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Roster preview: Anthony Rendon

Jan 15, 2014, 6:00 AM EDT

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Age on Opening Day 2014: 23

How acquired: 1st round pick, 2011 draft

2014 salary: $1.8 million

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

2014 storyline: Though he was rushed to the big leagues — not to mention forced to shift from third base to second base — Rendon more than held his own as a rookie. He did seem to wear down physically and mentally by season’s end, but he’ll be well-rested and refreshed when he reports for spring training.

Rendon proved he is an advanced hitter for someone of his limited experience, but he does need to make some adjustments to remain more consistent in year two. And he needs to continue working on his skills around second base, where he proved plenty adept for a first-timer but hardly looked like a Gold Glover-in-waiting last season.

Best-case scenario: With a hot start at the plate, Rendon brushes aside any fears of a sophomore slump, and shows everyone just how productive a player he can be even at such a young age. His superior plate discipline and hitting approach lead new manager Matt Williams to bump him up to the No. 2 spot in the Nationals’ lineup, and Rendon winds up hitting .300 with 40 doubles, 15 homers and a stout .365 on-base percentage.

Worst-case scenario: Turns out Rendon can’t adjust to opposing teams’ approach to pitching him and duplicates his .230 batting average and .302 OBP from the final 72 games of his rookie season. He proves to be a below-average second baseman. And he can’t escape the injury bug that plagued him throughout his college and minor-league careers, making a lengthy trip to the DL.

Most-likely scenario: Though he endures through a brief slump or two, Rendon is too good (and too smart) a hitter to fail at this level. He continues to work the count well, drives the ball to the gaps with regularity and occasionally gets a hold of a fat pitch. He hits .280 with 35 doubles, 12 homers and reaches base at a .340 clip. And he’s more than adequate at second base, firmly entrenching himself there for the season.

  1. David Proctor - Jan 15, 2014 at 6:36 AM

    Section 222, continuing from the other thread, you can “Oh please” me all you want, but here are the career numbers of the backup catchers in the NL who made the playoffs. Note that many of these guys actually had numbers below their career numbers in 2013…however the sample is too small to be particularly useful.

    Braves: Gerald Laird (.246/.307/.360, .667 OPS)
    Dodgers: Tim Federowicz (.227/.283/.341, .624 OPS)
    Cardinals: Rob Johnson (.200/.275/.295, .570 OPS)
    Pirates: Michael McKenry (.223 /.291/.376, .666 OPS)…this guy is a free agent, but awful defensively
    Reds: Devin Mesoraco (.225/ .282/ .359, .641 OPS)…promoted to starting catcher

    That’s an average OPS of .633 among the playoff teams. Chris Syder has a career OPS of .710. In the worst season of his career, he had an OPS of .602. John Buck has a career OPS of .701, though its been in the mid-600’s the last 3 years. He’s also awful defensively, grading out as the worst pitch framer in baseball, while Snyder has always–including recently–graded as a very good pitch framer. Yorvit Torrealba, another name mentioned as a possible backup for us, has a career .692 OPS, however he had an OPS of .580 in 2013 and .623 in 2012. McKenry, as I said above, has a career .666 OPS, but he is a disaster defensively as well–both at framing and blocking balls.

    No matter how much you say it, backup catchers are just not that important unless Ramos misses a long period of time. At that point, Rizzo has said he would make a trade for a guy more suited for an everyday role, as he did with Suzuki. It makes no sense to make such a trade and give up a valuable prospect for a guy who may play twice a week–until necessary.

    There’s also no indication the Suzuki trade had anything to do with Flores’ offense either. In fact, a report came out very soon after the trade that the Nationals felt Flores wasn’t following the game plan correctly and was calling poor games. Suzuki was hitting .222/.283/.310 with a .593 OPS for Oakland before we traded for him. Why in the world would we go after that guy instead of a more polished hitter if we were seeking an offensive upgrade? What Suzuki did once he got here is irrelevant–nobody expected that, and of course Suzuki reverted back to his norms in 2013.

    • tcostant - Jan 15, 2014 at 8:56 AM

      I’d rather have had Buck for less than the league average salary:

      http://hardballtalk.nbcsports.com/2014/01/14/mariners-sign-john-buck-to-one-year-1-million-deal/

    • pdowdy83 - Jan 15, 2014 at 11:58 AM

      McKenry was a disaster last year due to a knee injury. In 2012 he was MUCH better all around. He will also only be 29 years old and has an option remaining. Now that Buck has set the market for back up catchers McKenry should be able to be had on a minor league deal which he is worth a flyer on in my opinion. He is one year removed from a 1.7 WAR in 88 games where his defense was rated better than last year. If one of the other guys outplays him in spring training you can still stash him at AAA for depth.

