In 2009, Arenado hit safely in 27 of his 28 high school games as a senior, batting .529 overall.
Arenado grew up as a baseball prodigy in Lake Forest, a middle-class town in Southern California. He competed against his two brothers and seven cousins, all of whom lived within a 10-minute drive of his home.
The clan played Wiffle Ball at a nearby greenbelt, drove neighbors batty by staging ping-pong tournaments until one in the morning, and annoyed their parents by dunking each other in the backyard pool.
"I always wanted to be the best in my group. I wanted to be the best, too. I mean, we've been going at it constantly since I was five years old. I take a lot of pride in wanting to win and be the best -- all the time."
The Rockies saw raw talent in Arenado, but not professionalism. On a conference call with season-ticket holders in early-July, 2012, former GM Dan O'Dowd said Arenado's "maturity level still hasn't caught up with his ability level."
The words stung.
Nolan had a heart-to-heart with the Rockies' brass. And, rather than pout at perceived slights, Arenado recommitted.
"The Rockies talked about how I needed to come in more mentally prepared. They said if I come in ready, anything can happen. They made it clear they still loved me. It was a good meeting," Arenado recalled, after his big league call-up on April 28, 2013, at age 22.
In the spring of 2010, the Baseball America Prospect Handbook rated Arenado as the 10th-best prospect in the Rockies' organization. They moved him up to #3 in the spring of 2011. And they moved him up to #2 in the winter before 2012 spring camps opened, behind only RHP Drew Pomeranz in the Rockies' farm system.
In 2013, Nolan was named as the #1 prospect in the Rockies' farm system.
In 2010, Nolan finished second in the South Atlantic League in doubles with 41.
In 2011, Arenado led all of Minor League Baseball with 122 RBIs.
- Arenado is a team leader. He plays hard and he plays with a lot of contagious energy. He carries a real passion for baseball, but admits he has been counseled at times to rein in his emotions.
"They told me, 'We like you playing with emotion, but control the emotion,' " Nolan said in May 2012. "I understand that completely, and I know I should, but it's just the fire in me. I expect a lot of myself, and I'm working on it and I'm getting better at it
In November 2011, Arenado was presented with the Arizona Fall League's Joe Black MVP Award.
Arenado is confident and competitive. Like many players, he may go through a few days with low energy, something you really cannot do when you get to the Major Leagues. And Nolan spent too much time wondering when he might get called up to the Majors, especially after June 2012. He watched other players in the Double-A Texas League get promoted, including Tulsa teammate Josh Rutledge in July. During a midseason conference call with Rockies season-ticket holders, GM Dan O'Dowd said that Arenado's "maturity level still hasn't caught up with his ability level," which sent the player into another funk. (Spring 2013)
Born in Newport Beach, Calif., raised in nearby Lake Forest and drafted out of El Toro High School in 2009, Arenado was introduced to the game by his father, Fernando, who gave his son another role model.
"My dad is from Cuba," Arenado said. "Roberto Clemente was one of his favorite players. My dad loved how he always played hard and played for his country. You hear so many great things about him, off the field and on the field, you want to be like Roberto Clemente. He set a very high standard."
Arenado has a living, breathing model for conduct next to him in Colorado's infield. It's Troy Tulowitzki. "I know he's happy for me," Arenado said of Tulowitzki. "He's helped me a lot along the way. He's done so much for me. We try to communicate as much as we can. I'll try to take some of those balls [in the hole] to help him out." (Spencer - mlb.com - 2/20/12)
July 25, 2014: Arenado began a frustrated, head-down jog out after he bounced hard to the Pirates pitcher. But by the time he returned to the bench, after his lack of haste cost the team a baserunner, manager Walt Weiss made it clear frustration is no excuse to not hustle.
Weiss sent Charlie Culberson to play third in the nex inning. Arenado had to watch as the Rockies raced to an 8-1 victory at Coors Field.
Morton did not field Arenado's bouncer cleanly. But because of Arenado's non-hustling start, Morton's throw beat him at first on a close play.
"We've talked a lot about playing the game hard and playing the game right, and how important that is," Weiss said. "Especially when you've been getting your [butt] kicked for a while, it's even more important. It's imperative. So I just felt like Nolan didn't meet that standard at that point."
Arenado was not available after the game, but apologized through a club official and said he would address the incident the next day. (Thomas Harding MLB.com, 7/26/2014)
Nolan plays with a lot of energy.
At RockiesFest before the 2015 season, Arenado was asked, "How do you survive in the offseason, when you're not playing baseball?" His answer: "Well, I play Wiffle Ball."
2015 Spring Training: It's all baseball, all the time, in the house that Arenado rented.
His housemates are his cousin, Rockies Minor League infielder Josh Fuentes; and his younger brother, Jonah Arenado, a 2013 16th-round Draft pick of the Giants who is in that team's Minor League camp.
"It's family," Arenado said. "We can relate to each other. We can be honest with each other. They're learning from me. I'll be learning from them. At the end of the day, they've got to understand that Spring Training is about getting business done. This isn't a vacation. They're learning and getting better."
