Nolan Arenado has the type of impactful and dynamic baseball skills that can improve any big league baseball team.
Thanks to a February 1 trade between the Colorado Rockies and St. Louis Cardinals, Arenado will take his .293 career batting average to St. Louis. The trade came after Arenado had played Gold Glove caliber third base and compiled All-Star type offensive numbers in his eight-year Rockies career.
Adding Arenado to a lineup that will place him in tandem with hard-hitting first baseman Paul Goldschmidt, the Cardinals markedly improved their chances of winning their division and advancing deeply in the postseason.
In return for the consistent production of Arenado, the Rockies received minor league prospects including infielder Mateo Gil, pitching prospects Tony Locey, and Jake Sommers, third baseman Elehuris Montero and major league pitcher Austin Gomber.
The Rockies have also sent up to $51M to the Cardinals to help defray part of Arenado’s contract.
While the number of players sent to Colorado in the deal may seem impressive, it must be remembered that the new Rockies, with the exception of left-handed pitcher Austin Gomber are young and untested. Montero is the highest rated by scouts. He has power that should be rewarded in hitter-friendly Coors Field.
About Nolan Arenado:
Right-handed hitting Nolan Arenado was selected by the Colorado Rockies in the second round of the 2009 MLB First Year Player Draft out of El Toro High School in Lake Forest, California.
When he was only 22, Arenado made his major league debut with the parent Rockies on April 28, 2013. In his rookie year, Arenado made 514 plate appearances in 133 games. Remarkably, he struck out only 72 times. He hit 10 homers and drove in 52 runs.
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The following season, Arenado won his first of eight Gold Glove. Since then, he has won a Gold Glove every year.
From his initial exposure to major league pitching, Arenado kept improving as both a hitter and as a defensive wizard at third base.
What type of player is St. Louis getting in Nolan Arenado? To this scout, he has been one of the most lethal power hitters and most consistent run producers in the game.
Some of Arenado’s production can be explained by the high altitude and thin air at his home park of Coors Field. Arenado hit 136 home runs at Coors. He hit 99 home runs on the road. He’s had 47 more plate appearances at home. Both home and away, Arenado has been a force at the plate. He made those in the Rockies lineup better due to his presence.
Arenado made his first of five All Star teams in 2015, at the age of 24. He blasted 42 home runs and drove in 130 runs on his way to a slugging percentage of .575. He has been an All Star in every All Star Game since.
Arenado has hit 37 or more home runs every year since his breakout in 2015. Starting that year, Arenado has hit 42, 41, 37, 38, and 41 home runs. Of course, last season was shortened due to the pandemic. Arenado hit only eight home runs in 2020, but he was limited to 201 plate appearances due to left AC joint inflammation in his shoulder. He played in only 48 games.
The 6-2, 215 pound Arenado won four consecutive Silver Slugger Awards from 2015-2018.
In February 2019, Colorado signed Arenado to a whopping eight-year, $260M contract. The deal would have kept Arenado in a Rockies uniform through 2026. His contract included an opt-out clause after three seasons, and would have enabled him to become a free agent after this coming 2021 season. He also had a no-trade clause that he waived to approve his trade to the Cardinals.
By agreeing to be traded to St. Louis, another year was added to Arenado’s contract.
There are other nuances to his contract that include deferred payments, but the key factor was the additional year Arenado received for waiving his no-trade clause with Colorado. According to Fangraphs, his new deal leaves Arenado with a contract that will pay him an average annual value of $30, 555,556 until 2027. He can opt out of the contract after 2021 or 2022.
Nolan Arenado’s Skills:
When he was only 20, Arenado played for Salt River in the Arizona Fall League. It was this scout’s first opportunity to see and evaluate Arenado on almost a daily basis. He had already earned a reputation as a very highly rated prospect, having hit for both average and power in his three minor league development seasons leading to the Fall League experience.
Arenado won the 2011 Arizona Fall League’s Joe Black MVP Award with a fantastic display of tools, athleticism and baseball acumen. He hit .388/423/.636/.1.059 in 130 plate appearances, covering 29 games. Arenado smoked six home runs and 12 doubles among his 47 hits. It was a performance this old scout had not seen in all the years of scouting Fall League games. Frankly, it was just a preview of what was to come when Arenado entered the major leagues.
What this scout has observed from that first scouting exposure until his last appearances with Colorado has been a steady and consistent line-drive hitting slugger with total control of his plate appearances.
Arenado has a knack for getting his quick hands out front and barreling the ball on the line to the gaps or over the fence. The ball makes that special sound off his bat, leaving the barrel with tremendous force. He doesn’t hit the high, arching home runs we think of with power hitters. He hits balls that look like they were shot from a cannon.
Initially, Arenado had an inside-out, almost opposite field approach. However, he learned quickly to turn on pitches and drive the ball more to his pull side to left and left center fields. That said, he can take a pitch where it is thrown and use the entire field.
Arenado has a keen sense of the strike zone. He doesn’t chase pitches and is acutely aware of how pitchers try to get him out. His eye-hand coordination is superb, as he sees the ball quickly and clearly coming out of the pitcher’s hand. His contact rate is outstanding.
Defensively, Arenado has reminded some of Brooks Robinson, who is often viewed as the “gold standard” of third baseman. Like Robinson, Arenado has a very strong and accurate arm. And like Robinson, Arenado’s range and footwork are outstanding. He comes in on a short roller to third with cat like quickness. It is a joy to watch Arenado totally control anything hit near the third base area code.
Not at all fast, Arenado will never be a base stealing threat. Arenado consistently hits for a high batting average, powers the ball for home runs and drives in runs as a dynamic, game-changing hitter.
With the Cardinals, Arenado will lose the favorable hitting conditions of Coors Field and Chase Field in Arizona. Both those environments are hitter friendly, high altitude parks. Busch Stadium in St. Louis is a tougher park for home runs. But Arenado will be playing games in Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati, and newly named American Family Field in Milwaukee. Both those venues will give him two of the better home run parks on the road.
Nolan Arenado didn’t have his best season in pandemic shortened 2020. However, he has a new home in St. Louis, playing for a Cardinals club that are now favored by many to win the National League Central, helped markedly by his presence.
Arenado will team with Paul Goldschmidt to create a formidable task for opposing pitchers to navigate in the middle of the Cardinals batting order.
Rockies fans had a tremendous appreciation for Arenado. He will be sorely missed. In St. Louis, he will be playing for some of the greatest fans in the game. Like the fans in Colorado, Cardinals fans will appreciate the exciting skills he will add to their club.
Arenado is a complete player with hitting and fielding skills that place him in a small group of high impact players on both sides of the ball.
In the end, Rockies ownership will save millions of dollars they would have had to pay Nolan Arenado. They will make every attempt to develop the players they received in return for one of baseball’s finest players. To this writer, however, the return for their All Star, Gold Glove, Silver Slugger fell far short of Mr. Arenado’s value to his team, their fans and their franchise.