Arenado's Transformation Excites Rockies





DENVER—Since the Rockies drafted him in the second round in 2009, Nolan Arenado has had the reputation of being a precocious hitter who might not stay at third base.

Those defensive concerns have vanished this season at high Class A Modesto, where veteran manager Jerry Weinstein said, "I've been in this game a long time. I've never seen a better young fielder. Never. He is uncanny."

The knock on Arenado, 20, was that he lacked first-step quickness and had limited range, shortcomings that were evident last year when he hit .308/.338/.520 at low Class A Asheville with 41 doubles, 12 homers and 65 RBIs.

"He lost about 17 pounds this winter," Weinstein said. "And his side-to-side mobility has improved tremendously. He's got unbelievable hands and a real easy arm (action) with plus arm strength. He can throw from numerous angles, has got tremendous agility throwing on the move. He has plenty of range to play third base right now."

The summer after signing out of high school, Arenado hit .300/.351/.404 with two homers and 22 RBIs at Rookie-level Casper in 2009. He brought a polished, inside-out swing into professional baseball. Turning on inside fastballs and hanging breaking pitches is a skill he's acquiring at Modesto, where Arenado was hitting .250/.289/.379 with three homers and 18 RBIs in 132 at-bats.

Nuts hitting coach Kevin Riggs has been dialing up a pitching machine to throw high-velocity fastballs middle-in that Arenado must stand up to hit.

"He was kind of leaning into pitches on the outer half of the plate and getting blown up inside," Weinstein said. "And now he's standing up and has much better posture."

ROCKY ROADS

• Eric Young Jr., playing center field instead of second base, was hitting .372/.478/.558 at Triple-A Colorado Springs and was 15-for-16 in stolen base attempts.

• Colorado Springs lefthander Rex Brothers was 1-1, 2.61 with nine walks and 37 strikeouts in 21 innings.