Standing across the clubhouse from Arenado, veteran pitcherLaTroy Hawkinswas smiling, watching the members of the media crowd around Arenado in the aftermath of Arenado's latest display of big league ability.
"Right there," Hawkins said with a nod toward Arenado in response to the question of the best third baseman he had seen in a 25-year professional baseball career, which has included big league time in 21 of them.
Then came the curveball. Hawkins was asked what he felt was the most impressive thing he had seen Arenado do.
"In 2014, when Walt [Weiss, Rockies manager] pulled him from that [July 25] game for not hustling to first base on that chopper back to the mound," said Hawkins. "He didn't pout. He didn't complain. He turned the page, and you have never seen him do that again."
Nobody will see him do that again. Arenado can guarantee that. "It changed my life," said Arenado. "It was one moment that was never going to happen again. It wasn't right. It wasn't fair to my teammates." (Ringolsby - mlb.com - 6/23/15)
"Dan O'Dowd, former Rockies general manager, challenged me," said Arenado. "He said, `You are not playing as well as you can. You are not getting called up.' What was I going to do? I wasn't going to give up. I was going to prove people wrong. I accepted the challenge. I knew I was better than that."
He is proving it. Arenado may have appeared to be something of an afterthought to All-Star voters in July 2015, but he isn't overlooked by his peers, not with those gaudy offensive numbers. He has baseball instincts. And he has that desire to take on a challenge and prove himself, like he did early in his Minor League career when the talk was that he could hit his way to the big leagues, but most likely he would have to move to first base to cover up defensive deficiencies.
Jerry Weinstein, Arenado's manager at High-A Modesto in 2011, and Scot Fletcher, the Rockies' roving Minor League instructor at the time, offered advice, and Arenado listened.
"Speed is God-given," he said. "I'm not fast. But my lateral movement and first step could get better, and I worked on that. Scot Fletcher and Jerry Weinstein were big influences, changing the way I field. Even now, with my trainer, I work on that first step and lateral movement in the winter."
"Nolan is entering that status, becoming an elite player in this league," said Rockies manager Walt Weiss. "He hasn't played in an All-Star Game yet, so he definitely needs to do that."
It would be nice, said Arenado, but it is not his decision. It is, however, another challenge that is being dangled for Arenado. And he has already proven he can handle the challenges that have been thrown at him in baseball. (Ringolsby - mlb.com - 6/23/15)
During an interview on "Intentional Talk," Nolan was asked what was his hidden talent. He responded that it was ping pong. He said it was a huge deal in his family. They were always having very competitive family tournaments.
Arenado had a mammoth 2015 season that was obscured somewhat by Colorado's struggles. He led the Majors in RBIs (130) and total bases (354), while earning his third straight National League Gold Glove Award.
Born in Newport Beach, Arenado was introduced to the game by his father, Fernando.
Superstar shortstop Troy Tulowitzki also had a big hand in shaping Arenado before he was dealt to Toronto in 2015.
"[Tulowitzki] helped me in so many ways," Arenado said. "I was fortunate to play next to him and learn so much."
Respectful of the game and his good fortune, Arenado is now a terrific role model in the manner of those who helped shape him. (Spencer - MLB.com - 3/10/16)
Nolan reflects on his being in middle school when younger and remembers that part of his life fondly and vividly.
Arenado understands that stage of adolescence is where teens are often still seeking their true identity, and as such, peer negativity is often a byproduct. Doing his part to steer kids towards a more positive well-being, Arenado spent a morning at a suburban Denver middle school sharing and taking in stories of positivity as part of the Rockies' Home Run for Kindness program.
"The people of Denver have been great to me, so it's the right thing to come back and do the right thing for the kids," Arenado said. "People think this is a sacrifice, you know, I'm sacrificing my time. This isn't a sacrifice of my time."
Random Acts of Kindness Foundation (RAKF) is an internationally-recognized nonprofit. The Rockies remain the first and only professional sports team RAKF has worked with. Rockies owner and CEO Dick Monfort took initiative in contacting Denver-based RAKF in light of several school shootings with the premise that spreading positively-induced psychology to young students could make a difference. "The Rockies have been amazing. They've embraced us in a way I didn't expect," said Brooke Jones, vice president for RAKF.
Arenado and teammate Ben Paulsen have become the latest ambassadors—or 'RAKtivisits'—to represent the team in the RAKF initiative. Each voyaged to separate schools. Rocky Top Middle School, where Arenado visited, has adopted the RAKF's Kindness Curriculum, which incorporates lessons of respect, perseverance and other values that in turn help foster positive relationships.
Arenado spent the morning taking in the various stories the students and teachers had to share while perusing the halls as a rockstar of sorts. Kids leaned from classrooms just to get a glimpse of the Gold Glover, one even yelling from afar: "That's the best third baseman in the league!"
