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 Giants placed outfielder Hunter Pence on the 10-day disabled list with a right thumb sprain, per an official announcement on Friday. Pence initially sustained the injury during the club’s home opener on April 3, when he dove to intercept a line drive double from Robinson Cano and jammed his thumb. Weeks of playing through the pain hasn’t worked, so he’ll take a breather while the Giants give outfielder Mac Williamson a chance to start in left after getting called up from Triple-A Fresno.
Pence, 35, wouldn’t pin his recent struggles on his injury, but it’s clear that he’s having difficulty finding his footing this year. He slashed a meager .172/.197/.190 through 61 plate appearances in 2018, collecting just one extra-base hit and two walks during the Giants’ dismal 7-11 stretch. While it’s far too early in the season to make any final judgments, it doesn’t look like the veteran outfielder will be replicating the .275+ average, 4.0+ fWAR totals of years past (at least, not anytime soon).
Williamson, meanwhile, has gotten off to a hot start in Triple-A. Prior to his call-up this weekend, the 27-year-old batted an incredible .487/.600/1.026 with six home runs and a 1.626 OPS through his first 50 PA. A hot Triple-A bat doesn’t always survive the transition to the majors, but the Giants will use all the help they can get — especially as they take on the AL West-leading Angels this weekend.