Anthony Rendon or Ryan Zimmerman? A Good Problem For The Nationals To Have
What do you do when you draft and sign the single best player in three consecutive drafts? Well, you could engage in a four minute half-dance, half-fist pump escapade while listening to Mark Morrison’s ‘Return of the Mack’. Or you could just call yourself the Washington Nationals who drafted and signed Right-Handed Pitcher Stephen Strasburg, Outfielder Bryce Harper, and Third Baseman Anthony Rendon in successive seasons.
Finding a spot for Strasburg took very little time and Bryce Harper has a clear path to Washington. However, the Nationals happen to have one of the three best Third Basemen in the game in Ryan Zimmerman, posing as a possible roadblock for Rendon. And while Rendon has yet to appear in a professional game, he expects to move quickly enough for this “problem” to come to a head as soon as the 2013 season.
At the plate, Rendon combines a plus hit tool, plus power, plus bat speed, plus discipline, a plus sequential swing pattern; you get the idea. In short, his bat is a buffet of bacon. For a more detailed look at his swing, check out my two articles over at Project Prospect.
Rendon’s polish and lack of weaknesses point to having little in his way of working quickly through the minor league ranks. That isn’t to say he doesn’t have anything to work on, but he is about as good of a hitter to come out of college as there has been in the past decade. Rendon’s glove work at Third has had some mixed reviews, but I see soft hands, quick feet and a strong arm, and I know one scout that called him a plus defender (maybe we should just nickname him ‘Plus’, and be done with it).
Looking ahead to a possible 2013 debut for Rendon, where he plays could be an issue for the Nationals. Zimmerman is signed through 2013, but has expressed interest in staying. Nationals GM Mike Rizzo is about as afraid of spending as Mike Ditka is of anything so an extension is conceivable. Rendon has had some looks at Second Base in college, but doesn’t profile there long term. There is a possibility of moving Danny Espinosa and his power bat to Short Stop if Ian Desmond falls on his face again, but the Nationals would still be better off finding a replacement with experience than play a guy like Rendon out of position.
What about First Base? Rendon’s bat would play there, but the Nationals figure to be a player for free agent slugger Prince Fielder, which would block first for Rendon. If push comes to shove, Rendon could be a fit for Left Field. Rendon is a below average runner, but he isn’t slow enough to be a terrible outfielder. Would that create a jog jam of Werth, Rendon, Harper and a lack of a true Centerfielder once Harper is ready? Possibly, but that discussion is for another day.
The Nationals are headed in the right direction as evidenced by their improving minor league system and improvement at the Major League level. Difficult decisions are on the horizon, but these decisions are ones a General Manager is thankful to have. If they play their cards right, we could see a formidable lineup filled with a wealth of talent. Even if they play their cards wrong, we’ll still get to see Rendon and his bacon-esqe hit tool in the very near future.
Steve Carter currently works as a baseball/softball hitting instructor and is Senior Scout at ProjectProspect.com. He is also a former college baseball player.