Arenado spent more than the planned time at Rocky Top before heading to Coors Field for Tuesday's game against the D-backs. But he was fine with devoting a little extra time knowing his appearance was a special occasion that could impact many youngsters in a positive way—perhaps more than he could imagine.
"I'm a big believer in random acts of kindness. I'm a big believer in spreading positivity because there are so many negative things in the world and there's negative things in baseball. It's a hard game, so to have any little boost of confidence—whatever it is—it makes a huge difference." (Kramer - MLB.com - 5/10/16)
June 3, 2016: Arenado's first-inning dugout tirade will be the enduring image from a 4-0 loss to the Padres, but it's the bad baseball that preceded and followed it, not the emotion, that the Rockies know they must address. Nolan said he was frustrated, and his outburst—which came after Matt Kemp's three-run homer off a first-pitch fastball from Chris Rusin gave the Padres a 3-0 lead through one inning—was not directed at anyone.
Although internet lip-readers made out "fastball" among the words that spewed from Arenado's lips, he insisted he wasn't yelling at Rusin or catcher Nick Hundley, who stepped in front of Arenado and became his audience.
Arenado offered no specifics, noting, "I can't really repeat a lot of that."
"Just frustrated, just losing gets kind of old," Arenado said. "I'm frustrated with myself. I wasn't yelling at Hundley. I was just yelling in general. Frustration got the best of me. If I was going to do it, I probably should've done it in the tunnel. I got frustrated. I let it out. The boys know I love them. Matt Kemp hit the homer, but I wasn't yelling at Rus—Rus competed his butt off today. I'm very proud of him."
Hundley said, "My view of it is when your best player cares as much as Nolan does, that's a very positive thing. Whether it comes across in the way he plays, in the locker room, being passionate about the work, about his swing, being passionate about the Rockies winning, those are all things that manifest themselves. You see a short clip, it's easy to think the wrong thing."
Manager Walt Weiss, who arrived at the dugout scene along with third-base coach Stu Cole, had no problem with his best player letting off steam, even if it was in front of fans with a good vantage point or the television cameras.
"I don't mind if it's in front of anybody," Weiss said. "It wasn't directed at anybody. Let him have his say, then there was a point where I said, 'OK, let's go. Let's turn the page and let's move on.'" (T Harding - MLB.com - June 4, 2016).
Arenado believes improvement starts in the mirror. Arenado and the Rockies were coming homestand that saw them lose three of four to the Reds, who had the third-fewest wins in the Majors. There is plenty of blame to go around, and Arenado doesn't mind shouldering his share.
"I need to play better," said Arenado, who was tied with the White Sox's Todd Frazier and the Orioles' Mark Trumbo for the Majors' home run lead with 17. "I haven't been playing the way I would like to play. It's frustrating. As a team we're losing, and it kind of hurts because I feel I could be helping the team in more ways than I am right now. But everyone's got to play their part. I don't think we're developing the runs that we're capable of doing. Obviously, we can hit home runs, but there's more to hitting and there's more to winning than that.
"It's part of baseball," he said. "We've still got four months. We have a lot of games yet. You can't be nitpicking in May. Obviously, we've got to win ballgames and it's not OK to lose a lot. We still have a lot of baseball left. We haven't clicked yet. We haven't been able to put anything together yet. We've had spurts of it. We've had games where we've done some good things. The next game, we kind of fell asleep." (T Harding - MLB.com - June 4, 2016)
Nolan seems to be developing an awareness. He has certainly grabbed the attention of Rockies coach Rene Lachemann, who is in his 54th consecutive year in uniform, and Phillies bench coach Larry Bowa, who has been in the big leagues as a player, coach and manager for 45 of the last 47 years.
At a Boy Scout banquet earlier this season, Lachemann was asked his favorite big league player. "I used to think nobody could ever match Brooks [Robinson]," he replied, and then went into detail about the exploits of Arenado. "I've seen him do something and say, 'I've never seen that before,' and the next game I'm saying it again," said Lachemann.
When that story was related to Bowa, he laughed. "I was like that with Schmidty," Bowa said of his long-time Phillies teammate Mike Schmidt. Then along came Arenado.
"I don't know if he knows it, but my favorite player is the third baseman [in Colorado]," said Bowa. "Playing on the East Coast [with the Phillies] I go home and turn on the Rockies game and watch him. My wife said, "What are you doing watching Colorado?' I told her, 'I love to watch this kid play third.' I just turn it on to see him. If by chance we're on the West Coast, I watch the highlights because I know he's going to be on sometime. Somewhere, he's going to be on for a play or a base hit."
It is not just Arenado's skills that get the attention of others. "I like to see guys who are hard workers, who respect the game, don't take it for granted," said Bowa. "Everyone thinks you get a big league uniform, you're going to be here for 10 years. It doesn't work like that. The longer you're here, the harder you have to work. So when I see work ethic, I respect that."
And Arenado respects the fact that people like Lachemann and Bowa hold him with such high regard.
