For years now, Colorado, err, St. Louis third baseman Nolan Arenado has been a first-round guy that set your team up for success in most of the offensive categories. He doesn’t run much, but his high floor in home runs, batting average, and runs batted in proclaimed him as one of the safer first round picks each year. When in doubt, Arenado in the first round! However, 2020 was the first year that Arenado didn’t provide owners with a reasonable return on investment. In 48 games, he hit eight home runs, drove in 26 runs and slashed .253/.303/.434. It was a down year for Arenado, but a lingering shoulder issue plagued his numbers. A return to health should bode well for Arenado.
Let’s get this out of the way. Don’t be as scared as you are right now of the new ballpark for Arenado. If you take his career stats in St. Louis and extrapolate them over the course of a 162-game season, here’s what you come up with:
.278/337/.511 with 40 doubles, 33 home runs, 114 RBI and 94 runs scored
Not too shabby right?
Arenado doesn’t turn 30 until April, so he’ll be on the right side of 30, to begin the year at least. His game is built on a beautiful swing and defensive prowess that few can match. I’m going to mention it again, and probably nine more times in this article, but a shoulder issue is to blame for his 2020 season. There’s no denying that, and I’ll double, triple and quadruple down on it. I’d go more with it, but I don’t know what comes after quadruple and am too lazy to Google it.
Anyways, I digress. While his launch angle was a career high in 2020, when you couple that with a diminished barrel rate and hard contact rate, the elevated launch angle doesn’t really matter. Now, should his batted ball metrics return to his career norms, the elevated launch angle will play out quite nicely for Arenado. Everyone is going to be concerned with Arenado moving away from Coors, but people are acting like he’s hit 100 more home runs in Coors than away from Coors. People, in the same timeframe, he only hit ten fewer home runs away from Coors than he did in his former home park.
The numbers weren’t there in 2020, but some of his peripherals are setting him up for an excellent 2021. He swung outside of the zone less, made more contact, and his 7.5 percent SwStr% was the lowest mark of his career. He cut his strikeout rate by four percentage points from the year prior, and his walk rate was only a couple points below recent seasons.
I mean, how do you not love that!? If it weren’t for that shoulder issue, it’s reasonable to think that this article would be talking about how he developed even more as a hitter. Instead, we’re discussing how his subtle improvements from 2020, along with a clean bill of health, sets Arenado up for a massive 2021 campaign.
Prior to 2020, Arenado had 110 or more RBI in five straight seasons, and had at least 130 in three of those five seasons. Since the start of 2018, he’s fifth in home runs, 19th in runs scored, fourth in runs batted in, 13th in batting average and 12th in WAR. He’s the only player since the start of 2018 with at least 87 home runs and 250 or more RBI. Arenado has been a stalwart in the first round of fantasy baseball drafts for the past few years, but after an injury-plagued 2020, you have a realistic shot of getting Arenado outside of the first round for the first time since the middle of last decade.
Arenado’s nagging shoulder injury is to blame for the 2020 season and nothing in his peripherals suggests that he is taking a step back this year. He doesn’t run, so knock him there, but he was a stalwart in the first round of fantasy drafts in recent years, but one bad 60-game stretch affected by injury drops him all the way into the late-second round? I’ll buy every day of the week and twice on Sunday. Furthermore, if I can get him at even more of a discount now that he’s away from Coors, I might buy three times on Sunday. Also, am I that crazy to think that the supporting cast in St. Louis is better for Arenado’s counting stats than Colorado?
Maybe I’m buying too much into a healthy shoulder being the magic fix for Arenado, but I fully believe that one year from today, we could be talking about 2021 being Arenado’s best offensive season of his career. Maybe he loses a little bit of upside moving away from Coors, but to his credit, he’s been pretty darn good in St. Louis throughout his career. I’m all in on Arenado in 2021.