|Nolan Arenado has had an impressive rookie season for the Rockies.|
Nolan Arenado is hitting .264 for the Colorado Rockies in his rookie campaign. He has an on-base percentage of just .301, he has nine home runs and 43 RBIs. As far as stats go, Arenado has put together a fairly average rookie season. Not great, but not bad either.
However, anyone watching this team knows that Arenado's contributions to the Rockies go much further than the stats say. To start, has their been a play that Arenado can't make at third base? In the Rockies quest to find an everyday third baseman who will stick, the California native seems to have made enough web gems at third base to make up for the lost time that the revolving door at the position provided since Vinny Castilla left.
His arm has been shown to be plenty good, but his range and ability to make the nearly impossible play look easy has become a weekly event. Ironically, the knock against Arenado when he first came up was that his defense wasn't going to be nearly good enough to play third base in the big leagues. The fact that he is not only serviceable, but in contention for a Gold Glove at the position is a testament to his work habits.
What the stats also don't say is his ability to come through in the clutch. His ability to get big hits in big situations has made it less than a stretch to suggest that if given the opportunity, he might be the Rockies pick to come up to the plate with the game on the line. In the 9th inning, Arenado is hitting .314 with a .400 slugging percentage.
The Rockies got to watch Arenado's antics again on Sunday. In the 1st inning with Giancarlo Stanton at the plate, Arenado snagged a ball headed for the left field corner. Instead of a two-out double, Arenado made a jump-throw the brought back memories of the guy usually playing shortstop right on the money to Ryan Wheeler at first base.
In the 6th inning, Arenado showed his value at the plate. With two outs and the game tied, the third baseman took a low curveball down the left field line. It bounced off of the wall and stopped, giving Michael Cuddyer enough time to race around from first base and score what ended up being the game-winning run.
The person presumably happiest about the big hit was sitting in the dugout with his day complete and his thumb throbbing. The run put Jorge De La Rosa on the plus-side and helped him notch his 14th win of the season.
De La Rosa pitched threw a bruised thumb that has plagued him for the majority of the season. If that has been the major influencing factor on his season, the Rockies should take a hammer with them to spring training in 2014 and make sure the bruise is in-tact for next season as well. The left-hander has been one of the bright spots in a season that looks like it will finish much the same as the 2012 campaign ended.
In his five innings of work, De La Rosa gave up a workman-like three earned runs. It wasn't exactly pretty, but again the lefty showed why he is an ace and how far he has come in his career. With two runs in already in the 4th inning and the bases loaded with no one out, De La Rosa didn't let things spiral out of control. He worked Koyie Hill into a double play, a play started by Arenado who made another great stop on the ball to get the play started, and then struck out Jacob Turner to end the threat and leave the Rockies in the lead.
Early in his career, even early in the time that De La Rosa was with the Rockies, the Mexico native would have let that situation spiral out of control. The first two runs would have only been the beginning of what would have been a huge inning for the Marlins. He would have let his emotions get the best of him and he either would have over-thrown, missing the strike zone, or he would have put pitches down the center of the plate and paid for it.
However, that was the old De La Rosa. The new one, the one who has been in the top 10 pitchers in all of the National League, settles himself down. He doesn't let that situation get the best of him and he goes and gets outs. That mentality has not only preserved his career, but it has made him a true ace. He has always had great stuff, but the mental strength that he has displayed since 2009 is nothing to scoff at. He truly has turned into an ace, and frankly, very few people within the Rockies organization seem to realize just how good he has been for them.
With Arenado and De La Rosa, the Rockies still have some positives in an otherwise disappointing season. Both players have been a joy to watch and give the Rockies hope for the future. De La Rosa has a team option for the 2014 season that the Rockies would be crazy not to pick up. In fact, signing him to a three-year extension might be in their best interest. The success that he has shown in a Rockies uniform, and at Coors Field, should give the Rockies all the confidence that they need to pull the trigger on that type of deal.
For Arenado, the sky is the limit. He will only get better as he gets used to the pitching that he has to deal with on a day-to-day basis. He is talented enough to suggest that he very well may be representing the Rockies in several All-Star Games in his career.
The 2013 season might not be going anywhere, but De La Rosa and Arenado have been two reasons to continue watching the Rockies as the season winds down.
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