Chris Nelson was thought by many to be a lock to open the 2013 season as the everyday third baseman, but a strong spring by 21-year-old prospect Nolan Arenado has put some pressure on the incumbent. Arenado is hitting .308 with four home runs in 26 at-bats in the Cactus League while Nelson has started off slowly with a .192 average and no home runs.
MLB.com’s Thomas Harding cautions that Arenado is still not guaranteed anything if he keeps it up over the final two weeks:
Even if he deserves to make it, the Rockies will have to decide whether to put Arenado in the Majors in the beginning, or delay the callup to avoid starting his clock toward arbitration and free agency. With so much out of his control, Arenado’s maturity is already being tested while he tries to impress manager Walt Weiss and the big league coaches and club officials.
Arenado, rated the #52 overall prospect by Baseball America, got his first taste of Double-A last year with Tulsa, hitting .285 with 12 home runs.
The Arizona Fall League competition came to a close on Saturday, concluding with the Peoria Javelinas’ 8-2 win over the Mesa Solar Sox for the championship title. No one stood out more than Braves’ no. 1 prospect Ronald Acuna, who took home honors as the AFL MVP after slashing .325/.414/.639 with a league-leading seven home runs and second-best 1.053 OPS in 83 at-bats.
At just 19 years old, Acuna is the youngest prospect to receive the award. He made his presence felt even before he suited up for the AFL, earning promotions to the Braves’ Double-A Mississippi and Triple-A Gwinnett and batting a remarkable .325/.374/.522 with 21 home runs across three levels in 2017.
Acuna was also a major factor in the Javelinas’ win on Saturday, but he wasn’t the first to make some noise. The Solar Sox got to right-hander T.J. Zeuch in the first inning, leading off with three singles and a run-scoring sac fly to get a 2-0 edge over the Javelinas. It was the only lead they’d get all afternoon and it lasted just two innings. Luis Urias snapped the shutout with a sac fly in the bottom of the second inning, and the Javelinas took the lead with a game-tying RBI single from Acuna and two-run base hit from Braves’ no. 16 prospect Alex Jackson in the third.
From then on, it was smooth sailing for Peoria. Andrew Case, Andres Munoz and Art Warren combined for 3 1/3 scoreless innings in relief, while the offense tacked on another handful of runs with Acuna’s fourth-inning two-RBI single and Michael Chavis’ eighth-inning triple. With runners at the corners and one out, the Solar Sox lifted right-hander Dakota Bacus for fellow righty Nolan Blackwood. Even he was flummoxed by Acuna, however, who grabbed hold of the first pitch he saw and returned another sac fly to center field for the Javelinas’ eighth and final run of the game.
Only 131 days left until Opening Day, folks.