After selecting Rice University third baseman Anthony Rendon with the sixth pick of the 2011 MLB Draft, D.C. GM Mike Rizzo met with the press to discuss the selection. "We were pleasantly surprised that he got to us at six," Rizzo said, "Going into the draft season, he was projected to be the no.1 pick, the best college hitter in the game, and throughout the college season and the draft season he held onto that status, and as late as about twenty-four hours ago he was supposedly going one or two in the draft. So we're pleasantly surprised, we did a lot of work on him. We feel we know him very very well, our Vice President of Player Personnel Roy Clark actually drafted him out of high school for the Atlanta Braves and got to know him very, very well, so we've had a long relationship with him and his family and we feel really good about it."
Rendon, in 63 games and 214 at bats this season, posted a .327/.520/.523 slash line with two doubles, six home runs and 27 RBI's, but his struggles with ankle and shoulder injuries are thought to have resulted in his falling to the Nationals at no. 6 overall. The just-turned-21 Rendon played third in college. With Ryan Zimmerman firmly established at the hot corner in D.C., the Nats' GM was asked where Rendon would fit in with the Nats? "We think that he's athletic enough to play several different positions. We feel that he has Gold Glove caliber defensive skills at third base. We're going to see where and when we have to make a decision on that. What we think we have is a very polished, accomplished college hitter. The 2010 National Player of the Year and a consumate, professional hitter."
Asked about the injury concerns, Rizzo said, "He had a couple of ankle surgeries and a shoulder problem this year that kept him limited to DH duties throughout most of the season, played a little bit in the field, but our medical staff has cleared his health and we feel that if that was the reason he fell to sixth, we're satisfied in the work we've done on him and we're happy to have him." In a follow-up, the Nationals' GM was asked what the team had seen in the medical reports when they examined them, but Rizzo declined to offer specifics. "We did all our due diligence on the medicals," Rizzo said, "we've gotten all the medical reports and films that our doctors have gone over painstakingly and we feel good about it."
"We're not going to go into the specifics of it until we have our medical people here to explain it to you," Rizzo continued, "But suffice it to say, that we've done a lot of work on it and we feel comfortable with the results on it.
For the third straight year, the Nats will be negotiating with super-agent Scott Boras on their first round pick. Mr. Rizzo was asked what he anticipated in the negotiations, and if it might get done earlier than it did in the past two seasons when negotiations with both Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper went down the last minute? "Not sure," Rizzo said, "The representative, Scott Boras, we've dealt with him several times, and we've got a good relationship with the agent, we've got a great relationship with the player and the family, so we feel optimistic as we do all the time that we're going to get this guy signed and playing in the Nationals' organization."
"Right now we feel that third base is his position," Rizzo said when asked where he saw Rendon playing when he makes it to the Majors, "we feel that we've evaluated him as a Gold Glove caliber defensive guy at third base. We're going to delay that decision til he gets to the big leagues and establishes himself here and we'll make those decisions down the road..."
In describing the 2010 Collegiate Player of the Year, who posted a .394/.530/.801 slash with 26 HR's and 85 RBI's before injuries caused his power numbers to drop this year, Rizzo said, "We feel that he's got a great approach at the plate. He's a high on base percentage guy, he works counts, he's got a terrific batting eye, he's got great pitch recognition, a tough guy to strike out, and a guy who uses the whole field, he's very, very balanced, has great raw power along with a line drive stroke and we feel that he's a very efficient hitter and capable of hitting for a high average and for power."
"Was his lack of power this year due to injury?" Rizzo was asked. "I think that [it] had to do with, partly because of the injury, partly because playing the new position of DH was a little bit different for him. We've feel that we've got a good line on who he is as a player, specifically as an offensive player and we feel really good about where he's at." The Nationals' GM, however, would not offer projections as to what sort of power he'll show as a pro. "I hate to put numbers on him," Rizzo said, "...and I'm not going to put numbers on him, we think he's an accomplished hitter that's going to hit for a high average and for power."
"He'll probably play in A-Ball like all of the draft choices do," Rizzo said when asked if the Nats had a plan for the start of Rendon's pro career should he sign quickly.
After drafting Bryce Harper last year and now Rendon, the Nationals' General Manager was asked about adding two power bats to the Nats' system. "We feel good about it. We've always taken the road of best player available, most impactful player available," Rizzo said, "We think we've done that here with this draft, we thought we did that with the last two drafts, and be it pitcher or position player, we thought that we lined them up the way we liked them as far as who would give us the most impact in the draft, and Rendon's name was there and we feel great about the selection."
Will Rendon be a quick-to-the-majors prospect? "I think he's a terrifically polished college player," Rizzo responded, "and I think he will be a quick-to-the-big-leagues guy as far as the normal course of a drafted player, but again, we're not going to put any stipulations on him, any timetables or anything like that, but suffice it to say, we feel really good about this player and it's a guy that we've thought about a lot, it's a guy that we've had at or near the top of our board for a long, long time, and we feel good about selecting him."
The Nationals had the first pick of the draft in each of the last two seasons, but the Nats' GM said the experience this year wasn't more difficult, or nerve-wracking as the questioner put it. "It wasn't nerve-wracking at all," he explained, "we lined up our six best players, in the order that we liked them, and we were really satisfied with the top six players, so we knew we were going to get a good player in the draft, and when it was our turn to pick, we had Anthony's name at the top of our list and we pulled it and we feel really good about it."
Though Rendon's availability at the sixth pick was a surprise, Rizzo said the Nationals were extremely happy with the player they were able to select. "We felt great about it. This is a guy that coming into this draft was the no.1 projected player in the draft, the National Player of the Year, and like I said, we lined them up as far as who would give us the most impact and when Kansas City made their pick and we knew that Anthony was going to be ours we felt really good about it. We felt good about the draft list that we had, we had a good list of guys on there and Anthony was right there and when our turn came, we had no second thoughts about pulling the trigger, and like I said we feel great about getting this type of player into the system."