If you were to ask someone who the best player in the National League was, chances are the response would be Bryce Harper. You also might hear the names Paul Goldschmidt, Buster Posey, Anthony Rizzo, Zack Greinke, maybe even Joey Votto or Andrew McCutchen. Now, none of those are bad opinions. All those players are superstars, and outstanding individuals. Yet none of them should be deemed the best player in the NL, simply because none of those guys are the best in the NL. Believe it or not, Colorado Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado is the best player in the National League.
Now just to be clear, I think nothing ill of Bryce Harper. He is one of the best players in baseball, and has had an outstanding year.
He’s more than likely to be the NL MVP as well. Remember, though, the MVP isn’t awarded to the best player in the league, it’s awarded to the player who is most valuable to his team. Harper does deserve the MVP under that criteria, and he really has emerged as a total superstar this season. Yet Arenado is still better than him. Harper does have a better slash, hitting .336/.467/.657 compared to Arenado’s .288/.324/.583. However, Harper gets a huge OBP boost from how often he gets walked. Teams fear Harper and his power, while Arenado is still getting to the point of terror. Plus, Arenado has a loaded lineup around him so walking him doesn’t solve a whole lot while the Washington Nationals lineup is significantly weaker than the Rox.
So what does make Arenado better then? I know one argument against him is that he plays at Coors Field, but he actually has more home runs on the road than he does in the thin air of Denver. Arenado’s power is tremendous and he’s knocked out 38 home runs and driven in 108 RBI this year. Both of those numbers are good enough to lead the national league, and he trails only Nelson Cruz and Chris Davis in the home run category around the entire league. He also rarely strikes out. Arenado has only been punched out 87 times in 532 at-bats, just one time every 6 plate appearances. That’s a better ratio than big names such as Josh Donaldson, Cruz, Harper, Goldschmidt and even golden boy Mike Trout. Arenado is also second in the NL in doubles, only slotting in behind Todd Frazier, and leads the NL with 310 total bases.
Offensively, Arenado is terrific, but it’s something else that separates him from the rest of the pack. It’s the fact that he’s one of the best defensive players in baseball, and the best defensive third baseman. Donaldson gets attention for his ridiculous catches, Kyle Seager for his smoking hot glove, and Manny Machado for his diving efforts, but Arenado is better than all three. His 3.34 range factor is the best in the bigs among third baggers, and his defensive WAR comes in just second to Adrian Beltre. Calling him the best defensive player in the NL may be a bit of stretch because of Nick Ahmed, Andrelton Simmons, Brandon Crawford, and Adeiny Hechavarria, but Arenado is definitely in the conversation for that honor and he’s almost certain to win his second straight Gold Glove.
The amazing thing about is that Nolan’s still only 24. Up until this year, he’d shown potential but had never been able to bring it all together. This year, he has emerged as a superstar, and while he won’t win MVP because of how poor Colorado is, he has established himself as a top player and, in my opinion, the cream of the crop in the National League.