|No need to rush Nolan Arenado to the big leagues.|
Colorado Rockies prospect Nolan Arenado is turning heads at spring training in Scottsdale. On Monday, in a 16-6 loss to the Seattle Mariners, the third baseman launched his fourth home run of the spring, and the third in as many days.
After winning the Arizona Fall League MVP honors in 2011, beating out Bryce Harper, Arenado was talked about as the next big thing for the Rockies. In fact, some thought that he had made such a huge impression that he could be the starting third baseman for the Rockies, despite never playing above Single-A.
Arenado was quickly recognized by most publications as the Rockies top prospect, and was listed as one of the top 50 prospects in the game. The biggest question was not if, but when Arenado would make his debut with the Rockies in 2012.
The 2012 spring was a slow one for Arenado, and the idea of him starting the year with the Rockies quickly went out the window. The thought from most fans was that the club would bring him up in July, avoiding the possibility that he would qualify as a "Super-2," meaning he hits arbitration eligibility one year earlier because of service time.
However, Arenado's fast-track to the big leagues became less than certain when he started having issues at the Double-A level, where he ended up looking more like a 21-year-old and less like a phenom who belonged at a higher level. He finished the 2012 season with 56 RBIs, a far cry from the 122 he drove in a year prior for Modesto, leading all Rockies minor leaguers. He finished with a .285 batting average and a .428 slugging percentage, while reaching base at a .337 clip.
The numbers, however, were not the biggest issue. The Rockies made it very clear to anyone willing to ask that Arenado had an attitude problem. It seemed that he wasn't very happy with his quick dismissal from the big league team in spring training, and the Rockies felt that he sulked about it.
With the past behind him, Arenado is proving that he isn't a bust. He is showing that his 2012 was a fluke and that the aberration was the season in Tulsa, not the one in Modesto.
The power is remarkable, as is the fact that he was once seen as a bad defender, and has since turned his defense into a strong point in his game.
The temptation for the Rockies to bring Arenado to the big leagues has to be there. Especially with fans clamoring for him.
However, the Colorado Rockies need to exercise patience.
There is no reason to rush Arenado to the big leagues. The talent is clearly there. That isn't in doubt. However, after watching him stumble in Double-A a year ago, there is no reason to determine that one good spring training means he is ready for the challenges of Major League Baseball.
Keep in mind, Arenado won't turn 22-years-old until the middle of April. He is still very young. This isn't a kid who is pushing his mid-20's and needs to prove that he can be a big leaguer right away. There is still plenty of time for him to develop and learn the game.
In this situation, the risks outweigh the benefits for the Rockies in giving Arenado an Opening Day roster spot.
The Rockies have a solid group of players who can fill in the gap at third base. Despite not getting much credit, Jordan Pacheco has done nothing but hit. He proved that he is a capable hitter, and despite lacking the power traditionally seen at third base, he has done nothing to suggest that he can't get on base. The kid can flat hit.
Behind Pacheco is Chris Nelson, DJ LeMahieu and even Eric Young, Jr. All three of those guys are capable of playing the position well enough to suggest that the Rockies don't have a gap at third base.
An even bigger reason is that the Rockies are coming off of a season in which they lost 98 games. They stand to be a better baseball team, with a new manager and new attitude, but reality suggests that everything would have to go right for them in order for them to improve significantly enough to be a contender.
If the Rockies aren't going to be contenders, why make Arenado swim in the deep end when he could get more seasoning at the Triple-A level?
Let him start in Colorado Springs. Let him see another level, with some older players who know how to pitch more than Double-A talent. If Arenado proves that he can hit Triple-A pitchers well enough, then bring him up after the All-Star game. That way, the Rockies don't risk him becoming a Super-2, and they also don't risk ruining the confidence of one of their brightest young stars.
Give him 250-300 at-bats in Triple-A, then make the decision. The upside for the Rockies is far bigger than than downside of leaving him in the minors when he is ready for the big leagues.
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