      I do agree with you, David, that backup catcher is less than important simply because the remaining candidates are all pretty worthless. At least McKenry offers a bit of offensive upside with a very tiny price tag.

    • Faraz Shaikh - Jan 15, 2014 at 11:58 AM

      “McKenry, as I said above, has a career .666 OPS, but he is a disaster defensively as well–both at framing and blocking balls.” That’s the first I am hearing of it. I am sure, he is called the fort for a reason. Are you sure you did not mistake someone else’s numbers/reputation for McKenry’s?

    • Section 222 - Jan 15, 2014 at 3:35 PM

      My comment below is a peace offering, but I’m still going to pick a few nits with you:
      1. Tony Cruz was the Cards main backup catcher, not Rob Johnson. His lifetime OPS is only .602, and he was worse last year, so it doesn’t make much that difference to the point you made
      2. Solano’s splits last year were .146/.180/.188/.368. All the guys you mentioned were a lot better than that.
      3. You’ve been putting a lot of weight on Snyder’s lifetime OPS of .710. But you don’t mention that he’s a 10 year veteran entering his age 34 season. I don’t think his .800 OPS in 2008 is all that relevant to predicting how good he’d be starting 35-40 games or more this year.

      Finally, as to Flores, I remember very clearly that his offense deteriorated once he had to play ever day and there was talk that he just wasn’t up to the task physically. In light of the following quote from James Wagner’s post in Nationals Journal the day after the trade, you’re just mistaken when you say that there was “no indication that the Suzuki trade had anything to do with Flores’ offense.” :

      “Earlier this season, when he was spelling catcher Wilson Ramos and playing every few days, Flores performed better. He went 6 for 25 (.240) in nine games in April and 15 for 55 (.273) in 17 games in May. After Ramos went down to a major knee injury in early May and the season wore on, Flores appeared to wear down. He played through a sore back and recently scuffled at the plate, enough to have Johnson squeeze in more days off for him to rest and relax.”

  2. David Proctor - Jan 15, 2014 at 6:53 AM

    As far as Rendon, I was looking deeper into his numbers the other day and was very encouraged. Rendon suffered through an atrocious July in which he hit only .187/.237/.319 with a .556 OPS. However, in August, he hit .272/.364/.420 with .783 OPS and in September he hit .286/.352/.413 with a .765 OPS. I realize you can’t just erase someone’s worse month, but if you exclude July, Rendon hit .292 with a .341 OBP.

    His plate discipline was especially impressive. We all saw it with the naked eye, but Fangraphs keeps good metrics on this. They have a metric called O-Swing Percentage, which is percentage of balls swung at outside of the strike zone. The league average is 30%, Rendon swung at only 20.5% of balls out of the zone. They also have a metric called Z-Swing Percentage, which is percentage of balls inside the strike zone swung at. Average is 65%, Rendon’s was 60.8%. So he does take more strikes than normal. However, when he swings at a ball in the zone, he almost ALWAYS makes contact. The average contact rate for swings at balls in the zone is 88%, Rendon’s was 96%. And finally overall swinging strike percentage. The average is 8.5%, Rendon only had 4.8% swinging strikes.

    On top of that, Rendon hits significantly more line drives than average. The league average Line Drive percentage is 20%, Rendon had over 25%.

    Here’s his wRC+ by month since becoming a regular:

    June: 132
    July: 52
    August: 113
    September: 111

    The future is bright. That July really hurt his overall numbers.

    And now between this and my post above, I feel like I’ve written more than enough for the day.

    • ehay2k - Jan 15, 2014 at 7:30 AM

      Nice pieces today DP. One thing about Natsinsider is that people very often back up their assertions with facts rather than vulgarities.

      I wasn’t aware of Suzuki’s poor pitch framing. And he is one player who seemed to have benefitted from Eck’s instruction. I’m not sure how else to explain such an improvement for a catcher moving to the NL?

      The Rendon stats are really eye-openers. 96%?!? Wow.

      I’m thinking I should rank the Nats on that stat for each of the past two years, then compare to this year at the end of the season. Could prove interesting.

    • ArVAFan - Jan 15, 2014 at 8:04 AM

      Thank you for digging out those statistics. Anyone care to comment whether they thought firing Eckstein helped him with those Aug-Sept numbers, or did Rendon just keep adjusting as the league adjusted to him? He obviously has a good eye (96%!?!).

    • Joe Seamhead - Jan 15, 2014 at 8:05 AM

      David Proctor said: “And now between this and my post above, I feel like I’ve written more than enough for the day.”

      Before 7:00 A.M.? Naw, you’ll be back on.

      Anthony Rendon is truly a bright spot for this team. I also think that he’s better suited to play 2nd base then 3rd at the ML level. He’s a smart, confident kid and will gain more endurance and master the position. There’s no question that he can hit.

      Go Nats!

