Anthony Rendon of the Washington Nationals is one of the top hitting prospects in baseball. When Ryan Zimmerman spent some time on the DL, the Nationals called up Rendon to make his MLB debut and spend a cup of coffee in the Majors. It wasn’t very long, and he saw just 130 pitches, so looking at any kind of statistics would not be useful at all. Instead, I thought we could break down the pitches he saw and his reactions to them using the Pitch F/X data from his at-bats. I’ll do this visually usually some charts, and maybe (or maybe not) we can draw some general conclusions on what kind of hitter Rendon is now.
First, let’s look at the spin and speed chart of the pitches he faced, along with the results:
Obviously the biggest mixes of pitches are at the 150 spin degrees (low spin fastballs) and 250 spin degrees marks just over 90 MPH. Obviously these are league average fastballs. The congestion makes it a little hard to see the results, but if you look at the 90 MPH to 93 MPH pitches, Rendon put 5 in play and didn’t swing and miss at any of them. So he handled average velocity just fine. Low 80 breaking balls, probably sliders, seemed to give him a problem and is probably his worst part on the chart, though he had problems on what you would call curves as well (either real high spin slow pitches, or low spin slow pitches).
Here is where Rendon was pitched by location:
A lot of pitches inside and a lot of pitches low and away it seems. Teams seemed a little more willing to go high than low, but it is a decent mix. In the strike zone, there a few more on the outside part of the plate than the inside part and there were a lot of pitches down the middle. This is a little bit different, this graph shows his average location in general, where he whiffed, and where he made contact:
I think this graph is useful because it seems that teams wanted to really go inside on him and bust him low and in. I don’t think we see this effect quite as dramatically by looking at the graph with all the pitches thrown. Pitches right down the middle are where Rendon made contact, but when pitchers threw the ball a little bit lower, he was much more likely to swing and miss.
Here are the release points of the pitchers he faced:
Here are the pitchers he whiffed against:
It isn’t surprising he whiffed at the righty who came low and out, sort of sidearm. He only had one whiff against what you would call a traditional lefty, not missing anything from further out lefties. Not surprisingly, even considering the difference of amount of lefties and righties faced, the right-handed hitting Rendon wasn’t as good against righties, or at least swung and missed more.
Overall, we saw that Rendon struggled against breaking pitches low against right-handed pitchers. This was his flaw in his short time in the Majors. When I saw him last year and wrote about him for this site, I saw these holes as he struggled with breaking balls against quality pitching on a much more anecdotal level. At this point, he very much looks like a mistake hitter that can handle left-handed pitching pretty well. He still needs some refinement for him to become the hitter that many prospect people and scouts believe he will be. Right now, he is not MLB polished, and the Nationals knew that to start with, which is why they planned on sending him back to the minors after Zimmerman was back all along.