Arenado leads four Rox on top prospect list
Infielder No. 22, Pomeranz 24th, Rosario 63rd, Bettis 66th
DENVER -- Big brothers might delight in the younger one's pain and suffering, but it's all out of love. Rockies power-hitting third-base prospect Nolan Arenado got a glimpse of that in Las Vegas this winter.Veteran Jason Giambi organized the torture. He is 41, and age-wise is closer to a dad than a big brother to Arenado, who doesn't turn 21 until April 16. Troy Tulowitzki is 27. Dexter Fowler turns 26 on March 22. Contorting in the heat while performing Bikram yoga can be a chore at any age, but to hear Arenado say it, youth was not his ally. "I've done hard stuff, but nothing like Bikram yoga," Arenado said. "I remember it getting really tough, messing with my mind. I was thinking, 'Do I really want to be doing this?' But I realize that it was as much a workout mentally as physically, and that mental preparation will help me." Arenado understood that to play with the big brothers, he must work and think like them. Arenado, who led all of Minor League Baseball with 122 RBIs in Class A ball last year, and was the Arizona Fall League Most Valuable Player, will get his first look in Major League camp this year, and he wants to play with the big club permanently -- sooner rather than later. MLB.com's 2012 Prospect Watch suggests that his aspiration is more than just a young man's dream. Arenado ranks 22nd on the Top 100 list, the highest of any Rockies players. Also on the list are left-handed pitcher Drew Pomeranz at No. 24, catcher Wilin Rosario at No. 63 and right-handed pitcher Chad Bettis at No. 66.
This year's edition of MLB.com's Top Prospects list has expanded from 50 to 100 players. The annual ranking of baseball's biggest and brightest young talent is assembled by MLB.com's Draft and prospect expert Jonathan Mayo, who compiles input from industry sources, including scouts and scouting directors. It is based on analysis of players' skill sets, upsides, closeness to the Majors and potential immediate impact to their teams. The list, which is one of several prospect rankings on MLB.com's Prospect Watch, only includes players with rookie status in 2012.Arenado's goals don't stop at the prospect list, since the best way to come off such a ranking is to become established in the Majors, even though that would entail a big leap. Last season, Arenado hit .298 with 20 home runs, 32 doubles and the 122 RBIs at Modesto. He followed that up by tearing up the AFL -- where he faced older prospects -- to the tune of .298 with six home runs, 12 doubles and 33 RBIs. Of course, that's a long way from Coors Field on a regular basis. The Rockies also signed veteran third baseman Casey Blake to a one-year contract. The logical idea is that Arenado comes to Major League camp to increase his learning curve, but goes back to the Minors and continue ascending. But while the Rockies aren't putting pressure on him, they aren't limiting him, either. "I loved working with those guys, I want to play with those guys and I want to win with them. I want to get to the Majors as soon as I can and learn from them," Arenado said. "I enjoyed picking their brains to see what they've gone through, and it seems like they know every little thing. They were telling me stuff I hadn't even thought about. Ultimately, that's where I want to be, and I want to stay there for a long time. "I'm very excited to go to Spring Training. I'm going to do everything I can to make the team. I'm not saying that to be arrogant, and the Rockies haven't said anything to me other than they want me to come to camp and work hard. I don't even know if there's a chance to make the team, but I want to show them what I can do." The Rockies took Arenado in the second round of the 2009 First-Year Player Draft out of El Toro High School in Lake Forest, Calif. Arenado hit .300 with two home runs in 54 games at Rookie-level Casper in 2009, and .308 with 12 homers in 92 games at Class A Asheville in 2010. The numbers were positive for such a young player, but he needed help to speed his progress. The first big step came last winter, when Arenado worked out with Tulwoitzki in California and learned to take care of himself better. Arenado reported for 2011 in better physical shape. Not only did his hitting improve, but so did his fielding. Even more, thanks to some of the diet advice he received over the winter, he maintained the benefits of his winter workout. "The year before, I was 235 pounds, and I wasn't eating well," Arenado said. "I was eating a lot of meals late at night. It was nothing for me to go in at 9 o'clock and crush a burrito. I'm learning to eat at a certain time. I try to have my last meal at 6." The 6-foot-2 Arenado carried 210 pounds last season, and wants to stay at the same weight this year, although the hard workouts this winter dropped him below that figure. The work and the result has caught the attention of Rockies player development director Jeff Bridich. "He showed in the Fall League that he's a very talented young man who was able to extend a long season and still perform at a high level with a lot of energy," Bridich said. "He's been pretty consistent as an offensive player, and he is a lot more athletic at third base than you might think when you first see him. "He's a good person, very focused on his career, and he's a good teammate based on what we understand -- not only since he's been with us, but from people who had been around him before."
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Hardball in the Rockies, and follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.