"They have been in this game a long time and have seen so many great players," Arenado said. "For them to talk about me like that is humbling. It is an incentive for me to work harder. When people respect you like that you don't want to let them down." Arenado hasn't. (Ringolsby - MLB.com - 8/21/16)
September 2016: During an interview, it was discovered that Arenado's hobby growing up was surfing.
Nolan played high school baseball with future MLB player Austin Romine.
In November 2016, Arenado announced that he will play for Team USA in the 2017 World Baseball Classic. Arenado had a choice, since his mother is from Puerto Rico.
Nolan fell in love with the World Baseball Classic early. In spring 2017, he finally got to play in it. The tournament had everything to pique a young Arenado's interest. It had baseball and countries representing everything he identified with. Arenado, who is American, was born to a Puerto Rican mother and a Cuban father. When Cuba made the inaugural final against Japan in 2006, it was a big deal in the Arenado house. Nolan was just 14 at the time.
They threw what Arenado now calls "basically like a Super Bowl party" at their house in Southern California for the final, which Japan won, 10-6. "There were Cuban cigars being smoked out in the backyard, and lots of homemade Cuban food," Arenado writes in a recent piece for The Players' Tribune. "The party vibe died down in a hurry, and I just remember a couple of my family members being really sad. It was like their team had lost the World Series. This meant something to them. It was important. They took it hard."
Arenado was amped up about representing his country for the first time, and he will play a major role for an American squad looking to advance past the second round for the first time in their World Baseball Classic history. "My parents are both extremely proud to be American citizens, and they raised me to take pride in being from this country. I grew up in Southern California, not too far from Dodger Stadium. And my entire family loves baseball." (Trezza - mlb.com - 3/9/17)
After crushing a pair of home runs through the heavy spring air, Nolan actually gave credit to unlikely sources for his performance. His father, Fernando, and El Toro High School coach Mike Gonzales.
The Rockies had their first off-day of the 2017 season April 17th and Arenado used it to go back to his high school in Lake Forest, about 50 miles south of Dodger Stadium. "Honestly, I have to give credit to my dad and my high school coach," Arenado said. "I went to hit with them yesterday back at my old field. I was working on some things, fixing some things. And today I was able to do it."
Back when he played at El Toro, he was a shortstop and catcher. He was only rated the 31st best prospect in California in 2009. But he's been nothing but a sensation since joining the Rockies' lineup as a 22-year-old.
And there's nothing like hitting a pair of home runs off Hyun-Jin Ryu and then almost making a remarkable play charging Pederson's bouncer and throwing on the run to just miss him at first.
"It had a lot of spin on it," he said. "If I would have gripped it right and thrown harder, I think I might have got him. It was just a tough play." (Dilbeck - mlb.com - 4/18/17)
July 2, 2017: Arenado received his first invite to the MLB All-Star game.
Nolan, the NL's starting third baseman, went 2-for-2 in the 2017 All-Star Game. In his third trip to the game. Arenado became the first Rockies All-Star to ever record two hits in the game and tied Todd Helton, Troy Tulowitzki and Dante Bichette for the club's career All-Star hits record.
"It feels great," Arenado said. "Obviously you wish you could hit homers in the All-Star Game and this and that, but when you start seeing some nasty offspeed and stuff, you think, 'All right, I need to shorten up.' … I was just happy to get a couple hits." (Berry - mlb.com - 7/11/17)
- June 2009: Nolan signed with the Rockies for a bonus of $625,000 after they chose him in the second round of the draft, out of El Toro High School in Lake Forest, California. Jon Lukens is the scout who signed him.
January 15, 2016: The Rockies and Arenado avoided arbitration, agreeing on a one-year deal for $5 million.
- January 13, 2017: Arenado and the Rockies again avoided arbitration and agreed on a two-year, $29.5 million contract. Nolan got $11.75 million in 2017 and $17.75 million in 2018.
|DOB:||4/16/1991||Agent:||Beverly Hills Sports Council-Steve Rath|
|Birth City:||Newport Beach, CA|
|Draft:||Rockies #2-2009 - Out of high school (CA)|
Arenado has good bat speed and hand action at the plate. He hits for a good average and power. He makes an impact on games with his offensive ability. He is a run producer.
He has a knack for making steady contact and getting the barrel of his bat to the ball. His swing gets long through the ball, so his finish looks unorthodox, but he has great hand speed. With his balance and hand-eye coordination, he has been difficult to strike out throughout his career.
Nolan derives his power more from bat speed than muscle at this point, and as he gets stronger he should hit 20 homers a year. Arenado entered pro ball with an opposite-field stroke but has learned to turn on inside pitches, sometimes to a fault because he strays from hitting to the center of the field. Nevertheless, he should always be able to hit for high averages. (Spring 2013)
Nolan is a very good hitter. His powerful hands enable him to hit the ball very hard and for long distances. He has bat speed and strength for more home runs as he matures as a hitter. Mostly, he hits doubles, now. But they will become home runs as he matures and adds loft to his swing. He impresses with his gap-to-gap mentality and his ability to consistently line drive the ball into the gaps.
