2014 Fantasy Sleeper: Third Baseman Nolan Arenado

RotoBaller Scott McCloy brings you expert analysis on Fantasy Sleeper Third Baseman Nolan Arenado of the Rockies. If you're looking for sleepers in your fantasy draft, look no further...

Scott McCloy - RotoBaller

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After the 2012 season, Colorado Rockies 3B Nolan Arenado was ranked as the team's #1 prospect by Baseball America and #52 in all of baseball.   Arenado had a great spring in 2013 with 4 HR and 12 RBI while slugging .574, but he was sent to Triple-A in favor of Chris Nelson.  Arenado didn’t last long in the minors, as he came out scorching, hitting 11 2B, 3 HR and 21 RBI en route to a .364 BA in only 18 games.   That hot start got him called up to Colorado, and he never looked back.  Arenado finished his rookie season in the bigs, playing in 133 games while compiling a stat line of 10 HR, 52 RBI, 49 R, 2 SB and a .267 BA.  I know these aren’t stats that will have your fantasy appetite salivating this upcoming year, but read further to find out why Arenado has the ability to change your mind.

Who is Nolan Arenado?

By Keith Allison (Flickr: Nolan Arenado) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia CommonsThe 6'1", 205-lb Arenado, soon to be 23 years old, hails from California, where he turned a stellar high school career into a scholarship at Arizona State University.  When he was drafted in the second round (59th overall) of the 2009 draft by the Colorado Rockies, Arenado chose to bypass his scholarship and go pro.  Arenado spent three-and-a-half years in the minor leagues, where he put up excellent numbers at every stop along the way.  In 2011, he had his best year, hitting .298 with 20 HR and 122 RBI, leading all of minor leagues in run production.  He played in two futures games (2011 and 2012), and collected an MVP trophy in the 2011 Arizona Fall League.  This is why he was considered the top prospect in the Rockies organization.

Many scouts had him as a sleeper for 2013, making him a fairly popular late-round flier.  His pedestrian numbers in 2013, though, have kept fantasy owners at bay this year.  Let’s take a look at his 2013 production to get a better sense of who Arenado is as a hitter. He makes great contact, good enough for a solid 14% K rate, placing him fifth among all 3B and ahead of Miguel Cabrera, Manny Machado and Josh Donaldson.  He doesn’t strike out a lot, and he hits the ball hard with a 23.9% line drive rate, again fifth among all 3B and ahead of hitters like Adrian Beltre, Ryan Zimmerman and Pablo Sandoval.   His 10 HR (half of them at Coors Field) are low for an elite 3B, but he did have a season in the minors where he hit 20.  The power is there, and he plays in Coors, which should help him if he can get a few more fly balls (33.7% FB rate) and some better luck (.296 BABIP).   Arenado hit 29 2B last year after hitting 109 in his three full minor league seasons, so if he gets under a few of those, they could well turn into home runs.  He’s not a burner, swiping only two bags in 2013, but who really is at the third base position?

Have I forgotten to mention the fact that Arenado won a Gold Glove as a rookie, the first ever by a National League rookie?  Defense doesn’t help you in fantasy unless you play in an obscure league.   But if you do, he finished fourth in all of baseball with a defensive WAR of 3.6.  How do plays like this or this help you in fantasy?  They lock him in at 3B for the whole season.  With that defense, any production is considered enough for the Rockies.   He will be the everyday 3B for the Rockies in 2014 and beyond.

In what round should you target Arenado?

Currently, Arenado's ADP is at 199 on FantasyPros and over 200 in both ESPN and Yahoo.  I’ve seen him projected to go as high as 112 and as low as 277.  If you can get him in the 200s, by all means do so, because you've got yourself a steal.   If you like what you’ve read, really want him and are worried that another owner will snag him before you do, grab him in the 15th round of a 12-team league, around the 160 mark.

2014 Projections

19 HR, 74 RBI, 72 R, .281 BA, 3 SB