Name: Anthony Rendon
Position: Third base
Why He’s This High: While the Nationals held the sixth pick in the 2011 draft, one could make a strong case that they picked the best player in the draft for the third straight year, with Rendon following Stephen Strasburg (2009) and Bryce Harper (2010). Of course, it’s far from guaranteed that any of those three players will have the best career out of the draftees in their year, but it’s not difficult to see any of them pulling off that feat.
For much of 2009 and 2010, Rendon was considered a near-lock to be picked first in 2011, and he was still the #1 college position player taken and the second position player overall. The reason why he slipped even that far can mainly be attributed to ankle problems that slowed him in his final year at Rice. There’s some debate on how well he’ll recover, but it’s widely held that he has an excellent chance to return to his previous dominant form.
Rendon is a very similar player to current Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman, who himself put up back-to-back 7+ WAR seasons from 2009-2010. He’s a tremendous defensive third baseman with an excellent approach at the plate who should have 20-30 HR power and perhaps more. There’s some thought that Rendon could slide over to second base as a pro (to accommodate Zimmerman) and have a plus glove at that position as well.
Why He’s This Low: After hitting .388/.468/.702 as a college freshman and a ridiculous .394/.539/.801 as a sophomore, Rendon slipped to “just” .327/.520/.523 as a junior; his incredible approach (33/80 K/BB in 63 games!) remained intact, but his power slipped. Many point to his ankle problems as the reason for the dropoff, and that makes sense. Since he was such a notable player, his “struggles” as a junior have been hyper-scrutinized, and in that context it’s difficult to tell if there’s any real reason for concern regarding his ankle issues going forward.
Obviously, Rendon has yet to play a professional game, so we have yet to see what he can do in that context. He’s not “far from the majors” like most draftees, but he still needs to prove his skills and production translate to professional baseball.
Conclusions: Rendon looks like a huge heist at sixth in the draft, and I have him ranked highest among 2011 draftees. After all, he was long thought of as the best player in the class, and all else equal, college position players probably carry the lowest attrition risk of any group. While the Nationals just mortgaged a lot of their future by trading for Gio Gonzalez, fans can remain happy that Rendon and Harper should form a devastating 3-4 punch in the middle of the lineup for many years.
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