Arenado has good balance at the plate. He has a good eye, walking about as much as he strikes out. And his hand/eye coordination is impressive. He has an advanced two-strike approach. He really controls the strike zone.
He will give you a good at-bat. He has a superb two-strike approach. He is very confident when he has seen a few pitches from the pitcher. His inside-out swing with two strikes serves him well. He has a situational approach that allows him to turn on fastballs thrown on the inside part of the plate.
"I've learned that your two-strike approach should not be a defensive approach," Arenado said. "You're still aggressive, widen the strike zone a little bit and be ready to hit."
With exceptional hand-eye coordination and above-average plate discipline, Arenado has the tools to hit for average. He also projects to have at least average power, although it hasn't shown up yet.
He is very adept at staying inside the ball—almost to a fault. He has a polished inside-out swing, driving balls to gaps. And he turns on inside fastballs and hanging breaking pitches. His swing has a flat path, but he gets good extension and has shown an increased ability to hit balls with backspin.
He uses a selectively aggressive approach and superb hand-eye coordination to make consistent contact.
He is very good at hitting balls from gap to gap.
Arenado believes he has folks to go to if he needs to focus on his swing. His father was a good sounding board for much of his life. Also, Kevin Riggs, manager at Double-A Tulsa, was Arenado's hitting coach at Class A Asheville in 2010, at Class A Advanced Modesto in 2011 and Tulsa in 2012. The two communicate often by phone and text, and Riggs can offer the correct little pointers.
More important than any of it, Arenado believes he has found the feel for the correct swing by staying solid over his back leg. At times in 2013, Arenado's weight would shift toward the front leg, which didn't give him the proper base for solid contact.
"I knew I was in front. That's what got me in trouble. But it was hard to break the habit. Knowing now that I need to finish on my back leg, it's easier to feel if I popped the ball up, 'Oh, I dipped.' As long as I'm turning my hips and staying back, I believe I'll be able to figure out things a little bit quicker." (3/11/14)
On May 8, 2014, Arenado broke the Rockies team record with his 28-game hitting streak.
August 22, 2015: His fourth-inning long ball made Arenado just the second third baseman in Rockies franchise history to have a 30-homer season. Vinny Castilla did it six times (1995-99, 2004).
In 2015, Arenadao became the first NL third baseman to reach 130 RBIs since Vinny Castilla had 131 for the Rockies in 2004.
October 3, 2015: Arenado inked his name in the record book. The second-inning leadoff homer and his two-run double in the third increased Arenado's extra-base hit total to 88, most ever in a season by a third baseman. (He finished the season with 89.)
The Braves' Chipper Jones had 87 in 1999. And the Braves' Eddie Mathews had 86 in 1953.
In 2016, Arenado became the third third baseman in Rockies' history to have multiple 40-homer seasons before turning 26. He joined Andres Galarraga, Todd Helton and Vinny Castilla, who is with the club as a special assistant to the general manager. Castilla did it three straight years, 1996-98. Third baseman Eddie Mathews had three seasons of 40 or more homers before age 26 (1953-55), while Troy Glaus had two (2000-01). Arenado now has two (2015 and 2016).
Sept 23, 2016: Arenado's homer also made him the fourth Rockies player to have multiple 40-homer seasons. He joined Andres Galarraga, Todd Helton and Vinny Castilla, who is with the club as a special assistant to the general manager. Castilla did it three straight years, 1996-98.
"It's elite," Rockies manager Walt Weiss said. "He's doing big-time stuff his first few years in the league. He's special." (T Harding - MLB.com - Sept 24, 2016)
In 2016, for the second straight season, Nolan tied for a share of the National League home run title. Both he and Chris Carter had 41. In 2015, he tied with Bryce Harper with 42.
In 2016, he easily led the league in RBIs with 133, which was 24 more than Anthony Rizzo (109).
June 15, 2017: Nolan added a new trick to his power arsenal in 2017. Widely acknowledged as ranking among the game's strongest right-handed pull hitters, in 2017, Arnedo is pushing to the opposite field at a substantially higher rate than ever before.
Arenado launched a career-high three doubles in Colorado's 10-9 win over the Giants, including two to the deepest point of right-center, to finish with a season-high four RBIs. According to Statcast™, Arenado is lifting 34.1 percent of his total batted balls to the right of straightaway center, as of June 15, 2017 -- a significant uptick from the 27.0 and 25.3 percent on such balls in 2016 and 2015, respectively. (Kramer - mlb.com)
June 18, 2017: Nolan completed an improbable cycle with a three-run homer off Mark Melancon in the bottom of the ninth to give the National League West-leading Rockies a 7-5 victory to complete a four-game sweep of the Giants at Coors Field.
"It's getting loud here -- that's the loudest it's ever been," said Arenado, who was serenaded with "MVP" chants after delivering the Rockies' colorful fifth straight win. "I think the fans and people in general are starting to get the hint that we are for real."
