SAN JOSE — Jonah Arenado enjoyed a breakout 2016 season that ended with him being named San Jose Giants MVP, but that wasn’t even the best performance within his family.
His older brother Nolan, third baseman for the Colorado Rockies, hit 41 home runs and was fifth in voting for MVP of the National League.
Jonah, 22, a corner infielder, has a long way to go before catching up to his older sibling, but he seems to be on the right trajectory.
A 16th-round draft pick in 2013, Arenado drove in a team-high 68 RBIs to go with 17 home runs last season. The power figures are what stood out to most observers as he nearly doubled his 2015 output.
Although the California League is known for its prolific mashers, Arenado said it wasn’t until he stopped trying to knock balls out of the park that he actually started to do so.
“Last year I came into the year thinking, ‘Oh, I’m gonna hit so many home runs here.’ But once I went back to my approach of trying to just hit line drives, then I started hitting home runs,” Arenado said.
While last season was mostly a success for Arenado, there is still work to be done on his game. He struck out 110 times last season while walking 18 only times.
“I know if I can recognizes pitches more and swing at better pitches, all the numbers can go up,” Arenado said.
First-year San Jose Giants manager Nestor Rojas is expecting a better year from Arenado as his club looks to improve from last season’s 68-72 record.
“This team is a good mix of first-year guys with experienced guys,” Rojas said. “He’s one of the guys who the younger players can go to.”
One benefit of having an All-Star as your brother is the ability to pick his brain, something Jonah said he did a lot of after Nolan’s championship run with Team USA in the World Baseball Classic.
“He had a blast over there,” Arenado said. “He got the chance to play with some of the best players in the world and talk to them about hitting and what their routine is.”
Jonah was sold on the idea of representing his country in the tournament and if the opportunity to possibly suit up in red, white and blue ever came for him, the U.S. wouldn’t have to ask him twice.
“Absolutely I’d play,” Arenado said. “No doubt in my mind.”
That’s years away. For now, Arenado is just grateful to be playing for an organization like the Giants, who have become known for developing homegrown players over the past decade.
“They’re going to give opportunites so I just have to make the most of it once I get mine,” Arenado said. “Only way you get promoted in any organization is if you do well. So I just have to go out and produce.”