There’s no denying baseball is changing. In today’s era, analytics and statistics are redefining the way the game is played. General managers treat scouting reports like advanced math problems, crunching numbers to gain a competitive advantage in any situation. No player’s weakness goes unnoticed. But for Eastbay’s January cover athlete, Nolan Arenado, this is no problem.

Only six seasons into his career, Arenado is on pace to be one of the top two-way players in history. The third baseman is only the second player in league history to post three or more seasons with at least 35 home runs and 130 RBIs before age 27. He’s also only one of three third basemen to win four straight Silver Slugger Awards.

Nolan Arenado hitting

Arenado’s consistency at the plate is supplemented with his spectacular play-making in the field, yielding an impressive set of accolades. He’s won a Gold Glove in each of his first six seasons and has been voted into the All-Star game for the past four years. Not to mention, his .970 career fielding percentage places him eighth all time among players at the hot corner.

So, is Arenado aware of how his numbers reflect his performance on the field? Of course he is. He even sets specific goals each year, challenging himself to improve.

“My goal is always to make 10 or fewer errors,” Arenado said. “It’s kind of hard to do and I’ve only done it once. In 2017, I made nine and that was my best fielding year.”

Nolan Arenado fielding

That type of drive is what propelled Arenado to stardom in the first place. When he first entered the majors, Arenado said scouts were doubtful he could even play third base because of size and lack of speed. But with a strong work ethic and continued confidence in his abilities, he was able to block out the doubters and prove he belonged at the top.

“When you get a report on you, it just sticks. I knew third base was something I could do and I could do it better than what I was getting credit for,” Arenado said. “Once I really took pride in my offseason work, I think that’s what changed for me.”

Arenado also knows baseball is a complicated game and to be the best, you must be a complete player. While he continues to smack homers and drive in runs with the best in the league, he still strives to be more efficient at the plate.

“It’s easy to say everyone’s goal is to hit .300 with 30-plus home runs and 100 RBIs and that’s one of my goals also,” Arenado said. “But I would really like to cut down on the strikeouts and give myself a better chance of putting the ball in play.”

Nolan Arenado looking at bat

Today, Arenado’s confidence is at an all-time high. He’s continually moved up the ranks in the National League MVP vote since 2015. Last year he placed third, behind only Christian Yelich and Javier Báez. He credits that improvement to never losing focus, even during the offseason, and advises younger players to do the same. He says that with hard work comes confidence and once that confidence is instilled, the sky’s the limit.

“Being confident is huge but you’re only going to be confident after putting in the work,” Arenado said. “Work hard so when the game starts you feel confident. You know you’re prepared for the day.”

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Nolan Arenado focus on glove