Arenado's cycle is the eighth in Rockies history and the third by any player at Coors Field in 2017. No current park has seen more than two cycles in a season. Also, it was the 17th cycle at Coors Field, which ties it with Fenway Park (opened in 1912) for most in a current park. By the way, all cycles involving the Rockies -- by them or their opponents -- have occurred at Coors Field.
Arenado tripled in the first inning, singled in the fourth and doubled in the Rockies' first run in the sixth, all off starter Ty Blach. After the Giants scored three runs in the top of the ninth for a 5-3 lead, Arenado was due up fifth in the ninth and "wanted that last at-bat."
He admitted he thought cycle before the inning. Then he saw Melancon, the Giants' veteran closer, and said, "All right, we've got to put that out the window and start focusing on hitting the ball hard and getting the ball to the outfield."
Arenado did that and more. He swatted Melancon's first-pitch fastball -- off the plate, inside, which is where Arenado loves it -- for the eighth cycle in Rockies history and the 17th cycle in the history of Coors Field. It also was the first walk-off cycle in the Majors since the Rockies' Carlos Gonzalez did it July 31, 2010, against the Cubs. (Haft & Harding - mlb.com)
It's what Nolandoes with his back (right) foot, specifically, during his swing that turned heads. Before each of three homers in a game in July 2017, Arenado actually lifted his back foot off the ground prior to stepping with the front foot, a momentum-creating motion that essentially gives him a running start into the pitch. Though hitters have been experimenting with back-foot movement for years, none as radical as Arenado's exists anywhere else in baseball.
Arenado calls his "step back," a way to "get in my legs" and create power. Since implementing the foot shuffle into his swing in 2015, Arenado has hit more home runs than any player in the National League. Nearly half came away from Coors Field in 2017. More than half did in 2015.
"It changed who I am as a hitter. Now I'm back-legging the ball, I'm backspinning homers, and I never used to be that guy," Arenado said. "It's a rhythm thing. I feel powerful with it."
In some ways, what Arenado does is an extension of what all players are trying to do: create a kinetic mix of balance and tension that transfers as much of their weight to the baseball as possible. But how he does it is more a modern remix to an antiquated style, predicated on "diving" into the ball, more commonly seen in black-and-white highlights.
"Back in the day, hitters would take a walking load," Spilborghs said. "Watch Willie Mays. Watch some of the '69 Mets. Their feet are active."
But over much of the past 40 years, when players have tried to create power, they've done so mostly with front leg kicks. Their back foot remained rooted in the ground, even as they shifted energy to and from it, a base for their weight and head.
Arenado doesn't have a leg kick, but when he's going right, his foot shuffle creates enough lower-half tension for him to dive into the ball and still drive it. His feet move more than any other hitter, but they end up in nearly the exact place they start, which allows his head to stay relatively still and his body balanced. Where most hitters want to create enough momentum for their back foot to come off the ground naturally by the end of a swing, Arenado's does so twice: before and after.
"Like a kickstart on a motorcycle," Rockies assistant hitting coach Jeff Salazar said. "Nolan moves his feet more than most, but he really understands how his body moves and what he has to do to be successful," said Salazar, who tried the heel lift during his four-year MLB career. Salazar said DJ LeMahieu and Trevor Story also use it to create momentum.
Whether players mimic Arenado fully will likely depend on whether they are strong and athletic enough to do so. All the movement gives Arenado's mechanics a relatively small margin for error, and that margin keeps shrinking for everybody with pitcher velocities going up and up. (Trezza - mlb.com - 7/20/17)
Nolan starts hours before each game in batting-practice showcase that is effective and representative of why he is an elite hitter in the National League.
Arenado won't let you forget that his best power, his most bat speed, is going to be to the pull side. He launches ball after ball out to left, towering shots. That is Arenado's goal and his strength as a hitter, the approach that's produced back-to-back (2015 and 2016) NL home run crowns.
"I'm a pull guy. I like to pull the baseball. It's just my style," Arenado said. "I want to drive the ball out."
Arenado wants to pull. It's who he is. But 40-homer seasons change how pitchers go after you. This year, Arenado noticed them attacking away, especially with sliders. "Believe me: I want to drive the ball out to left field, left-center," Arenado said. "But I'm also not getting the same pitches I've gotten in the last couple of years. I've got to make that adjustment and get my hits, and when they make mistakes, take advantage."
Early on, Arenado felt himself getting his hits the other way, but not powering the ball with backspin to left like he was accustomed to. At first, he thought he was just out in front, which a few swing-mechanic tweaks would fix. But Arenado quickly realized pitchers' role. His rate of pitches on the outer third and away, as tracked by Statcast™, has risen from under 49 percent to close to 55 percent from 2015-17.
That sent Arenado to the film. In the Rockies' video room or lying in his hotel, he watches what pitchers have been doing to him to anticipate what they'll do next.
"I think people are just scared of Nolan," teammate Charlie Blackmon said, "so they want to stay away from his power. He's had to make those adjustments and get hits out over the plate."
