Ted Leavengood on Baseball View All Posts

Ted Leavengood

About Ted Leavengood on Baseball

Ted Leavengood is a baseball writer who is the managing editor for Seamheads.com a national baseball blog and writes a weekly column for MASN.com. He is co-host of a weekly podcast, “Outta the Parkway,” that airs every Friday night at 7 pm on the Seamheads Podcast Network and a member... Read more

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Tony Rendon of Washington Nationals

Nats Third Number One Arrives

The Nationals’ new second baseman, Anthony Rendon, leapt high into the air to snare a line drive during Sunday’s game. It was not until the slow motion replay was available that the athletic nature of the play could be appreciated. Rendon was easily three feet or more off the ground when the ball settled into his outstretched mitt. His standing leap was one that most basketball players would covet.

It was the kind of play that Danny Espinosa has been making routinely at second base for the past three seasons. When Rendon made the dead-on relay throw to third base later in the game, it was once again eerily reminiscent of the great defense that Danny “Huck” Espinosa has been flashing. Although Rendon made an error as well, it was easy to see him moving more fluidly at second with time.

When Rendon was drafted in 2011, Jim Callis of Baseball America gushed over the Nationals good fortune, saying that Washington had gotten the best player in the amateur draft for three years in a row.  First Strasburg, then Harper and finally Anthony Rendon had been rated as the best overall draft prospect starting in 2009. The Nationals signed all three and now each one has made his way to the majors where they should be playing for years to come.Ocala 027

Rendon was not as sure a thing as Strasburg or Harper. Although he was ranked No. 1 in his draft class, he was not touted as a once in a generation prospect. Compounding that were the injuries that dropped him to Washington with the sixth overall pick in 2011. Yet Rendon’s overall skill level was not affected by his ankle injuries, nor was he deemed to be “injury prone.”

Quite the contrary, scouts continued to rave about him. “His bat speed and ability to barrel balls give Rendon more usable power than any player in the draft,” opined the BA scouting report. They projected him to hit 25-30 home runs once he reached the big leagues and to hit .300, with “uncanny hand-eye coordination and exceptional strike zone discipline.”

The strike zone judgment is something that stands out among all players in the Washington Nationals lineup. Jayson Werth likes to hit with two strikes and takes a lot of pitches. He has good strike zone management, but once he is deep in the count, Werth is just as likely to swing at something out of the zone as not. He can foul off pitches with the best of them, but during his days with Washington he has not drawn as many walks as earlier in his career. Rendon is different. In his brief minor league career, his OBP is .408 and that is a statistic that if it translates at the major league level will be singular among current Nationals’ hitters.

His minor league career was brief because the injury bug that bit him in 2011 at Rice University continued to plague him last year. It was another ankle injury that kept him sidelined throughout most of the 2012 season. The concern that Rendon is “injury prone” got a huge boost and the numbers fell off when he returned. He dropped down the list of prospects to number 26 in the MLB.com Top 100 and Baseball America ranked several of those drafted ahead of him in 2011 as better prospects in their Top 100 listing this spring.

This is the first season since 2010 when Rendon appears to be fully healthy. That was the year he was rated the best overall prospect based on his 26 home runs, his .397 batting average and a remarkable 85 RBI in only 226 college at bats. A year earlier, as a 19 year old freshman, he hit 20 home runs with an average of .388. It is that form he has returned to so far this season.

The remainder of this season is an opportunity for Tony Rendon to set the record straight. One can only hope that his good health continues and that the amazing ability he has shown on both sides of the ball develops even further. If those things happen the Nationals have another jaw-dropping talent. He may even find a place in the heart of Davey Johnson. Davey has been a devoted Espinosa fan–rightly so. But Rendon has the talents to win him yet.

About Ted Leavengood

Ted Leavengood is a baseball writer who is the managing editor for Seamheads.com a national baseball blog and writes a weekly column for MASN.com. He is co-host of a weekly podcast, "Outta the Parkway," that airs every Friday night at 7 pm on the Seamheads Podcast Network and a member of the Society For American Baseball Research. He has written three books on the history of baseball in Washington: Clark Griffith, The Old Fox of Washington Baseball; Ted Williams and the 1969 Senators, and The 2005 Nationals, Baseball Returns to Washington, DC, a journal of that season. Ted lives in North Chevy Chase with his wife Donna.


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