    • Hiram Hover - Jan 15, 2014 at 8:19 AM

      Really excellent, David. Thanks.

    • Doc - Jan 15, 2014 at 9:17 AM

      Good stuff, DP. Thanks for the stats on ARen.

      Always figured that there was a lot of good batting stats hiding in Rendon’s final numbers.

      Probably the most disciplined hitter that the Nats have ever had in their lineup, even in comparison to Nick The Stick.

      Future batting champ! Seems like a nice kid too!

    • Faraz Shaikh - Jan 15, 2014 at 12:01 PM

      Nice stats on Rendon. The only thing you need to worry with him is injury.

  3. alexva6 - Jan 15, 2014 at 8:30 AM

    I hope they settle on a spot in the batting order for Rendon and keep him there all year. I’m sure Davey didn’t want to move him around like he did but I think it hurt him.

    Rendon is the real deal.

    • scnatsfan - Jan 15, 2014 at 11:40 AM

      I never really understood the concept of a hitter being good in one spot but horrible in another. Sure, the second guy has to move more players over and the eight guy sees more balls becasue of the pitcher behind him but, to me, you have the same approach every at bat; get on base!

      • alexva6 - Jan 15, 2014 at 1:25 PM

        While I agree to a point, I think a player is under more pressure in the two spot. He is expected to be one of the teams best hitters. Adding that to the normal pressure of being a rookie and it can snowball, especially when the inevitable slump sets in.

  4. Greg f - Jan 15, 2014 at 8:35 AM

    I’d love to see the number of called strikes that were outside the strike zone for Rendon. LaRoche and Werth too. There were times last year where it looked like they knew the strike zone better than the umps. Especially Rendon, but as a young guy he wasn’t gonna get the calls.

    • Doc - Jan 15, 2014 at 9:19 AM

      Correctomundo, Greg f!

      No ump knows the strike zone better than ARen.

  5. tcostant - Jan 15, 2014 at 8:55 AM

    Rizzo miss the boat on this one:

    http://hardballtalk.nbcsports.com/2014/01/14/mariners-sign-john-buck-to-one-year-1-million-deal/

    • Joe Seamhead - Jan 15, 2014 at 9:05 AM

      Naw, Mike watched it sail out to sea. Nothing on there that he wanted.

    • jd - Jan 15, 2014 at 10:34 AM

      Why?

      John Buck has a hot power month every 2 – 3 years and people forget that he’s basically a lousy all around player. Snyder is a better option anyway and who knows maybe Sandy Leon is ready for the show?

      • tcostant - Jan 15, 2014 at 11:32 AM

        On Earth or any other planet, Snyder was and will never be a better option than John Buck. That is just crazy. all Snyder is, is cheaper. Nothing more.

      • pdowdy83 - Jan 15, 2014 at 12:09 PM

        None of the catchers available since January 1st have been worth a guaranteed roster spot (Buck included). I see Rizzo taking another flyer on a minor league deal and rolling with it.

      • sjm308 - Jan 15, 2014 at 12:19 PM

        I was actually a fan of Buck until I looked closely at the numbers. I guess I was remembering how well he played in the first month last year. The framing thing is also maybe a little more important then we think. I am certainly not going to get all upset about who our backup catcher is and I also do not think that will play heavily into us making the playoffs. It’s like worrying about that 25th man on the bench. Important, sure but vital, not in my mind.

        By the way, the discussion of money on this team has pretty much sailed. We have no problems spending money if Rizzo thinks its good value. I still get tired of the “cheap” comments when we have spent 23 million in the last two years on a number 5 starter that did not pan out.

        Go Nats!!

      • jd - Jan 15, 2014 at 1:54 PM

        sjm308,

        Buck has done that a couple of times in his career where he goes homer crazy for about a month. But he’s been stop gap on bad teams for a reason and notice none of the teams he’s on retain his services.

  6. micksback1 - Jan 15, 2014 at 1:25 PM

    Anthony has a good chance of being a 20 HR, 80 RBI player each season, thats how I see him

    • Theophilus T.S. - Jan 15, 2014 at 1:38 PM

      Those are Ryne Sandberg nos., although in his prime Sandberg’s nos. were much better than that. I see Rendon as likely to equal Sandberg in his prime (but maybe making some allowances for Wrigley Field).

  7. Theophilus T.S. - Jan 15, 2014 at 1:30 PM

    I don’t really get the enthusiasm for Snyder, who’s been a disappointment since he came up to the majors, and every season except one since 2008 has spent at least part of the year in the minors — which says, “Not a major league player.” And in that one season, hit .207. Having said that, his AAA nos. last year were miles better than any Nats’ candidate, including Solano, Leon and the uber-corpulent Maldonado. So, what the heck;; everybody into the pool. Not sure, however, why we should expect an outcome different from last year’s.

