How Good Can Nolan Arenado be at Coors Field?


The dimensions of Coors Field will be friendly to Nolan Arenado.

Photo courtesy of Max and Dee Stark.

The Colorado Rockies made a move over the weekend that has some nice fantasy implications. They Designated Chris Nelson for Assignment, and called up prospect Nolan Arenado.

I was trying to find the right words for this when I stumbled across what Andy Behrens of Yahoo Sports said.

"You want this guy. Arenado’s promotion is without question an actionable event for fantasy owners."

I’m going to go ahead and co-sign that one.

In his debut with the Rockies, Arenado hit seventh, went 0-for-3 with a walk. But his body of work in the minor leagues is pretty exceptional. Take a look for yourself (all stats courtesy of Baseball Reference, page linked above).

2009Casper GhostsRk54282225.300/.351/.404
2010Asheville TouristsA924512651.308/.338/.520
2011Modesto NutsA+13482201222.298/.349/.487
2012Tulsa DrillersAA1345512560.285/.337/.428
2013Colorado Springs Sky SoxAAA18143210.364/.392/.667

That’s pretty dang good, and it doesn’t stop just at the good numbers. The numbers are also pretty consistent. Yes, he’s been phenomenal in 2013 but even if he was going to level out to his previous Minor League numbers, what was he going to level out to? At worst, probably a .285 hitter with power.

There’s something else that needs to be mentioned here, and it’s not shown in the numbers above. While he strike out increasingly more each year in the minors, Arenado never struck out more than 60 times. He struck out 58 times in 134 games in 2012. That rate translates to about 70 strikeouts over 162 games.

Now, you have to expect that rate to increase when he’s facing Major League pitching, but it would have to increase an awful lot for him to be at 100 strikeouts.

Now, I’m of two minds about strikeouts. At times, I think they’re a little overrated. I understand that with men on base, you don’t want to strike out, but remember that even the best hitters make an out three out of 10 times. So, if you take 600 at-bats in a given year and hit .300, you’ll record 180 hits, meaning you’ll get out 420 times. Does it really matter how all of the outs are recorded?

Reggie Jackson struck out 2,597 times in his career. Over 162 games, he averaged 567 at-bats. So, he struck out for more than the equivalent of four-and-a-half seasons worth of at-bats. Is anyone really going to sit back and nitpick his career? Heck even Mickey Mantle, a former batting champ, struck out for more than three season’s worth of at-bats, and that’s even rounding up all of his seasons to 162 (remember, his early career came in 154 game seasons). Again, are we really going to pick The Commerce Comet apart?

That’s all true, but there are a few problems with my own argument. One, not everyone is Mickey Mantle or Reggie Jackson. Two, when you play your home games at Coors Field, making contact is awfully important.

Year in and year out, Coors Field is the best hitter’s park in the league. It’s not even close. Other parks are favorable to hitters because of small dimensions, notably in the gaps. Coors is tough because the ball carries so well, despite the fact that it’s one of the biggest stadiums in the league. The altitude helps the ball fly out and outfielders are left with a choice. Either play back to cut off the big gaps, therefore being vulnerable to bloop hits. Or, play in to cut the cheap hits off, and make the gaps vulnerable. Throw in the fact that the field is usually trimmed low, so the ball gets through the infield quicker, and the dirt is generally compacted, so the ball bounces hard, and you have a very difficult park to pitch in.

Okay, if you’ve been following baseball since 1995, you know that. I didn’t say anything in the above paragraph that’s never been said hundreds of times.

But more than any stadium in the league, if you’re hitting at Coors Field, making contact is a huge deal. If you hit the ball, you have a lot of things working in your favor that will make the ball find a hole in the defense. To show the advantages of Coors Field, I’d like to show you who the Rockies’ leading hitter has been every year since Coors Field opened in 1995, and contrast it with the Yankees’ leading hitter. Just a reminder, the Yankees are almost always one of the best offensive teams in the league, and have made the playoffs every year in this window, with the exception of 2008.

YearRockies Leading HitterAVGYankees Leading HitterAVG
1995Dante Bichette.340Wade Boggs.324
1996Ellis Burks.344Mariano Duncan.340
1997Larry Walker.366Bernie Williams.328
1998Larry Walker.363Bernie Williams.339
1999Larry Walker.379Derek Jeter.349
2000Todd Helton.372Derek Jeter.339
2001Larry Walker.350Derek Jeter.311
2002Larry Walker.338Bernie Williams.333
2003Todd Helton.358Derek Jeter.324
2004Todd Helton.347Hideki Matsui.298
2005Todd Helton.320Alex Rodriguez.321
2006Garrett Atkins.329Derek Jeter.343
2007Matt Holliday.340Jorge Posada.338
2008Matt Holliday.321Johnny Damon.303
2009Todd Helton.325Derek Jeter.334
2010Carlos Gonzalez.336Robinson Cano.319
2011Troy Tulowitzki.302Robinson Cano.302
2012Carlos Gonzalez.303Derek Jeter.316

So even though the Yankees are generally much better than the Rockies, Colorado’s leading hitter generally hits for a far higher average than New York’s.

Getting back to Arenado, what does this all mean? It means that he doesn’t strike out a lot, he’s a good hitter, and in a good hitting environment.

I’d get out there and grab him on your fantasy team. Even if you have an elite third baseman and don’t need utility/corner infield help, him being on your team will keep him from someone else. In keeper/dynasty leagues, there is always a push for young players, so Arenado will have a lot of trade value.

There are plenty of things you can do with him, but they all start with adding Arenado to your roster. I wouldn’t waste time in doing just that.