a third place vote in NL Rookie of the Year voting.

After the 2012 season, Baseball America put a 65 grade (on the 20-80 scouting scale) on Arenado's hit tool and tabbed him as a "potential No. 3 hitter". Arenado showed why scouts believe he can hit for average at the highest level when he posted a 23.8% line drive percentage in 2013 and an average contact rate. Arenado doesn't walk a great deal but he showed more patience in the minors and should settle in at a league average BB%. The good news is that he doesn't strike out much either and shows a good knowledge of the strike zone. Arenado has quick hands and an aggressive approach that allows him to jump on fastballs especially early in the count. He hit .405 on the first pitch of an at bat in 2013 and 9 of his 10 home runs came 2 or fewer pitches into the at bat.

Arenado should hit enough to be a fantasy asset but will he hit for enough power to move to the top of the position? Long-term he may develop some extra over-the-fence pop but, even in Coors Field, I think he maxes out somewhere around 20 home runs per year. If Arenado can get to 20 home runs, I think he will be a top 10 third baseman. I doubt we see Arenado reach that mark in 2014 as his swing is flat and he'll need to learn to put some more loft in it to tap into his average power that is mostly to his pull side. Last season, Arenado hit a below league average 33.7% of batted balls in the air and of 7.1% of those balls hit went for home runs. His average fly ball distance was a mediocre 280 feet and a Baseball America scouting report from last offseason noted that "he derives his power more from bat speed than muscle".

Arenado doesn't run well but you aren't expecting much in terms of stolen base production from your third baseman. He moves well enough to stay at the position which is about as much as we can hope for. Arenado is projected to start down in the Rockies lineup and a lack of left handed hitters could keep him in the bottom third for most of the season if Walt Weiss wants to split his righties up. I don't believe Arenado will get more than 100 extra plate appearance from year ago, but the Rockies should have a high-scoring offense this season and I would expect Arenado to post better RBI and runs totals than he did last year.

A lot of people really like Arenado as a young up-and-comer and I've come around on him some in the past year. However, I don't think he's more than a corner infield option in most one-year leagues. He's probably in the back of the top 10 in NL-only leagues and gets a tick up in dynasty formats in which players can wait on the power to develop. As I usually do with young players, I would caution you about taking Arenado too early as third base is fairly deep this year and I'd rather take a guy like Chris Johnson a few rounds later.

You can follow Zack on Twitter at @FantasyNinja8.

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