Phillies Opposition Roadblock: Nolan Arenado

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Jun 1, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; Colorado Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado (28) reacts in the fifth inning against the Cincinnati Reds at Coors Field. The Reds defeated the Rockies 7-2. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 1, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; Colorado Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado (28) reacts in the fifth inning against the Cincinnati Reds at Coors Field. The Reds defeated the Rockies 7-2. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports /
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The Philadelphia Phillies are in Denver for a long weekend series with the host Colorado Rockies, and their NL All-Star 3rd baseman is a major roadblock to Phillies success.

Let’s start on a positive note.  The Phillies are back to playing watchable baseball once again.  It seems to me that the short West Coast trip really jolted their offense back to life.  The trip could have been the exact medicine the team needed in order to awaken a sleeping offense.

They are going to head into the break in much better shape than they did last season, regardless of the outcome of this series in Colorado.  The improvements in just one year of the rebuild are extremely noticeable, and a number of the main pieces still have not arrived from the minor leagues.

I do want to apologize for not having a Roadblock Player for the Braves series, but let’s be serious for a moment.  I wrote one about Nick Markakis and Freddie Freeman.  Is there anyone left at this point anyway on the Atlanta roster who could be considered a true roadblock to success?

The Phillies take their momentum right into Coors Field where there are quite a few offensive roadblocks throughout the Rockies offense.

When I scouted their roster, it was an overwhelming (and terrifying) feeling to know that Adam Morgan would be facing what they put out there.

With five regulars hitting over .280 and four with double-digit homeruns, and when factoring in the mile-high altitude of Denver, the Rockies are an imposing offensive team at home.

Say what you will about the home and road splits too, because the Phillies are playing on Rockies territory, so the splits fit the numbers if that’s your argument.

Rookie shortstop Trevor Story was one of the most exciting parts to the early season.  While he has slowed a bit, the rest of the offense is as formidable as ever.  2nd baseman D.J. LeMahieu continues to play the role of ‘Most Under-rated Second Baseman’ in all of baseball.

Outfielders Charlie Blackmon and Carlos Gonzalez are two of the better all-around outfielders in the National League, with CarGo an NL All-Star and MVP candidate.

However, the Rockies offense runs on their stud 3rd baseman, NL All-Star Nolan Arenado.  I will start with the fact that the 25-year old has been in the league for three seasons and has owned the 3rd base Gold Glove award since his rookie year.  His offense was not too far behind, but his power numbers needed some time before they took full flight.

Arenado was selected by the Rockies with the 59th overall pick in the 2009 MLB Amateur Draft.  He decided to forego a scholarship to Arizona State and signed with the purple and black.

His minor league track was quick and successful. Arenado hit over .300 at every level with power, and arrived in the big leagues before most of the organization could blink their eyes.

As a 23-year old rookie, Arenado was by all means successful.  He slashed a very respectable .267/.301/.405 with ten bombs and 52 RBI.

His 2014 was shortened because of a fracture in his finger.  He only played in 111 games, missing 37 as a result of the injury, but his offense certainly picked up during his time on the field, as his numbers improved to .287/.328/.500 with 18 homeruns and 61 RBI.

Jun 5, 2016; San Diego, CA, USA; Colorado Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado (28) congratulates right fielder Carlos Gonzalez (5) after Gonzalez hit a two run home run during the ninth inning against the San Diego Padres at Petco Park. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 5, 2016; San Diego, CA, USA; Colorado Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado (28) congratulates right fielder Carlos Gonzalez (5) after Gonzalez hit a two run home run during the ninth inning against the San Diego Padres at Petco Park. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports /

While not yet truly dominant, it was obvious to most that Arenado’s offense was coming.  His glove and bat were going to make him one of the more prominent 3rd basemen in the game.

It was his 2015 season that assured baseball fans across the country that Arenado was who we thought he was.

His first full season was an absurd display of offense that we have not seen since “The Era We Shall Not Name” and, boy was it fun?  Arenado drove in an incredible 130 runs, scoring 97 himself.  He pounded 42 dingers, while hitting .287/.323/.575 in a career-high 157 games played.

Arenado was rewarded for his play with his first MLB All-Star Game appearance and a Silver Slugger Award.  His homeruns tied for most in the National League and his RBI total was the highest of any player in the league as well.

Colorado fans had to expect a decline after such an impeccable 2015, but Arenado has picked up where he left off last season.

Through 83 games, the now 25-year old has slashed a familiar .286/.361/.572 and is on pace to beat his home run numbers with 23 at the midpoint.  He has knocked in 69 runs in the games he has appeared.

Amazingly, with all of the offensive talent the Rockies boast, Arenado leads the team in runs scored (59), homers, RBI, walks (37), and OPS (.933).  Simply put, Arenado is an absolute stud.

Arenado is much better at home than on the road.  He hits .309 at home versus .267 on the road.  His OPS is .200 points higher in the friendly confines of Coors Field than traveling the country.  He has 12 and 11 home runs home and away respectively, so his power clearly plays anywhere.

Arenado’s splits against righties and lefties are almost identical.  Ironically, the right-handed hitter has homered 13 more times against right-handed pitching than lefty pitching.  His average is only nine points better against southpaws (.293-.284) and his OPS is 50 points higher against the lefties of the world.

While Arenado is capable of spraying the ball, he finds himself pulling the ball quite a bit on the ground.  I doubt the Phillies shift him too much, but it may be an option if they plan on challenging him in on the hands.

For Adam Morgan, the problem was that Arenado loves the ball in, so he needed to challenge him away.  Morgan’s stuff was not good enough to come in, so he had to try to beat Arenado away.

Clearly, Morgan’s game plan didn’t work last night. Arenado doubled home the Rockies’ first run in the bottom of the 1st inning. In the bottom of the 3rd he singled off Morgan in the midst of a three-run inning that blew the game open.

The remaining three starting pitchers will have to do better for the Phillies. While following a similar game plan, they will have to execute it better. As all are more talented than Morgan, that possibility exists.

Jerad Eickhoff, Vincent Velasquez, and Zack Eflin will all have to beat him away because of his love of the inner half of the plate.  Without establishing the pitches away, Arenado is sure to beat you.

And if he beats you, the Rockies will beat you.

Opposition Roadblock Grades from the Kansas City series last week:

Royals Opposition Roadblock: Eric Hosmer: 3-12, 2B, no walks and 2 strikeouts.

My Grade:  Hosmer was held in check.  The Phillies won twice.  A.

Phillies Grade:   Hosmer was held in check.  The Phillies won twice.  A.

Next: Has Jamaal Charles Lost a Step?

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