By Brandon Niles EBS Sports Columnist
It’s been a while since the Colorado Rockies have had something to be excited about.
The team hasn’t been to the playoffs since 2009, and that fantastic National League Championship Series in 2007 seems like a distant memory at this point. A year ago, the team traded Troy Tulowitski, one of their best hitters, and it appeared that they were on their way to another rebuild.
But last season also saw Nolan Arenado hit 42 homeruns and have a breakout year. The 25-year-old third basemen from Newport Beach, California, finished the season with career bests in hits, homeruns, and a whopping 130 RBIs that was best in MLB.
Arenado was drafted back in 2009 as a second round pick, eschewing college for professional baseball. After a few successful years in the minor leagues, the Rockies called him up in April 2013 and haven’t looked back since.
Arenado was immediately an impact defender. He was the first Rockies third baseman to win the Gold Glove award, and he’s won it each of his three seasons in the majors. He was already a big part of Colorado’s future and a fan favorite, but his offense remained a work in progress until his breakout 2015 season.
This year, Arenado is proving that last season wasn’t a fluke. As of EBS press time, near the halfway point of the season, he was tied for third in the league with 23 homeruns and ranked second with 69 RBIs.
Even more impressive is his .290 batting average. He’s been a career .283 hitter during his first three years, and the closer he inches toward .300, the more the Rockies will count on him to be their future franchise player on offense as well as defense.
Arenado is fitting in well with a Colorado roster that has been surprisingly effective hitting the ball. Charlie Blackmon, Carlos Gonzalez, and DJ LeMahieu are all having excellent seasons at the plate, and even young shortstop Trevor Story is developing a knack for batting with runners on base. With each of these hitters 30 and younger, the future looks bright for the batting lineup in Colorado.
While Gonzalez is still the most consistent hitter for the Rockies, it’s a great sign for the future that Arenado has emerged as arguably their best player. Colorado will need to lock him up in a long-term contract, since he’s signed for a one-year deal at the moment.
But if the Rockies can convince Arenado to stick around for the long haul, then they can shift focus toward improving their pitching rotation as they try to make a push in the NL West division.
Pitching has been the problem for Colorado this season and is one of the reasons they aren’t in the thick of the playoff race. However, if Arenado’s progression continues and the Rockies can keep hitting their way to victories, they might have enough clout to swing a trade at the Aug. 1 deadline that could net them some help in their rotation.
A veteran starter like New York Yankee C.C. Sabathia or a strong reliever such as Will Smith of the Milwaukee Brewers could go a long way to helping Colorado get back to the playoffs.
Regardless of where they end up this season, the Rockies can feel confident that they have a crop of young hitters led by Arenado that should give them long-term success, providing they can keep everyone. For now, Colorado fans should rejoice in the hitting clinic these young batters are putting on and rest assured that with a little patience, the pitching will come.
Brandon Niles is a longtime fan of football and scotch, and has been writing about sports for the past decade. He is a fantasy football scout for 4for4 Fantasy Football and is co-host of the 2 Guys Podcast.