Rookie Trevor Story has been, well, the story so far for the Colorado Rockies. Why not? The kid hit seven home runs in his first six games, after all. They sent his helmet and batting gloves to Cooperstown and everything.

But there’s another yarn unspooling in the Mile High City that’s just as intriguing and might well have more staying power: the continued emergence of Nolan Arenado, superstar third baseman.

After going 4-for-5 with two home runs and an eye-popping seven RBI Wednesday in a 10-6 win over the San Francisco Giants at Coors Field, Arenado owns a 1.121 OPS on the young season.

Marry that stick to a glove that has made Arenado the best defensive third baseman in the National League over the past three seasons, per FanGraphs, and you’ve got an elite talent who could easily siphon first-place MVP votes.

We’re a long way from awards talk, obviously. The usual April caveats apply to any hot start. But Arenado proved last year this early output is no fluke.

In 2015, Arenado tied Bryce Harper for the NL lead with 42 home runs, tallied an MLB-leading 130 RBI and posted a career-high 5.8 wins above replacement while winning a third straight Gold Glove.

It was, by any definition, a breakout campaign, tempered only by the Rockies’ last-place finish.

Now, Arenado—who turns 25 on April 16—is teasing next-level production. Or at least indicating that a worthy encore is in the works.

Before Wednesday’s huge game, Arenado was hitting just .222 on the heels of a scalding spring. But skipper Walt Weiss presciently predicted a breakthrough, per Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post:

He’s real close. Before the off day, on Sunday, he took a lot of good passes at the ball and got a couple hits, could have had more. But he had some nice near-misses. I’ve seen that all along. He’s just a click off. He’s real close to getting on a roll.

This is the part where we note that Arenado‘s outburst came in Colorado, where all offensive stats are served with an asterisk or at least a raised eyebrow. And Arenado‘s career slugging percentage is more than 100 points higher at Coors than it is on the road.

Last year, however, Arenado hit more home runs (22) away from home than he did in Colorado’s rarefied air (20). So the notion that his production is an altitude-aided mirage mostly falls apart.

Arenado, who hits from the right side, is also an extreme pull hitter, with 40 of his 42 home runs going to the left of center field last season, as FanGraphsAugust Fagerstrom pointed out.

It’s possible, then, that opposing pitchers could adjust their approach, pitching Arenado away and trying to force him to go to the opposite field. If so, he’ll be forced to make his own adjustments. That’s the story of baseball.

But, as Fagerstrom argued, it “seems like what Arenado‘s done is the hitter equivalent of a pitcher wanting to trust his stuff and hit his spots and not change what he does based on the batter’s strengths.”

If it ain’t broke, in other words, don’t fix it.

Over Arenado‘s last 500-plus plate appearances, it hasn’t needed fixing, as Ace of MLB Stats pointed out:

Even with Story’s Babe Ruth act and Arenado doing his thing, this Rockies team appears destined for another losing season. Surprises happen, sure, but there simply aren’t enough pieces on the pitching side for Colorado to hang with the big-spending Los Angeles Dodgers, even-year Giants and retooled Arizona Diamondbacks in the NL West.

That might ultimately damage Arenado‘s MVP case, assuming he stays in the conversation, since voters often unfairly take a club’s record into account when handing out individual hardware.

Mostly, though, we’re looking at a budding stud who can pick it, hit it and won’t become a free agent until 2020. He’s already excellent, and he might be getting better.

If you’re a Rockies fan struggling through this at-times painful rebuild, that’s a pretty sweet consolation prize.


All statistics current as of April 13 and courtesy of unless otherwise noted.

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