In spite of a shoulder injury which kept him off the field and limited him to DH duties in his final season at Rice, Anthony Rendon started each of the 63 games the Owls played in 2011. The top-ranked hitter going into the 2011 MLB Draft put up a .327/.520/.523 line with 20 doubles, six home runs and 13 stolen bases in his final collegiate season, and finished his three-year college career with a .371/.505/.679 line, 46 doubles, 52 HRs, 176 walks and 78 Ks in 187 games.
Rendon led the NCAA in walks and was the first collegiate player to draw 80 walks in a season in thirteen years. Rendon also, "batted .374 with runners on base, .311 with runners in scoring position and .429 with the bases loaded," during his draft year, as his Rice bio noted.
The Washington Nationals then made the 6'0'', 190 lb infielder the 6th overall pick of the 2011 Draft.
"We feel that he's got a great approach at the plate," Nats' GM Mike Rizzo told reporters after making Rendon the first of the Nationals' three first round picks that June. "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."
The Nationals' General Manager was asked at the time if he thought Rendon would rise quickly through the ranks in the organization, assuming he did sign. "I think he's a terrifically polished college player," Rizzo explained, "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."
Rendon started his pro career at High-A Potomac but suffered a partial fracture of his left ankle just two games into his first season in the Nats' system. The right-handed hitting and throwing infielder returned in August, moved around the organization and ended the 2012 campaign at Double-A Harrisburg with a combined .233/.363/.489 line, eight doubles, four triples and six home runs in 43 games and 160 plate appearances.
Rendon was 14 for 48, (.292/.462/.500) with four doubles and two home runs in 14 games and 65 plate appearances at Double-A Harrisburg to start the 2013 campaign when he was called up to make his major league debut after Ryan Zimmerman went on the DL with a hamstring strain three weeks into the season. Before the decision was made, the Nationals' GM talked to 106.7 the FAN in D.C.'s Holden Kushner and Danny Rouhier about Rendon's development as a hitter.
"He's got a great approach at the plate as we've seen," Rizzo said. "He's a usually a guy that has more walks than strikeouts. He's got power potential and the potential to hit for a high average. And he's got a very sound, simple approach at the plate and he's developing as we thought he would and [is] a guy who will help us in the near-future I think."
Rendon played just eight games with the Nationals before he was sent back to the minors, but it wasn't long before he was called back up, and this time for good. A day before his 23rd birthday, Rendon was came back up to take over for the struggling Danny Espinosa at second base. In 22 games and 95 PAs in June, the rookie infielder put up a .330/.358/.473 line with 10 doubles and a home run. A .187/.237/.319 July followed in which he hit three doubles and three home runs in 24 games and 98 PAs, but he finished his first major league career strong, putting up a .278/.359/.417 line with nine doubles and three home runs over the last two months, 44 games and 171 PAs of the season.
The Nats' highest-ranked prospect coming into the 2013 season, according to Baseball America, finished his first major league campaign with a .265/.329/.396 line, 23 doubles and seven home runs in 98 games and 394 plate appearances over which he was worth +1.5 fWAR. In a late-season interview on "The Mike Rizzo" on 106.7 the FAN, Rizzo said Rendon impressed in his rookie campaign.
"He was actually learning at the major league level," Rizzo said, "how to play a new position and adjusting to the league and learning how to perform offensively in the big leagues and I thought did a great job with that." Nats' skipper Davey Johnson told reporters, including CSNWashington.com's Chase Hughes that the infielder also adjusted well to a new defensive position:
"'He’s farther along than I thought he was going to be,'" Johnson said. "'His footwork’s really good around the bag, he’s still learning a little bit about positioning. He’s a good second baseman. I would classify him a little above average.'"
In a season-ending conversation with reporters including NatsInsider.com's Mark Zuckerman, Rizzo said he thought Rendon had a "remarkable" rookie campaign:
"Rendon has played remarkably well at that position for a guy who is learning defensively at the major-league level and trying to hit for the first time at the major-league level. Compound that with that he’s played more games than he’s ever played in his career, and he’s had a remarkable rookie season."
Rendon entered the 2013 campaign looking to prove he could stay healthy and on the field after a few injury-plagued seasons and ended it as the Nationals' incumbent second baseman. That is somewhat remarkable.
Now he has to do it again.
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