Not just hits, but damage. In August 2017, of Arenado's 40 doubles and triples, 55 percent had been to center or right field, up from around 40 percent in each of the 2015 and 2016 seasons. Statcast™ has tracked 62 percent of his non-homer barrels and solid contact as going to center or right, vs. 49 percent in 2016 and 39 percent in '15.
Arenado hits, pitchers adjust, and he adjusts in turn. It's the nature of baseball. The guys trying to get him out haven't found a good answer yet. (Adler - mlb.com - 8/10/17)
Aug 11, 2017: Nolan Arenado's brilliant season continued in productive fashion in the 6-3 loss to the Marlins, as he became the first Major Leaguer to 100 RBIs this 2017 season. The firsts keep coming, though. Arenado became the first to eclipse 100 RBIs before anyone else in the National League for three straight seasons since Hall of Famer Willie Stargell did so with Pittsburgh from 1971-73.
"I mean, there's a consistency to his game that is showing up," Rockies manager Bud Black said. "I think you guys saw it the previous two seasons. We're seeing it this year. This guy is coming into his own as a player."
Arenado needed just 112 games to reach the century mark. It marks the three-time All-Star's third straight 100-RBI season, and he has led the Majors in that category each of those years.
"He's improved offensively to the point now where he's one of the most dangerous hitters in the game," Black said. "And the numbers speak for themselves." (P Pinak - MLB.com - Aug 12, 2017)
- 2017 season: Arenado became the first player to record 130 RBIs in three straight seasons since Ryan Howard (2006-09)
- As of the start of the 2018 season, Arenado's career Major League stats were: .290 batting average, 184 doubles, 148 home runs and 800 hits with 506 RBI in 2,758 at-bats.
Nolan has good, soft hands and footwork. His athleticism gives him some mobility and agility despite lacking speed. His lateral movement and range were below average. But his range and quickness improved a lot in 2011 after he lost 20 pounds in the offseason before 2011 spring training. He is now a good, quality defensive player at third base, dislplaying good reactions and soft hands.
In 2013, Rockies instructor Jerry Weinstein recalled, "There were a lot of people who said, 'He has a thick lower half, not a lot of first-step quickness, blah blah blah,'" Weinstein said. "But he's got a nose for the ball. In football you have these free safeties that have a nose for the ball, but doesn't profile in the combine. You put a glove on Nolan Arenado or you put a hitter up there, his range is uncanny.
"For a guy with not a lot of fast-twitch, he gets to as many balls as anybody. He's going to be the standard for this game defensively. He can do everything—tremendous arm, tremendous release, he's accurate, catches every ball."Nolan's play at third is rooted in self-expression. He can see himself making the barehand play, and craves the opportunity. His internal timing tells him when he needs his full arm strength and when he can save it.
"I like the plays that are just reaction—reaching, turning around, making the quick throw—where you don't know if you'll make the play," Arenado said.
Arenado said Weinstein helped him become more efficient by offering specific footwork drills. (Thomas Harding-MLB.com-5/25/13)
- Arenado has a good arm for throws across the diamond. It is rated a 50 (average) on the 20-80 scouting scale.
He has a strong and accurate arm at third base. He has good first-step reactions and soft hands at the hot corner.
Arenado ranges literally 8 to 10 steps to cut a ball off that the shortstop is ready to backhand and then tries to throw the off-balance and he throws the ball away. His instincts and athleticism allow him to get to balls that not every third baseman can get to and that at times turns into difficult throws and off-balance stuff and he’s got to learn through experience how to rein some of that in. (May 2013)
- Nolan exhibits a solid take-charge attitude on the infield. He wants the ball hit to him.
Arenado has shown he can make highlight-reel plays at the hot corner and will cleanly field anything he gets to. His arm strength and accuracy have also impressed. He has an accurate, quick release from any angle he throws from.
He has a knack for making difficult plays. His intensity and focus are superb.
"I think you need to have lateral movement; that’s a huge part at third base,” Arenado said. “You have to be able to move side to side and be quick with it. You can’t take your time to go get the ball. You go down and you’ve got to go get it. Lately it’s been working out, and I think that’s a huge thing. Just getting low and getting more toward the ground to where you can have more movement and see the ball better.”
Nolan lost about 17 pounds during the winter before 2011 spring training and his side-to-side mobility has improved tremendously. He's got unbelievable hands and a real easy arm (action) with plus arm strength. He can throw from numerous angles, has got tremendous agility throwing on the move. He has plenty of range to play third base now.
“This offseason was really big on defense,” Arenado said. “I worked on footwork, lateral movement, stuff like that. The defense this year has been better because I worked hard this offseason to get there. I had a lot of people telling me I probably would move to first and stuff like that, but I don’t want to move to first. I took it to heart."
And who better to learn from about becoming a better defensive infielder than Troy Tulowitzki? The Rockies big league shortstop invited Arenado and Double-A Tulsa outfielder Tim Wheeler to train with him and his trainer over the winter. They would lift weights, hit, and run sprints. Tulowitzki gave Arenado personal instruction on how to handle the leather along the way.
