The Nationals have had some bad seasons in recent years (not counting this excellent year of course). This of course leads to high draft picks. When the Nationals have gotten those picks, they haven’t missed. Stephen Strasburg has taken the league by storm, posting a 2.38 FIP in 231.1 innings. For comparison, he only has 75.1 innings in the minors, and that includes his rehab starts in 2011. Bryce Harper is just 19 and already a decent MLBer, with a 1.6 WAR and 99 wRC+ so far in 2012. It is pretty clear that they haven’t missed on those two picks. In 2011, the Nationals drafted Anthony Rendon out of Rice University 6th overall. While clearly looked upon as a top prospect, Rendon has had problems with injuries, including one that has limited him to 24 games this season. The Nationals promoted him to AA this week anyway, and there have been a couple of whispers that he may be promoted by the Nationals in September. I got to watch Rendon for the first time in his first couple of AA games, who Mike Rosenbaum (of Golden Sombrero) calls one of the top hitters in all of the minors.
How about his defense? The 3rd baseman’s arm looks pretty good and his range looks fine. The ankle injuries are worrisome, but he showed off plenty of athleticism. He did misplay a hop pretty badly, but he should be fine there. His value is going to be tied to his bat. So how about his first 8 at-bats in AA?
In his 1st at-bat, Rendon faced righty Paolo Espino (3.10 FIP and 3.72 SIERA this year). He was jammed for a weak fly-out to center on the first pitch. It was a bit of a weird weak swing.
2nd at-bat: After taking a low fastball for a strike, Espino followed with a good breaking pitch on the low part of the zone for strike 2. Rendon then started to swing at a curveball just barely off the plate but held up. He then got a tough fastball on the low outside corner, perhaps a strike, and he fouled it off the other way., He was then jammed by an inside fastball to fly-out rather weakly to right field.
3rd at-bat: After fouling off the first pitch, Rendon took a curveball just off the plate. He then got an inside fastball, but this time it was low, and he was able to make solid contact on it and pull it on a line for a single.
4th at-bat: Facing Bryce Stowell (1.75 FIP and 1.36 SIERA), Rendon had another 1st pitch foul, before he swung through a fastball on the outside part of the plate and then took one on the low outside portion of the plate for a quick strikeout.
5th at-bat: Against lefty T.J. House (3.56 FIP and 3.98 SIERA), Rendon got a high fastball and stayed off of it. After another fastball he took high, Rendon got a low fastball out of the zone. He chased it, and weakly flied out to right field.
6th at-bat: This time he took what looked like a splitter low in the zone for ball 1. A low fastball on the outside corner was hit by Rendon into the air to center field for an out.
7th at-bat: The first pitch was another low fastball and it was a quick ground-out to 2nd.
8th at-bat: Against Kyle Landis (3.20 FIP and 3.35 SIERA) Rendon took a moving fastball on the inside part of the plate for strike 1. Rendon took a low fastball just out of the zone to make the count 1-1. Landis then came back with a high fastball that Rendon fouled back. Rendon took a breaking ball that looked outside of the zone, but the umpire took it for strike 3.
Keith Law believes that what happens in the next year to Rendon will have a lot to do with Ryan Zimmerman’s health. He certainly has some holes in his offensive game that he needs to work out. He looks a little too susceptible to inside fastballs, but the approach looked good overall. I would liked to have seen him see more breaking balls, as pitchers seemed to want to test him with fastballs. He did face good pitchers, which may explain his struggles on the fastballs. I would like to see Rendon in AA for the rest of the year to see if he can stay healthy and adjust to more advanced pitching.