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Nationals' MLB Draft success stories: Anthony Rendon, the 6th pick of 2011 Draft

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Five other teams, for whatever reason, passed on Rice University third baseman Anthony Rendon in 2011, giving the Washington Nationals an opportunity to select the player Nats' GM Mike Rizzo described as a polished hitter with huge upside...

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Anthony Rendon fell to the Washington Nationals at No. 6 overall in the 2011 MLB Draft at least in part because of injury concerns after the Rice University third baseman dealt with a shoulder issue that limited him to mostly DH duties in his draft year.

In spite of the injury, Rendon, then 21, managed to hit .327 for the Owls, with 20 doubles and an NCAA-leading 80 walks in 63 games that season.

"We were pleasantly surprised that he got to us at six. Going into the draft season, he was projected to be the No. 1 pick, the best college hitter in the game..." -Nationals' GM Mike Rizzo on drafting Anthony Rendon in 2011

"We were pleasantly surprised that he got to us at six," Nationals' GM Mike Rizzo told reporters that June. "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."

Rendon described the shoulder injury as, "a little muscle strain in the back of my shoulder," explaining at the time that he knew it caused him to fall a few spots, but the Nationals were comfortable with the choice.

"Obviously they know nothing serious is wrong," Rendon said. "I know nothing serious is wrong with it, I'm just glad I've been given the opportunity and I'm glad I've been drafted."

As he explained it, Rendon played through the injury because he wanted to be able to help his teammates, who lost to Baylor in the NCAA Regionals that season.

"I just needed to rest it, I needed to take time off, I needed to not do anything, and I didn't want to do that," he said.

"I knew if I rested, if I took off maybe ten games or this or that, and I didn't play at all, you know, who knows what will happen, maybe we wouldn't have even been in the postseason.

"He was the most polished, with huge upside, a guy that has proven at the highest levels of amateur baseball that he can hit with power and hit for average." -Mike Rizzo on Nationals' 2011 1st Round pick Anthony Rendon

"I didn't want to do that to my team, I wanted to be out there everywhere I could."

"We feel that with our first pick, six, Anthony Rendon was, we felt, the most accomplished hitter in the draft," Rizzo said.

"He was the most polished, with huge upside, a guy that has proven at the highest levels of amateur baseball that he can hit with power and hit for average. We feel that he's a Gold Glove type of defender. And just one heck of a player who's proved it at every level."

Through his first 390 games and 1,686 plate appearances in the majors, Rendon has rewarded the Nationals' faith and lived up to some of the praise that was heaped upon him during his collegiate career.

He has dealt with injury issues, but concerns about him being injury-prone have proven to be unfounded.

Rendon did miss time after suffering an ankle injury early in his first pro season and he dealt with knee and oblique injuries that cost him significant time last season, but when healthy, he's produced for the Nationals.

He got off to a slow start this season, with a .242/.310/.286 line and four doubles in his first 23 games and 100 plate appearances, but Nationals manager Dusty Baker chalked it up to the time he missed in 2015 when he discussed the infielder's struggles at the plate with reporters in mid-May.

"[Hitting coach] Rick Schu and [Assistant hitting coach] Jacque [Jones] and him are constantly trying to find out what the problem is. And it's just that right now it seems like he's not catching up -- getting the bat head out front.

"And so, we know Anthony can hit, everybody knows that Anthony can hit, but when you miss as much time as he missed last year, he's got to find his groove again and we know Anthony's going to hit, big time."

Rendon found his groove in the days that followed those comments.

Over his last 27 games, after a few multi-hit days got him started, Rendon has put up a .330/.420/.557 line, with eight of his 13 doubles and four of his six home runs on the year over that stretch, taking him from a .218/.293/.308 line on May 10th to a .262/.346/.409 line overall after he went 0 for 3 last night in the series finale with the White Sox in Chicago.

Five other teams passed on Rendon back in June of 2011, but the Nationals took a risk on his character and talent and thus far they've been rewarded for the show of faith with a player who has lived up to expectations on and off the field.