Oct 12, 2013, 6:00 AM EDT
Age on Opening Day 2014: 23
How acquired: 1st round pick, 2011 draft
MLB service time: 130 days
2013 salary+bonuses: $1.8 million
Contract status: Signed for $1.8 million in 2014, club option for 2015, likely Super-2 arbitration-eligible in 2016, free agent in 2020.
2013 Stats: 98 G, 394 PA, 40 R, 93 H, 23 2B, 1 3B, 7 HR, 35 RBI, 1 SB, 31 BB, 69 SO, .265 AVG, .329 OBP, .396 SLG, .725 OPS, 9 E, 3.4 UZR (at 2B), -2.3 UZR (at 3B), 1.5 WAR
Quotable: “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.” — General manager Mike Rizzo
2013 analysis: The Nationals didn’t intend to promote their top prospect — or install him as their everyday second baseman — quite so soon, but Danny Espinosa’s massive struggles forced the issue. Rendon made his major-league debut April 21 (actually, when Ryan Zimmerman landed on the DL) and though he returned to Class AAA Syracuse two weeks later, he was back in Washington on June 5 and never returned.
A highly advanced hitter despite his lack of experience, Rendon burst onto the scene and hit .354 with a .402 on-base percentage and 10 doubles in his first 26 games. But, as is always the case with rookies, opposing pitchers began to figure him out and make life more difficult. Rendon had to battle his way the rest of the season, hitting just .230 with a .302 on-base percentage over his final 72 games.
Throughout it all, the natural third baseman had to learn how to play a big-league-caliber second base on the fly. There were some bumps in the road, but all things considered, he more than held his own at his new position and left no reason to doubt he can make it long-term as a middle infielder.
2014 outlook: The Nationals threw a lot at Rendon in his rookie season, which also happened to be his first, full, healthy season as a professional. He wore down both physically and mentally by the end, but the experience certainly will do him well.
Though the club won’t go all-out and say the second base job is his without at least some competition from Espinosa and Steve Lombardozzi, let’s be honest: The job is Rendon’s unless something very strange happens. He should arrive in Viera well-rested and with an opportunity to spend the entire camp refining his skills at second base (which aren’t bad, by any stretch of the imagination).
The book on Rendon is out, and he’ll have to show he can make the adjustments. But he’s too talented a hitter and too smart of a ballplayer to fail. Look for him to take some big strides next season, hit for a high average, draw a fair share of walks and rack up doubles with his gap-to-gap power stroke.
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