With MLB’s All-Star Game rosters being announced next week, it’s a chance to showcase the brightest stars in all of baseball. One particular bright young star is Nolan Arenado of the Colorado Rockies, lingering in second place for third base voting behind Kris Bryant of the Cubs but a near guarantee to make the team as a reserve. Arenado made the NL All-Star team last year and has so far put up an even better season.
Arenado currently leads the National League in both home runs and RBIs, and is second in both categories across the entire MLB. He is also third in baseball in slugging percentage, as those 21 home runs have helped him slug .585, for a .962 OPS. Most of the players in front of him are older, more veteran players that the 25 year old Rockie has successfully competed with. He is a constantly improving player who is looking to get even better.
Here’s what you need to know.
1. He Led the National League in Home Runs and RBIs in 2015
Rockies fans and executives have to be thrilled with Arenado, who has consistently progressed every year since being in the league. After a solid 2013 rookie season, he improved in batting average and home runs in 2014 despite missing more games with injuries and illness. Last year, he finally got the chance to play a full season for the Rockies, and shined in nearly every regard. His 42 home runs and 130 RBIs led the National League. He hit .287, same as in 2014, but his slugging percentage skyrocketed from an impressive .500 to a fantastic .575. For his great season, he finished in the top 10 in MVP voting that year.
This year shows improvement as well. His 21 home runs and 63 RBIs 74 games into the season put him at a similar, if not slightly better pace than his 2015 season. His slugging has gone up to .585, and his on-base percentage increased tremendously – he’s already walked more times this season than in any other season of his career.
2. He Has Won a Gold Glove at Third Base Every Year He’s Been in the Majors
Offense is not the only gift Nolan Arenado has shown in the majors. In his rookie year of 2013, he played 133 games, most of the season. He only reached 7th in Rookie of the Year voting, but was awarded a Gold Glove at third base. His 2014 season was limited to just 111 games, but again ended with Arenado getting a Gold Glove. His stellar 2015 season also finished with a Gold Glove award, meaning that he has never been in the Major Leagues and not won a Gold Glove.
It’s a fascinating development for Arenado, who was not known as a defense whiz of any kind originally. His original scouting report before being drafted wasn’t entirely sure what position he would be at – he played shortstop and catcher, and shortstop, they said, was “not where he’ll be at the next level.” But Arenado went hard at work at the craft of third base, and by 2011, scouts were praising not just his dramatically improved footwork, but his instincts. By 2015, Arenado’s defense was getting praised by legendary Orioles third baseman Brooks Robinson.
3. He Was Drafted Out of High School By the Rockies in 2009
Arenado’s strength as a high school baseball player was his offense, and the aforementioned scouting report mentions his “above average raw power,” as well as his quickness with the bat. It was this kind of phenomenal hitting at El Toro High School in Los Angeles that got Nolan Arenado drafted by Colorado in the second round in 2009.
Arenado impressed in his minor league tenure, making the 2011 All-Star Futures Game. That same year, Baseball Reference had him as a top 100 prospect in all of baseball. Later that year, he would be named Arizona Fall League MVP. Just two years later, he would reach the majors.
4. He is Making $5 Million Under His Contract This Year After Firing Scott Boras As His Agent
Living up to expectations and exceeding other expectations would make Arenado a bargain at nearly any price. Luckily, the Rockies didn’t have to deal with any price. This past offseason was Arenado’s first arbitration-eligible year, but in January he and the Rockies decided to avoid an arbitration hearing, and he agreed to a $5 million contract for 2016. It’s an incredible deal for the Rockies, someone with 40 home run power and Gold Glove defense for just $5 million.
The deal came a couple of months after Arenado’s surprising decision to leave his agent, Scott Boras, well known for getting his clients massive deals. The decision had many wondering if this would create a better environment for Arenado to sign a long-term deal with the Rockies. He’s not set to become a free agent until after the 2019 season.
5. His Parents Are of Cuban and Puerto Rican Descent, And He May Play For Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic
Arenado has a large Cuban family, and his mother also has Puerto Rican heritage. According to USA Today, other Colorado teammates like Carlos Gonzalez rib him for his lack of fluency in Spanish, hailing frmo Los Angeles as a second-generation American.
Despite not being fluent in Spanish, Arenado is weighing his options for the 2017 World Baseball Classic. Players are able to play not only for the country they’re born in, but possibly a country their parents, grandparents, or great-grandparents are from. Arenado’s lineage is Cuba and Puerto Rico, but Cuba has gone on record saying they intend to continue only using players that are still in Cuba. As such, Arenado has been considering playing for Puerto Rico next year, telling ESPN, “I have already looked at [Puerto Rico’s] lineup and I think it would be pretty cool to be a part of it. But for me it’s all about family, that I represent them the right way. That’s what’s most important to me.”