Coming off a .287/.351/.473, 39 double, 21 home run, 6.5 fWAR campaign in 2014, the Washington Nationals rightly expected big things from 24-going-on-25-year-old infielder Anthony Rendon last season, but the 2011 Nationals' first-round pick suffered an MCL sprain early in Spring Training, had an oblique injury set back his rehab and then suffered a quad injury which interrupted him yet again in what ended up being a frustrating third major league season.
Rendon played just 80 games total in 2015 and made just 355 plate appearances (after playing in 153 games and making 683 PAs in 2014), putting up a .264/.344/.363 line with 16 doubles and five home runs in a 0.9 fWAR season.
"It was really tough," Rendon told reporters this winter. "I think that's what a lot of people don't realize. I'm trying to come back and figure out how to hit again and everybody is already in mid-season form. All the pitchers, they're placing the ball, they're not just throwing the ball up there. They're making pitches and even the catchers as well, even the new guys, they're getting accustomed to their own team and they have that confidence going into that last quarter of the season and I'm just still trying to find my groove and just trying to, I guess, be productive at the plate."
He stayed healty through August and September/October and was 100% this winter as he prepared for Spring Training and his fourth major league season.
"Everything is good at the moment," he said, "and hopefully I don't get hurt in the offseason. Hopefully nobody gets hurt in the offseason. So it's good and I'm looking forward to 2016."
In an MLB Network Radio interview this afternoon, Nationals' GM Mike Rizzo told hosts Jim Bowden and Craig Mish that the Nats expect big things from Rendon, who will move back to third base this season, as planned before all the injury issues changed those plans last summer.
"I don't think anything has changed with his ability level," Rizzo said. "When he's healthy he's as good as anybody in the league. He's got a sweet swing from the right side... is one of those unique players that have barrel consistency, can really put the bat head on the ball and he hits for power and average, should be a really high-average hitter with power. He showed in 2014 he's a doubles machine and several of those balls left the ballpark also, so we feel that putting him back in his natural position of third base will be a big thing for him and I think it will help him."
Rendon too said he welcomed a move back to the hot corner, where he played in college (when he wasn't injured) and is most comfortable defensively.
"That's always been my position," he said. "I feel most comfortable at third base, but I've always told you guys before, I'll do whatever for the team, I'll play whatever position. I feel more comfortable with the bat in my hand."
Rizzo told the MLB Network Radio hosts that Rendon will improve the Nationals' defense.
"It will help us defensively because I think he's a Gold Glove-caliber third baseman and also offensively because he'll be extremely comfortable over there," he explained.
"I think we'll protect him a little bit, his health at third base, a much less demanding position physically, because you're not turning the double play with players at your feet all the time."
Rendon admitted not being part of the team on an everyday basis while he dealt with all the injuries was frustrating for him and Rizzo said that having him around every day will be good for everyone.
"[He's a] guy that has a great demeanor at the ballpark. He's got a happy-go-lucky attitude outward but inward there is a fire burning that he wants to be great, not good, and I think that we're going to see another big season out of him and he's going to have a great long career for us and we're happy to have him and lucky that he's coming into camp healthy and we're looking for big things for him."