Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado is ready to return. After missing a month due to a finger issue, Arenado has been activated from the disabled list, and is penciled in to start Thursday night's game against the Dodgers. Prior to the injury, Arenado was enjoying a breakout season. Will his success carry over now that he's back?
There's reason for some promise here. Yes, Arenado's .323 BABIP has likely played a role in his success, but he's shown growth in other areas that should make him a Fantasy asset. His batted ball data, in particular has taken a nice step forward this season. Arenado has managed to hit fly balls at a much higher rate this season. During his rookie year, Arenado hit fly balls 33.7 percent of the time. He's been able to push that up towards 38 percent in 2014.
That trade off has come at the expense of Arenado's ground balls, which is find for Fantasy owners. While his line drive rate has dropped slightly, it still remains strong, even with the change in batted ball data.
The change hasn't led to a massive improvement in Arenado's home run rate, but it has helped with extra base hits. Arenado's 9.5 HR/FB rate is actually below the league-average. Despite that, he's managed to lift his slugging percentage to .489 this year. It certainly doesn't hurt that he plays half of his games in Coors Field, where extra base hits are plentiful.
Arenado isn't the most patient hitter at the plate, but he doesn't strike out either. This typically leads to a contact-heavy approach, which can sometimes support a high-BABIP. That's not to say Arenado will continue to have a .323 BABIP, but he has the skill set to perform well in that category.
Overall, though, the changes have been encouraging. There's still some hope that Arenado can get more power out of his bat. Considering his line drive-heavy approach, and the park he plays in, it wouldn't be hard to see a few more balls leaving Coors Field. Even if that doesn't happen, Arenado's approach should play. Now that he's showing better power skills, he'll continue to be valuable even if he loses .020 points off his batting average.
The finger injury may put a dent in his overall numbers, but the pre-injury breakout seemed to be the real deal.