It's weird to think about now, but this time last year Nolan Arenado was arguably baseball's best kept secret. I don't know what it is about Rockies hitters, but it appears the organization once again has the most underrated player in baseball. Only this time it's not Arenado, it's 30-year-old Charlie Blackmon.
Blackmon has been good for a few years now, though he is just starting to get some national recognition. He didn't have much of a prospect pedigree so was basically a role player until breaking out in 2014. He followed that up with a 17 homer, 43 steal season in 2015, which put him on the map as one of the better leadoff hitters in baseball. Then in 2016 he doubled his WAR total from the year prior and posted career highs in homers, RBIs, and all across his triple slash line. It was a career year for Blackmon, or so we thought.
He's somehow been even better in 2017, he just goes about his production in a different way. He's not running nearly as much as 2015 (just four steals thus far). That's alright though, since he is currently batting .328/.365/.606. He leads the league in hits (79), triples (8), totals bases (146) and ranks second in RBIs (47 as a leadoff hitter!!). His unbelievable May (.359 average, 42 hits) earned him NL Player of the Month honors.
So Blackmon has become a fantasy baseball/stats monster but it's the intangibles that make him the type of player any organization would want to have. According to this recent ESPN article, which called him the best center fielder in baseball besides Mike Trout, he's a quirky clubhouse favorite that teammates like being around. The fans love him for his hustle as well as his mullet/beard combo (inspired by the 2013 Red Sox beards). Then there's this from the same ESPN article:
It might not seem like much, but this is the type of fan/player bonding experience that livens up the stadium experience and makes going to the ballpark fun. Something special seems to be going on in Colorado this year, and Blackmon has been right in the middle of it. The Rockies have become one of the most fun teams to watch on MLB TV this year and his success is a major reason why they're actually good. The Rockies haven't made the playoffs since 2009 and are currently in a three team battle with the Dodgers and Diamondbacks for the division crown.