If you're not familiar with Colorado Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado, now might be a good time to get caught up. The 23-year-old from Newport Beach, Calif. was one of the NL's top rookies in 2013, earning a gold glove at the hot corner for his steady and most times spectacular defense, and he's been even better for Colorado in 2014 because now he's doing it on both sides of the field.
After going 2-for-5 with a go-ahead grand slam in the Rockies dramatic 11-10 victory over the New York Mets on Saturday night, Arenado extended his MLB-best hitting streak to 23 games, which is also the third longest streak in Rockies' history.
However, as productive as his bat has been, it's his work with the glove that keeps bringing fans out of their seats and leaving opponents in awe. And if there's one player who can definitely vouch for him, it has to be New York Mets outfielder Chris Young. In each of the last two games, Young has tested Arenado's backhand down the line and lost, and the amazing thing about both plays is that they were exact copies of one another, right on down to where the ball bounced, where Arenado picked it, to his throwing angle and the result.
Here's the play from Friday:
It's uncanny how similar they were, and on both occasions Arenado somehow got enough mustard on the throw to not only get Young at first base, but get him by multiple steps.
Granted, Chris Young isn't the same player he was three years ago. He's lost a step or two due to injuries, but he's not exactly Paul Konerko moving down the line either. He still has some giddy-up, which only adds to the sensational efforts by Arenado.
It's high praise, but it's a comparison that has been made more than once this season because of plays like those seen above.
Of course, nobody is seriously putting Arenado in Brooks Robinson's class just yet, but the amazing thing to consider is that Arenado was actually viewed as a defensive liability throughout his minor league days. Arenado remedied that by constantly working at his craft, and the steady improvement has been amazing.
"I work on that throw all the time," he said. "When I was a kid, I watched Derek Jeter make that jump throw. It is something I work on all the time so when the time comes I am ready. It's for times when you can't get your feet set."
It hasn't been easy. Arenado agrees with the assessment that his defense was a concern in the Minors.
"I didn't have a good feel for it," he said. "Every day in the Minor Leagues I'd work on it. Jerry Weinstein [Arenado's manager at Class A Modesto] helped me with different angles, and Scott Fletcher [former Rockies infield instructor and current big league coach with Atlanta] helped a lot. I did a lot of agility work in the offseason, things to help me with my footwork."
Each and every bit of that work is paying off. Meanwhile, his offensive game, which fell behind a little bit in his rookie campaign, is catching back up and making him a complete ballplayer and another asset Colorado can build around with Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez.
The Rockies are currently 19-13, one game behind the San Francisco Giants in the NL West. A better spot than most experts anticipated. Whether or not they have the staying power will most likely come down to the health of their biggest stars and their starting rotation. However, they do stand a good chance to remain one of the more entertaining teams to watch, and a big reason for that will be Nolan Arenado.
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