Now that the Colorado Rockies have extended Nolan Arenado, it’s time for the superstar to live up to some expectations in 2019.
It’s not like Nolan Arenado and the Colorado Rockies have much to complain about over the last few seasons. Colorado is coming off of back-to-back playoff experiences and were within one game of their first division title. Arenado continues to pile up postseason accolades, earning Gold Glove, platinum glove and Silver Slugger awards for the 2018 season.
Statistically, 2018 was just the tiniest bit of a down season for Arenado, in his fifth full season with the Rockies. His average dipped from .309 in 2017 to .294. His RBI total was under 130 for the first time in three years, his strikeouts were up, at 122 he eclipsed his previous career high of 110.
Nolan hit 30+ home runs for the fourth consecutive year but missed the 40 mark again after posting 42 in 2015 and 41 in 2016. Small downturns but significant enough for a guy that’s been thrust into the best third-baseman in MLB conversation by former Phillies great Mike Schmidt.
Recognizing the generational talent that Arenado represents, the Rockies extended his contract by 8 years and 260 million dollars. That’s 32.5 million per year in average salary. While nobody should begrudge Arenado his payday or the decision by the Rockies, the new deal should carry some expectations.
While it’s not evident in the season statistics, there is a place where Nolan can improve: Late-season production has been dismal for Colorado over the last two seasons and Arenado has not been immune.
We have to look no further than the last time we saw the Rockies playing real games to see evidence. The Rockies managed only two runs in the three-game sweep by the Brewers. Arenado was 2-for-11 in the series with five strikeouts versus just one RBI. His .182 series average was, shockingly, good for third on the team, behind DJ LeMahieu and Matt Holliday.
Nearly $33 million per season should allow for us to expect a little more late- or post-season performance from our superstar.
It may benefit Nolan and Rockies manager Bud Black (also newly extended) to find some more rest during the season grind. Arenado has played more than 150 games in each of his last four seasons. Perhaps getting that number down to 125-130 will give Arenado the energy to produce deep into the season and in a playoff run. While he certainly wasn’t alone in the late-season offensive swoon, he has to be a leader, he has to pull the Rockies out of these funks.
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That’s another layer of expectation for the young star but one he is suited for. We’ve had five wonderful seasons of Nolan as the best of the best at third, let’s hope this season, with his new contract, we see the emergence of Arenado as a leader and Captain for this wildly talented squad.