After going 0 for 1 in the Washington Nationals' 7-1 win over the Houston Astros on Tuesday, 2011 1st Round pick Anthony Rendon is now 7 for 17 this Spring with three doubles, two home runs and seven RBIs in eight Grapefruit League games. Rendon's been the talk of Spring Training for the Nationals so far, though Nats' skipper Davey Johnson injected some reality into the discussion when he assured reporters recently that the 22-year-old infielder will start his second pro season in the Nationals' minor league system. As the 70-year-old manager explained today, the former Rice University third baseman still needs to get a full season under his belt after an ankle injury early last summer limited Rendon to just 43 games and 160 plate appearances in 2012.
"He was impressive when he came in last year," Johnson told reporters this afternoon. Rendon, who signed a 4-year/$7.2M dollar deal after the Nats took him 6th overall in 2011, was 3 for 13 in eight games with the Nationals last March in his first Spring Training before he was optioned out and sent to minor league camp. "He's got an idea on how to get that bat on the ball," Johnson, the former major league second baseman said, "Got good hands. Good stroke. And he can play a lot of positions. I like him at third, and I also didn't mind him at short. And he's got some [aptitude] at second."
The Nationals' skipper has been working personally with Rendon on the young infielder's footwork at second, though Johnson told reporters, including MASN's Dan Kolko, recently that he didn't want to put Rendon in a game at second until he had his footwork down and wanted to keep him at short or third until the Nationals decide where Rendon will eventually play. "'I want him basically over (on the left side) until they're sure of where they need him down the line,'" Johnson explained.
During a recent interview on 106.7 the FAN in D.C., Nationals' Director of Player Development Doug Harris was asked to explain what Rendon needed to work on to get comfortable at second base. "He has very gifted hands," Harris said, "He has very good feet. His feet really work well in small spaces. It's not always how fast a guy is, but how well his feet work in those small spaces. What his body control is like. And he's blessed with all those tools."
"His footwork is real good over there too," Davey Johnson said, "So, he just needs to grind out a full season. Unfortunately last year [he had] that ankle injury, so hopefully this year he's fine so he'll get a full season under his belt." Rendon told MLB.com's Bill Ladson today that getting through a full season this summer was his goal too:
"'I just want to go out there and play the game, play a full season,' Rendon said. 'I'll just try and do my best.'"
Nats' GM Mike Rizzo said this winter that Rendon, who played third in college, would remain there for the most part in his second pro season, though the general manager did tell MLB Network Radio hosts Jim Bowden and Casey Stern that Rendon might move around because they want 2012 Nats' Minor League Player of the Year Matt Skole to see some time at third base. "We may shift him around a little bit because we want [Matt] Skole to play a little of third base also in Double-A," Rizzo said, "but we think [Rendon's] primary position is at third base, but he's athletic enough to play shortstop and second base."
Davey Johnson was asked today if there were any concerns about Rendon playing second considering he tore ligaments and suffered a fracture in his right ankle in college and then had the partial fracture of his left ankle last April.
"I think when he hurt his ankle he was rounding [third] base," Johnson said. "If you get the footwork down [at second] it's not a dangerous position. I think a lot of the second baseman nowadays, because of what they go through in high school and college, where the umpire makes the baserunner slide right into the bag and if he goes either side, both of them are out, so [the second basemen] get a little lazy in learning the pivot, not coming across the bag and having the move to first, and get lazy just [doing] it from behind the bag."
"But all these guys have shown good agility in coming across the bag the way it's supposed to be turned," Johnson continued, "Of course, when you get into professional ball, [it's okay] as long as you touch the bag with your hand as you slide outside or inside the bag, so you need that footwork that they didn't need in high school or college?"
"Did I speak over you guys' heads?" Johnson asked with a laugh, "Do you not understand?"
Makes sense actually. It will be interesting to see where Rendon ends up playing if he makes the jump to Triple-A this season or finds himself in the majors at some point this year. If he keeps hitting like he has throughout college and early in his pro career, they'll find somewhere for him to play.