So far in our fun little trip around the family affair that is Major League Baseball, we have looked at some of the games’ fathers who are getting to watch their sons climb the minor league ladder. We have also taken a look at some baseball DNA that was shared between cousins. Today, we turn our attention to some brotherly love.
Nolan Arenado has become one of the best players in baseball. The Sharknado is a perennial MVP candidate both on the field and at the plate. The past two seasons, Arenado has taken his game to a higher level by becoming arguably the most feared force at the plate in the National League. Heading into Sunday’s season finale, his 83 combined home runs and 263 RBI have led all NL hitters as he should finish with the home run and RBI crown for the second consecutive season.
He isn’t a boom-or-bust player either. The 25-year-old right-hander has a career slash line of .284/.330/.520. This season, he posted another brilliant 15 percent strikeout rate while walking a career-best nine percent of the time. Arenado has proven to be a highlight reel at third base as well — hence the nickname Sharknado for the way he spins and moves for outs — and should earn his fourth consecutive Gold Glove by season’s end, in only his fourth season of play.
Imagine if there was another like him?
There is. Well, at least in name anyway.
Jonah Arenado is the 21-year-old corner infield prospect in the San Francisco Giants farm system. He is also Nolan’s brother. Once a third base prospect like Nolan, he took more reps at first base this season than any other in his career. He also seemed to find his power stroke, beginning to resemble his older brother a little bit more in that department.
Jonah was drafted in the 16th round by the Giants in the 2013 MLB Draft out of El Toro High School. He spent his first two seasons in the Arizona League at Rookie level, playing just 62 games. He showed little of the power prowess his brother showed before him, and was thus expected in Jonah, hitting just ten doubles and zero home runs over that span. He struggled more mentally than physically, because looking at his swing, and how eerily similar it is to his brother’s, you simply knew the talent was there.
“Arenado, 21, looks just like his brother at the plate, as you’d expect,” [Bobby] DeMuro said in an earlier scouting report. “The younger Arenado is short to the ball and extremely long through it, just like the elder MLB star. That swing can produce good lift on line drives and, in turn, great power. At 6-4 and 230 pounds — Jonah told me he’s put on about 20 pounds since being drafted four years ago — the corner infielder has future power hitter written all over him. He’s gone from no home runs in his first two seasons combined to nine last year in the South Atlantic League, and already 10 more this summer in San Jose.”
Arenado put together a nice season with Augusta in 2015, his full-season debut. He slashed .264/.293/.367 with 25 doubles and nine home runs. Looking at his slash line, one of Jonah’s biggest issues should immediately jump out. He doesn’t have the best plate discipline, striking out 16.8 percent of the time, while walking just 4.3 percent of the time. While Arenado would break out in the heart of San Jose’s lineup in 2016, those numbers would become even more alarming.
This season, Jonah harnessed that Arenado power swing and smashed 17 home runs and 36 doubles good for third most in his California League debut. He was even more of a free swinger this season, however, striking out 110 times in 545 plate appearances, which is actually not as awful as it used to be in this era of big-swinging power hitters. Often times, those power hitters offset their high strikeout rates with a good walk rate. Arenado walked just 3.3 percent of the time, a number which needs to be improved.
“There are still some holes there (namely 17 walks against 109 strikeouts in 511 at-bats, which tells me his approach at the plate still isn’t quite where it should be),” DeMuro said after a second scouting trip. “But remembering he’s a high school draftee who won’t be 22 until February should quell some of those concerns, as he’ll have plenty of time to improve his approach and be more selective as he goes.”
There is a lot to like in Jonah’s game, and poor strikeout-to-walk ratios plague plenty of young sluggers early on in their careers. Arenado will likely head to Richmond in the Double-A Eastern League in 2017. It will be very telling of just how far he can go. Was his power surge aided by the hitter-friendly California League, or is it truly there in that Arenado swing? Can he improve the strikeout numbers against more advanced pitching on his way up the ladder?
It will be interesting to watch his progression and see how long it takes for him to join Nolan at the big league level. One person who will be watching is Josh Fuentes. Fuentes is a third base prospect in the Colorado Rockies system. He also happens to be Jonah and Nolan’s first cousin.
For more on the Arenado clan, head on over to Today’s Knuckleball for my full feature by clicking on the link below: