Nolan Arenado And The Middle Ground
Nolan Arenado was overhyped headed into the 2012 season.
The then-20 year old was coming off a year where he hit .298/.349/.487 in High-A, mashing 20 homers and an eye-popping 122 RBI, and finishing with a wRC+ of 108. Rumors began to surface that he’d break camp with the MLB team, eschewing the upper minors all together, and some had him pegged as a future cornerstone of the Rockies offense.
Baseball America ranked him as the No. 42 prospect in the game before 2012. Baseball Prospectus ranked him aggressively at No. 20. Keith Law wasn’t far behind at No. 26, while John Sickles sat poised as the most optimistic, ranking Arenado as high as No. 13 overall.
As we know now, Arenado did not live up to the unreasonable expectations heaped upon him by Interweb analysts. Not only did he fail to make the big league club out of spring training, but he failed to make it at any point during the 2012 season. We heard rumors of character issues and a lack of maturity. And after what many perceived to be a lackluster 2012 campaign, Arenado plummeted down Top 100 lists this season.
That would all be well and good, except for one pretty basic observation: Arenado’s 2012 season was good. In fact, by advanced metrics it was a little better than his celebrated 2011 campaign.Last year, as a 21-year-old in Double-A, Arenado posted a .285/.337/.428 line. Yes, that means the OBP and power were down from a year earlier, and the RBI total of 56 wasn’t eye-popping anymore either. But remember that he did this at a higher level – one many consider to be the true litmus test for prospects – and consider that he actually posted a higher wRC+ at 110.
So what did that performance earn him in terms of rankings? Baseball America dropped him 10 spots to No. 52. BP let him fall 37 spots to No. 57. Sickles soured on him some as well, letting him fall a whopping 40 spots to No. 54.
But Law took the cake, letting Arenado fall off of his Top 100 list one season after considering him among the best prospects in the game, and after a season in which Arenado was better than his competition. Quite frankly, it’s moves like these that lend some credence to those who accuse Law of writing and ranking simply to get a reaction.
The lesson here is pretty simple. Those who underrated Arenado headed into this season are just as wrong as those who overrated him before 2012’s start.
Arenado finally earned the call to the majors earlier this week, and odds are he’s going to be in the big leagues to stay. The right-hander was hitting .364/.392/.667 in 75 Triple-A PA, and has already hit his first homer in the majors in just 14 PA.
He is not a future superstar, in my opinion. His approach is less than stellar, I don’t think the OBP will consistently surpass .340, and he’s not a huge power threat. But on the positive side, Arenado is tough to strike out, has a 6 hit tool and definitely has enough power to threaten for 20 homers in Coors Field, with some mid-20s seasons possible coming in his prime.
Does that make him a Fantasy monster? No. Does it make him worth owning in all but the shallowest of mixed leagues? You bet it does.
I’ll make a bold statement and go on record as saying I think Arenado has more Fantasy value this season than Anthony Rendon. In the short term, he’s likely more valuable than slumping young vets like Will Middlebrooks and Mike Moustakas as well.
If Arenado is still available in your league, grab him. He won’t be there for much longer.