How is this for impressive: Missing one third of the season and still ranking as the #6 third baseman last year at the age of 23. The Colorado Rockies' Nolan Arenado doesn't get discussed as a star or a potential superstar yet, but maybe he should. Having won two Gold Glove's already, he's known more for his defense than his bat. The former 2nd-round draft pick made some serious strides at the plate last season. In his rookie year he was not very good, posting a mere .706 OPS, which considering he played half his games in Coors Field is a very poor season. It is not surprising that it resulted in a bad 77 wRC+. In 2014 Arenado surged to an .828 OPS and 113 wRC+.
Arenado's 2014 Season:
111 Games Played
18 Home Runs
That is excellent production considering he missed 51 games due to a broken finger and later pneumonia. If he were to play a full season at those same rates he would end up with around 85 Runs, 26 HRs and 85 RBI. If he continues to mature at the plate while staying healthy he could put up elite numbers. Arenado has never been a base-stealer, not even in the minors. Don't count on anything in that category, but he will be well above average in all other categories. Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez are expected to be healthy this year (at least for awhile), so that should help Arenado's stats quite a bit as well.
Any decent hitter with an everyday role for the Rockies is going to put up good fantasy stats. Their ballpark is a tremendous advantage. The Rockies hit literally twice as well at home as they do on the road. The Rockies are the highest scoring team in the majors when they play at home, and they are the lowest scoring team in the majors when they play on the road. Last year they scored 500 runs in their 81 home games and 255 runs in their 81 road games. Every hitter in their lineup has huge home/road splits, Arenado included.
Arenado's Career Splits:
Home vs Lefthanders -- 1.123 OPS
Home vs Righthanders -- .756 OPS
Away vs Lefthanders -- .654 OPS
Away vs Righthanders -- .664 OPS
Arenado is a superstar when he plays at home against a lefty pitcher. He is above average at home against righties. He stinks when he plays on the road. Simple as that. Basically Arenado distills a big chunk of his production into a very small number of his games. For example, he has hit 35% of his career home runs in the 16% of his plate appearances that came at home vs lefties. He has a .344 AVG at home vs lefties and a .264 AVG in all other at-bats. 70% of his RBI have come in home games, only 30% on the road! It is a huge, huge difference.
This can be both an advantage and a disadvantage for his fantasy owners depending on what league format they play in. If you play in a roto league with daily lineup changes Arenado is awesome because you can start him whenever he plays at home (especially vs lefties) and put him on the bench when the Rockies are on the road. In this way you benefit from his good games and avoid his bad games. Of course this requires you to devote another valuable roster slot for a backup third baseman to play frequently when Arenado is on your bench. Even if you don't want to use a strict platoon you should still sit him against the best pitchers in pitchers' parks like San Diego, San Francisco and Miami.
If you play in a Head-to-Head league with weekly lineup changes Arenado loses a lot of his desirability because you would have to leave him in your lineup even when he has some poor matchups that week. That puts you in a bad situation if you are in a close weekly match and Arenado is playing on the road. It could be disastrous in the fantasy playoffs.
In short, if you leave Arenado in your lineup all season long you will have a sure-fire top 10 third baseman, perhaps even top 5. If you have the roster flexibility to platoon Arenado with another 3rd-sacker you could get the equivalent of an elite superstar if you combine the total production of the two players. This strategy actually applies to most or all of the Rockies hitters because they all exhibit the same extreme home/road splits.
Arenado will turn 24 in April and is entering his 3rd major league season. He can be expected to show continued improvement at the plate. He is a hitter on the upswing of his career arc. Buy him with confidence and reap the rewards. He is likely to spend at least four more season in the thin air of Colorado. If he ever gets traded it would be time to bail on him.
Arenado is typically the 7th third baseman taken in drafts according to FantasyPros ADP data, going with the 59th pick overall, which would be near the end of the 5th round in a 12 team league. If he is available there in your draft I would definitely snare him. I think his ADP is a bit low. He offers at least 4th round value in roto leagues with daily lineup changes. In weekly leagues he should be taken in the 5th or 6th round.