“He would say, ‘Get lower,’” Arenado said. “(He taught me) how to move, get to the ball, get the glove down.” (Ben Badler-Baseball America-8/01/11)
- Before the 2012 season, Arenado really worked hard at losing weight and improving his first-step quickness and has blossomed into a quality third baseman. He lacks speed but compensates by reading and reacting to balls instinctively. He has a strong arm, throws accurately from various angles and has become adept at charging balls and fielding them barehanded. He can get caught flat-footed at times but still gets to balls that a lot of other third basemen don't. (Spring 2013)
- May 16, 2013: Recently Arenado provided a late-inning highlight, diving into foul territory to glove a screaming grounder, then jumping to his feet to fire a rocket to first and catch the runner to end the inning.
"He's quite a talent," Rockies manager Walt Weiss said of the rookie. "He swings the bat, yet his average doesn't jump out at you. He's playing Gold Glove defense."
In 2013, Arenado received buzz late in the season for the Gold Glove Award—an honor no rookie third baseman had ever won. Manager Walt Weiss believes the willingness to take risks, even if it leads to an error, is a plus, not a minus.
"I don't want to squelch his ability or his confidence in finishing plays," Weiss said. "We've seen him make some unbelievable plays, where you think he doesn't have a shot but he somehow pulls it off. I'd rather a guy err on the side of trying to finish plays like that."
Arenado's highlight package is full of plays he has made, but Weiss, a daring fielder in his day, said he is even more impressed by one he didn't make.
"I can appreciate it, because I've done it; it's a big part of Nolan's game," Weiss said. "One of the best plays he made this year was a play he didn't finish, in Houston. He went far to his left to try to do a 360 and throw the guy out at the plate. We didn't get the out and I think he threw the ball away, but it said a lot to me that a young kid was willing to put his neck out there and try to finish a play like that."
PERENNIAL GOLD GLOVER
In 2013, Arenado became the first rookie third baseman in National League history to win a Rawlings Gold Glove Award.
The Red Sox's Frank Malzone in 1957 is the only American League rookie third baseman to win a Gold Glove. The last rookie to win a Gold Glove at any position was Ernie Banks.
Nolan was promoted to the Majors on April 28. It didn't take him long to move to the head of the third-base class with his numerous highlight-level plays and general dependability and range at the position. He finished second in the league in putouts and assists at the position despite playing most of April at Triple-A Colorado Springs.
In 2014, Arenado established himself as one of the top defensive third basemen in the Majors, earning his second straight Rawlings Gold Glove Award.
In 2015, Nolan won his third-straight Gold Glove in 2015.
In 2016, Arenado won his fourth Gold Glove award.
In 2016, Arenado won his second straight Fielding Bible Award, which picks the top player at each position regardless of league.
In 2017, the Baseball America Best Tools annual survey had Arenado as the Best Defensive 3rd baseman in the NL, as well as Best Infield Arm in the league.
- Nolan plays a stellar third base, which is a particular point of pride for Arenado, especially given where he once was.
"My defense is something I take a lot of pride in," said Arenado. "I work real hard. Going through the minors, I wasn't very good at defense. There were questions on if I needed to move back across the diamond. It's something I took to heart and have really focused on working on it through the years."
So at one point in time, there was a discussion that Arenado might have to be moved to first base. And now, he's one of Major League Baseball's top defensive third basemen—which is saying something considering the company of Manny Machado, Josh Donaldson, and Mike Moustakas.
"Footwork was the biggest key for me," Arenado said. "I feel like I always has pretty decent hands, but my feet were never good. As I got into pro ball, different guys helped me with my feet and how to move toward the ball. That's something that changed my entire career."
"[Rockies player development coordinator Jerry Weinstein] helped me become a third baseman," he continued. "He taught me how to use my feet, how to stay low and get to the ball a lot quicker than I used to. I mean, I owe a lot to him for sure." (Matt Snyder - July 2015)
- Nolan lacks speed. But he moves well enough for a big guy, and he has good instincts on the bases.
- Before the 2011 season, Arenado dropped 20 pounds and was not quite so slow. And by the spring of 2013, he was proabably a half-step quicker.
- April–mid-May 2010: Arenado's season was delayed when he suffered a groin injury that forced him to start the year in the Rockies' extended spring training. While he was not able to face live competition there, he was able to focus on getting ready for the season.
May 23-July 3, 2014: Nolan left the game vs. the Braves after fracturing his left middle finger on a head-first slide into second base.
Arenado led off the second inning with a double to left field. Arenado's slide beat shortstop Andrelton Simmons' tag.
Arenado grabbed his hand following the slide but remained in the game to score from third on Jordan Pacheco's groundout. Charlie Culberson replaced Arenado at third base in the bottom of the inning. And Nolan went on the D.L.
September 16, 2014: Arenado was sidelined with a bruised chest and pneumonia with just two weeks left in the season.