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The Colorado Rockies Should Avoid Starting Nolan Arenado (For Now)

The Colorado Rockies have a bit of an issue at third base and are flirting with the idea of letting star prospect Nolan Arenado break camp with the big league club and start at third. They should seriously reconsider doing such a thing.

Christian Petersen

The Colorado Rockies third base situation is a bit in flux right now as they try to figure out the best course of action with third base prospect Nolan Arenado. Mike Newman from FanGraphs detailed how he wasn't so sure that a full season with Arenado at third base would be substantially better than what they would otherwise do:

Nolan Arenado‘s development has been a roller coaster ride. From prospect with major helium, to disappointment with maturity issues, the third baseman lost his luster this off-season.

With four home runs in his first 17 at bats this spring, Arenado is all the rage again as he attempts to wrangle the third base job away from the combo of Chris Nelson and Jordan Pacheco.

Of course arbitration clocks, service time and other internal decisions will be a part of the decision making process, but what about the production? Will 150 game of Nolan Arenado have more on field value than Nelson/Pacheco? I’m not so sure. …

… Colorado Rockies third basemen displayed strong hitting skills, doubles power, low walk totals and questionable defense in 2012. Sound familiar? It should. Nolan Arenado is the same type of player.

Mike makes a very strong case against starting Arenado at third base with the major league club and I don’t disagree with him. To put it another way, I believe that calling Arenado up a year too early will be far more damaging to his long-term growth and development as a player than calling him up a year too late would be. But this has more to do with whether the Rockies have any better options available to them so they don’t feel the urge to have Arenado break camp with the big league team once spring training is over and the regular season begins anyway.

Chris Nelson, who posted a .301/.352/.458 batting line with a 105 wRC+ in 2012, is probably their best internal option, but there are concerns over whether his production last season was fueled mostly by an abnormally high BABIP(his was .374) or a career-high line drive percentage (25.1%). It’s most likely a combination of the two, but the only way Nelson repeats the success he had last year is if his line drive rate remains relatively the same and his walk rate continues to improve.

At 27 years old Nelson is not likely to improve much further beyond where he is currently at, but it’s also not entirely out of the question for his eye at the plate to marginally improve along with his ability to drive the ball as he enters his prime.

The other option on the roster is Jordan Pacheco (also 27 years old) and the biggest difference between Nelson and him has more to do with power potential and the ability to draw a walk -- meaning that Nelson has actual power potential in the form of home runs and drawing walks whereas Pacheco really doesn’t. However, Pacheco did smack 32 doubles in 505 plate appearances and posted a .309/.341/.421 batting line with a 93 wRC+ and a .344 BABIP.

If the free agent market had better remaining options at third base for the Rockies to take a chance on they probably would have done so by now, but the fact of the matter is it doesn’t. What is apparent though is that Nelson and Pacheco both represent better options at third base right now than plugging Arenado in at that position to begin the season.