Nolan Arenado: Major Leaguer
In my “career” as a prospect writer, Nolan Arenado is a player closely associated with my work. Back in 2010, I labeled him a “Top 30-100 prospect” before most added him to their radar and spent the next three years discussing and defending his skill set. I hitched my wagon to Arenado’s bat and went all in. After a 2012 labeled a disappointment which included questions about his makeup, my recommendation was to buy low in live chats. Hopefully you did!
Today, I woke up feeling like a proud papa. After a .364/.392/.667 start, Arenado has been called up and will make his debut as the Rockies and DBacks play for first place. It’s a fitting debut for a prospect considered to be a potential difference maker in Colorado.
In spite of Arenado’s early season power surge, his home run potential is still in question. From the chatter I’ve read, it strikes me as talking heads repeating “industry consensus” or whatever one wants to call it. To be clear, I don’t think the third baseman will enter the fold and dominate from day one. Few prospects do. However, for “experts” to assume Arenado will max out with moderate power is nearsighted and ignores the fact Arenado makes oodles of hard contact and doesn’t walk much. He’ll have plate appearances galore to add counting stats, although it may be at the expense of on base percentage.
Take Mike Moustakas as a prime example. In 2012, he accumulated 20 home runs with a 9% HR/FB rate. This is the same player projected to have plus-plus power at the Major League level. Moustakas’ walk rate (6.4%) is similar to what Arenado is doing in Triple-A. However, “Moose” struck out 20.2% of the time, more than Arenado should. In short, Moustakas sets a pretty low bar for reaching 20-home runs. It’s certainly not a recipe for success in on base percentage leagues, but 5×5 worthy for sure.
Let’s say Arenado walks 5% of the time, strikes out 15% of the time and has a HR/FB rate of 10%. in the minor leagues, Arenado has held a FB% north of 40% at every level. Of course those numbers need to be questioned considering the quality of data, so I’ll calculate it at 35% for this exercise. Let’s calculate the number of expected home runs in this scenario.
First, subtract 30 walks from 600 plate appearances leaving the third baseman with 570 at bats to work with. Then, subtract the strikeouts and we are left with 485 where the ball is put in play. 35% (170) will be fly balls. Of those, 10% will be home runs leaving Arenado with 17. For the record, this is a conservative estimate as Arenado is a fly ball hitter who makes consistent, barrel contact. As he matures, 22-25 home runs, or more, is possible.
If you are an Arenado owner, sit tight. Early on, he’ll probably give away at bats as pitchers challenge his plate discipline. But Arenado will make adjustments and develop into an All-Star talent by 2015 or 2016 — Especially in Colorado where his fly ball tendencies are tailor made for that park.
25 Jan 2014 / Mike Newman /
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