Chris Nelson entered spring training as the overwhelming favorite to open the season as the Rockies’ starting third baseman, but prospect Nolan Arenado is doing his best to force his way into the conversation.
Arenado homered in his third consecutive game this afternoon against the Mariners, taking fellow prospect Taijuan Walker deep in the fourth inning. The 21-year-old is now hitting .412 (7-for-17) over seven games this spring while his four homers are tied with Indians’ non-roster invitee Ryan Raburn for the most in the Cactus League.
Baseball America ranked Arenado as the game’s No. 22 prospect last offseason, but his stock took a tumble after he batted .285/.337/.428 with 12 home runs, 56 RBI and a .766 OPS in 134 games with Double-A Tulsa. The modest power output saw him drop to No. 62 overall in BA’s rankings this spring. It’s dangerous to make major roster decisions based off spring training results and there are service time considerations involved, so the most likely scenario is that Arenado begins the season with Triple-A Colorado Springs, but the Rockies could be faced with a tough choice if he continues to tear the cover off the ball.
You hear a lot about pitchers tipping pitches. It’s often offered up post-facto as an excuse for poor performance by the pitcher himself or his own team. It’s sort of like the “best shape of my life” thing being offered in the offseason to talk about why the player got injured or played badly the previous year. “Smitty’s stuff is still great, he was just tipping his pitches,” said a source close to the player whose stuff is not really great anymore.
Which isn’t to say that pitchers don’t tip pitches. Of course they do. Opposing teams look for it, pick up on it and take advantage of it whenever they can. It’s just that (a) the opposing team has an interest in not talking about it, lest the pitcher STOP tipping its pitches; and (b) the guy actually tipping his pitches doesn’t want to talk specifically about it lest he starts doing it again.
Which is what makes this article at Sports Illustrated so interesting. In it Tom Verducci talks to an anonymous Houston Astros player who explains how Dodgers starter Yu Darvish was tipping his pitches during the World Series, leading to him getting absolutely shellacked in Games 3 and 7. The upshot: the Astros knew when a slider or a cutter was coming, they waited for it and they teed off.
Darvish is a free agent now. I’m guessing, whoever signs him, knows exactly what they’ll gave him work on the first day of spring training.