The question seems simple, but the answer may not be so simple. Is Colorado Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado a top 5 player in the MLB today?
What does that even mean? Does it mean that he is one of the top five players based on talent alone or also value to his club? How much worse would the Rockies be without him? A quick look at his stats over the past two seasons and you would think the answer would be a resounding YES. So far this season Nolan Arenado is sitting on a .291 batting average (very solid for a power guy), 14 homers and 34 RBIs. That is good enough to put him at a tie for second in the majors in home runs and fourth in the National League in runs batted in. On top of that, the guy is third in his league in everybody’s current favorite stat, WAR, with a 2.3 rating. However, what may be even more impressive is the fact that he has won three consecutive Gold Gloves at the hot corner. By the way, guess how many seasons Arenado has been in the big leagues? Three. The potential that he has as a ball player has to be in the same conversation as the current golden boys Mike Trout and Bryce Harper.
But back to the question, is it possible that there are only three or four other players better than Nolan Arenado right now? I think it depends on how you qualify certain players. Similar to the common argument over MVP awards, can you consider a pitcher who only plays once every five-or-so days to be better than a position player who plays 150-160 games a year? If you want to judge based on talent alone, then I believe it is fair to include pitchers and position players in the same conversation. I highly doubt anyone with current baseball knowledge would be able to disagree if you said that Clayton Kershaw, Jake Arrieta, and/or Chris Sale were among the top five most talented players in the game. But the argument can also be made that someone who excels at the plate as well as in the field on a nightly basis offers more consistent value to the team. If that is the case, then Arenado has to be considered a top five player, right?
The answer to this question really comes down to personal definition of the word “best.” Most fans can agree that Nolan Arenado is just another example of the great young talent that we are currently spoiled with in the MLB. Some may say he is a top five player and some may say he is not even top ten or fifteen. See, the answer is not so simple after all. However, I think that it is safe to say we will be seeing plenty more of this guy in the future.
For the record, my current top five would go: Harper, Trout, Machado, Kershaw, and Sale (not necessarily in that order).
Also, if you want to see someone who is way better at fielding a baseball than you will ever be, check out this highlight reel of Arenado’s young career; you won’t be disappointed.