Arenado's Five-Year Itch Puts Him At the Top of the List of Elite

Nolan Arenado's fifth anniversary of his big-league debut was Saturday.

It wasn't necessarily a memorable night. The Rockies lost, 4-1, at Miami, and Arenado's career-long struggles in Miami continued.

The five years, however, have been memorable. Arenado has established himself as one of the game's premiere players, and the argument can be made that even though he is seen in an elite class, he still doesn't get his due from the public.

That, however, may well work for Arenado.

He is intense and focused.

"He's not afraid to make the great play and he's never afraid to make mistakes," said teammate DJ LeMahieu. "He goes after it, and lets his talent take over."

His competitive nature came through six years ago. After an All-Star season at High-A Modesto in 2011, he went to the Arizona Fall League, and was elected the AFL MVP over a class that included Mike Trout and Bryce Harper.

They were the 2012 AL and NL Rookie of the Year selections. Harper also was the NL MVP, and Trout finished second in AL MVP voting.

Arenado, meanwhile, made the move to Double-A Tulsa, and then was dealt a blow late in the season. Then-general manager Dan O'Dowd paid a visit to Tulsa, and told Arenado he wasn't going to be called up at season's end, and wouldn't open the 2013 season in the big leagues, either. 

Arenado's focus was questioned.

"That bothered me a lot," said Arenado. "My goal was to make the big leagues that season. For (O'Dowd) to say that, it bothered me big time. ... I decided I was going to quit worrying about it, play the game hard, and play for my teammates. I decided I was going to have fun playing the game, and playing for my boys in Tulsa. That's when things turned around."

Turned around? Well, O'Dowd didn't back off his statement. But on April 28, 2013, after 18 games at Triple-A Colorado Springs, Arenado got the call, and never looked back.

"That was an incredible part of his career for him," said Jeff Bridich, the current Rockies general manager, who was the farm director in 2012. "He didn't know it at the time. That's where some of the maturity comes in. He was ready to know it. But what he went through was part of what helped him springboard to the big leagues."

Springboard? He jumped to the head of the class.

In the five-year period from his debut until Saturday he led all National League players in RBI, ranked second in home runs and third in doubles.

Player RBI Player HR Player 2B
Nolan Arenado 518 Giancarlo Stanton 173 Daniel Murphy 196
Paul Goldschmidt 512 Nolan Arenado 152 Matt Carpenter 195
Anthony Rizzo 467 Paul Goldschmidt 147 Nolan Arenado 188
Jay Bruce 436 Anthony Rizzo 143 Freddie Freeman 184
Giancarlo Stanton 435 Jay Bruce 137 Paul Goldschmidt 181
Andrew McCutchen 428 Bryce Harper 127 Anthony Rizzo 179
Freddie Freeman 425 Freddie Freeman 124 Andrew McCutchen 164
Adrian Gonzalez 421 Joey Votto 124 Anthony Rendon 160
Buster Posey 400 Andrew McCutchen 122 Buster Posey 155
Matt Kemp 396 Charlie Blackmon 117 Yadier Molina 150
Carlos Gonzalez 115 Charlie Blackmon 148
Source Stats, Inc.

And in the world of analytics, Arenado was the 59th player taken in the 2009 draft, but his 28.3 WAR is the third highest of any player from that year's selection process.

Player Pos. Team Round Selected WAR
Mike Trout CF Angels 1st 25th 56.4
Paul Goldschmidt 1B D-Backs 8th 246th 36
Nolan Arenado 3B Rockies 2nd 59th 28.3
Kyle Seager SS Mariners 3rd 82nd 27.1
Stephen Strasburg RHP Nationals 1st 1st 25.4
Brian Dozier SS Twins 8th 252nd 23.3
Brandon Belt 1B Giants 5th 147th 21.2
Matt Carpenter 3B Cardinals 13th 399th 21
Jason Kipnis 2B Indians 2nd 63rd 19.7
A.J. Pollock OF D-Backs 1st 17th 18.7
Source: Baseball-reference.com

He didn't get immediate attention from the nation's media. In Rookie of the Year voting in 2013, Arenado received one third-place vote.

Name Tm Vote Pts 1st Place Share
Jose Fernandez MIA 142 26 95%
Yasiel Puig LAD 95 4 63%
Shelby Miller STL 12 0 8%
Hyun-Jin Ryu LAD 10 0 7%
Julio Teheran ATL 7 0 5%
Jedd Gyorko SDP 2 0 1%
Nolan Arenado COL 1 0 1%
Evan Gattis ATL 1 0 1%

His peers, and managers and coaches, however, recognized him quickly. Even though he was a month shy of five full seasons in the big leagues at the end of last year, Arenado won five NL Gold Gloves in the five years, the only player to win a Gold Glove each of the last five years.

Year P C 1B 2B 3B SS OF OF OF
2017 NL Greinke Barnhart Goldschmidt LeMahieu Arenado Crawford Ozuna Inciarte Heyward
2016 NL Greinke Posey Rizzo Panik Arenado Crawford Marte Inciarte Heyward
2015 NL Greinke Molina Goldschmidt Gordon Arenado Crawford Marte Pollock Heyward
2014 NL Greinke Molina Gonzalez LeMahieu Arenado Simmons Yelich Lagares Heyward
2013 NL Wainwright Molina Goldschmidt Phillips Arenado Simmons Gonzalez Parra Gomez

He is also the only player to win a Silver Slugger Award in voting by coaches and managers each of the last three seasons.

Year P C 1B 2B 3B SS OF OF OF
2017 NL Wainwright Posey Goldschmidt Murphy Arenado Seager Ozuna Stanton Blackmon
2016 NL Arrieta Ramos Rizzo Murphy Arenado Seager Yelich Cespedes Blackmon
2015 NL Bumgarner Posey Goldschmidt Gordon Arenado Crawford Harper Gonzalez McCutchen
2014 NL Bumgarner Posey Gonzalez Walker Rendon Desmond Upton Stanton McCutchen
2013 NL Greinke Molina Goldschmidt Carpenter Alvarez Desmond Bruce Cuddyer McCutchen
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