Nolan Arenado was arguably the most productive hitter in all of baseball last season.
He batted .298 with 20 homers for the Class A Advanced Modesto Nuts in the California League, recording a career-high 122 RBIs -- the highest tally in the Minor Leagues.
The 6-foot-1 third baseman carried his productive season into the Arizona Fall League where he hit .388 with six round-trippers and 33 RBIs in 29 appearances for Surprise, and he was named the league's Most Valuable Player.
Now Arenado, 20, has his sights set on something even bigger. He spoke to MiLB.com about working out with Troy Tulowitzki, winning a high school championship and fighting for a spot on the Major League roster this spring.
MiLB.com: Now that you've had the winter to reflect, how would you evaluate last season?
Nolan Arenado: Everything went really well. It was a fun year, I got to go to the [Arizona] Fall League and it was a lot of fun. This year coming up is a big year. I'm excited to get to Spring Training and get to work and try to make the team.
MiLB.com: You've batted around .300 each of your first three seasons as a pro. How would you describe your approach at the plate?
Arenado: It just comes with experience and knowing how pitchers are going to pitch to you, being patient, trying to see the ball and swinging at strikes. I want to try and swing at my pitch, and if I do that, I believe I'll have a lot of success. I still think I can do better with that. I wouldn't say I have different approaches; it's more like what I want to do mentally in each situation.
I don't do a lot of physical movement; I try to keep things simple. Mentally, I like to try and change my mindset to what I really want to do depending on whether there are people on base.
MiLB.com: How would you describe your mechanics at the plate? Does it help that you've been playing on a more regular basis each year?
Arenado: They're pretty simple. I try to stay on top and strike through the ball. I don't think about trying to get hits. My whole goal is to square the ball up and hit the ball hard. If I do that, I'm able to have a lot of success. Playing more helps a lot. It helps get your timing down and you know what's going to come so you're not as surprised by things. You get a chance to see pitchers multiple times so you know what they're going to throw you.
MiLB.com: You led the Minors with 122 RBIs last year. Is it fair to say you relish those opportunities with runners on base?
Arenado: Absolutely. My goal is always just getting the runner in. I take pride in getting my RBIs and that's what I really want. I've got make sure that I do whatever I can do to help the team win, a sac fly or whatever it is. I've got to get that run in. It doesn't matter how, I just have to put the ball in play.
I'm developing a lot more power, but my goal out there isn't to hit more home runs. I would obviously like to hit more, but I'm not changing my swing. I'm hoping to keep things the same, and then everything will work out from there. I'm always trying to drive in more runs.
MiLB.com: You're developing a reputation as a guy who doesn't strike out a lot but who doesn't walk much either. Is this a positive or a weakness?
Arenado: Low strikeouts are great, but I believe I could have hit for a higher average if I had swung at better pitches too. I'm not striking out, but I could have walked a little more and that would probably have helped my average and helped the team out more. My goal is to walk more than I have because I know if I walk more I get on base and give my team a chance to drive me in. I don't think that it's a bad thing I don't walk much as long as I don't strike out. I'm being aggressive in the count without being overly aggressive.
MiLB.com: I know you're always looking to improve the defensive side of your game. How's that coming along?
Arenado: I've been working on my range and I have been doing a lot of footwork stuff. It's helped me a lot. I've been taking ground balls constantly this offseason and I've been working on getting stronger and getting a little bit quicker -- not just straight running speed, but laterally.
MiLB.com: You impressed a lot of people in the AFL. How did it feel to be named the league's MVP with Surprise?
Arenado It was a great honor and a great opportunity to play with these players. I had a really good time, and I just played as hard as I can to show these guys that I can compete at the higher level. That was my goal.
MiLB.com: You worked out with Troy Tulowitzki and Jason Giambi last year. Is this going to be a regular part of your winter?
Arenado: Hopefully, they will let me work out with them again, and I'm hoping it will be a yearly thing for me in the offseason. I'd love to have the opportunity to work out with them again because it's very beneficial for me and it helps me in my career. They want to help me get better, and that means a lot to me. I have to take advantage of that. They taught me how to handle myself mentally, and you have to work hard to be the best. These guys aren't messing around.
You've got guys like Giambi, who's a veteran who has been in the big leagues a while, who's working as hard as anyone out there. That shows you a lot. Then you've got Troy, who's accomplished a lot, but in his head he hasn't accomplished anything because he wants to be the best and he wants to accomplish more than anyone.
MiLB.com: What memories do you have playing and watching baseball as a kid?
Arenado: It's funny that, when you're a kid, it's just a different game. It's not as serious. I remember, not so much as a kid, but in high school we won the CIF [California Interscholastic Federation] championship, and that was one of the best memories of my whole life. That was probably the best baseball experience I have had, playing in the championship with my high school teammates.
I remember playing catch with my dad out in the front and just working out on stuff from a young age and going to the fields when we were young. I wanted to become the best, and my ultimate goal was to play baseball for the rest of my life. It really meant more to me the older I got.
MiLB.com: When did you realize that pro baseball was a realistic option?
Arenado: I would say probably the end of my sophomore year in high school, going into my junior year. I knew there could be a chance. It wasn't that I had teams or scouts talking to me; it was just that I believed in my talents and I thought I could play somewhere because of the other players I had seen that had made it. In my junior year, I was talking more to college coaches. But going into the start of my senior year was when I started talking with some pro scouts and seeing that there was a possibility that I might get drafted.
I didn't think I was going to go in the second round, and a lot of people said I might go later, but I played well in my senior year and then I started doing pro workouts. That was when I found out there was a chance I could go a little higher.
MiLB.com: What do you remember about Draft Day itself?
Arenado: I remember hanging out with my family and being really nervous and excited that my name might get called out on the first day. That was really cool, a great experience. My name got called out on the computer, not out on the television, but it was still pretty cool. It was one of the better feelings I have ever had in my life.
It was very exciting to be with my family and get called out to the Rockies because they were the team I wanted to play with. My family and a lot of cousins and aunts were all there. My aunt had her birthday on the same day as the Draft, so we all ended up getting together to celebrate both.
MiLB.com: What was it about Colorado that interested you the most?
Arenado: It was the opportunity to play there and to play as a third baseman. There were some teams that wanted me to play as a catcher, but I knew the Rockies wanted to draft me as a third baseman, and that really got me excited. I'm pretty sure the Phillies and the Pirates were thinking about me as a catcher. I really wanted to go as a third baseman because I knew I could play.
MiLB.com: In terms of your offseason schedule, what's a typical day look like right now?
Arenado: I'd wake up at 7:45 a.m. and have workouts at 9. After I lift and run, I have hitting at 12:30 and after that I go take ground balls at 2:30. At 4 or 5 p.m. twice a week I go to my hitting coach to work on certain things. I work on a lot of different stuff -- every day's a different day. We do a lot of different workouts, but we work on a lot of things in our body to make sure we last 160 games. I'm ready for Spring Training and I have a goal to make the team.