  8. jd - Jan 15, 2014 at 1:52 PM

    Theo,

    You are right but we are talking about a backup catcher here so the odds of finding the next Gary Carter to fill that role are not good.

    • Theophilus T.S. - Jan 15, 2014 at 2:36 PM

      It won’t show up in “WARS” but a back up catcher is worth at least 5-6 wins a year just by doing no harm. Visions of Nieves chuffing up the line on the way to a DP would give me nightmares if I cared about wins and losses. Who besides Wieters catches 140 games any more? With Ramos around a good back up catcher would be equivalent to “take two valium and check with me in the morning.” I can’t help it if all that’s available now is dreck. The long range view of the back-up catcher shortage is that a team should either develop or wash out the younger “talent” — so to speak before going to the medicine cabinet for an expired bottle of Maalox. Right now, looking for a happy surprise surprise catcher in the Nats’ Easter basket is like reading through the bottom of a highball glass.

      • zmunchkin - Jan 15, 2014 at 3:14 PM

        You have to be kidding Theo on 5-6 fewer wins due to a backup catcher.

        Just for yucks, lets assume the Nats only do slightly better in 2014 than in 2013 and go 90-72 (slightly less than .556). If our starter starts 125 games and the backup starts 37, that would mean that in games with the starter they would have to be:

        – 76-39 for a .608 winning percentage (better than any team did last year for the season)
        and
        – 15-22 for a .405 winning percentage (only the Marlins and the Astros did worst last year for the season)

        since (90/162)*37 = 20.5 wins. And lets subtract 5.5 wins (your midpoint) resulting in 15-22

        So you are basically saying that the backup catcher, all other things being equal, turns the best team in baseball into the Cubs (who were .407 for the year).

  9. Section 222 - Jan 15, 2014 at 2:50 PM

    Thanks for all the research DP. I’m with you on the available options not being that good. I was just objecting to the idea that since Jesus Flores was lousy in 2012 we shouldn’t worry about not having a decent second catcher. I want this team to be a powerhouse, and when you know a guy is going to play, at most, 75% of the games, it’s worth trying really hard to find good to be his backup. Our “backup” catchers (Suzuki, Solano,Leon) last year had 331 plate appearances. That’s more than Lombo who had the most PAs of any of our reserves. It was also more than Ramos had (303). In 2012 (Flores, Suzuki, Solano, Leon, and Maldonado) had 545 PAs. That’s more than Morse and Werth, and almost as many as Desmond.

    Now it’s true that Ramos was injured in both years. In January, it’s really easy to confident that he’ll play 125 games as Williams hopes. But even if that turns out to be the case, if the goal is to build a World Series caliber team, why not try to get a second catcher who could start on a not so good team? McClouth was willing to sign with us, right? It’s not like you’re telling the guy he might get only 50 at bats if Ramos stays healthy.

    Great stuff on Rendon. Thanks. He’s a special player. I don’t know if he’ll break out as Mark’s best case scenario suggests, but I’d be very surprised if he regresses.

    • zmunchkin - Jan 15, 2014 at 3:29 PM

      Section 222, I think the point that you are glossing over is that none of the available catchers who would be willing to sign on as the backup are that much better (if better at all) than Snyder, Solano and Leon.

      • Section 222 - Jan 15, 2014 at 3:49 PM

        Not glossing over that at all. I’ve been responding to the argument that it just doesn’t matter if your backup catcher can’t hit, that the importance of the position is overrated, etc.. A good backup catcher might not add 5-6 wins, but given Ramos’s suspect health, I just think more attention should be paid to the position. It’s not a throwaway when the guy(s) in it had 331 PAs last year and 545 the year before.

        As for who we can get, I will confess I haven’t tried to figure that out. If you have a list, do share it. But if Solano wins the job and hits like he did last year (.146/.180/.188/.368.), we’ll regret not paying Buck a million bucks despite his supposedly lousy defense. And, of course, we don’t know who else might be obtainable for a trade. That’s how we got Suzuki after all.

        So here’s my question for those who are content with our current crop of possible backups. Suppose Snyder or Solano is our backup and is predictably lousy at the plate playing 2 games a week for the first two months of the season. Then Ramos goes on the 15-day DL with what seems like another minor hamstring pull. Do you make a trade then, or do you tough it out and hope Ramos is back in two to three weeks? If you tough it out, how many games is too many to have another sure out in the lineup? And won’t the price for a replacement be higher at that point than it is now? And will the available candidates be any better?

  10. zmunchkin - Jan 15, 2014 at 4:43 PM

    Here is a list of FA catchers, along with their status. Other than the guys who were obviously starters, none of them is that much better (if better at all) than what the Nats have (including Snyder).

    http://espn.go.com/mlb/freeagents/_/position/c

    From my perspective, the most important thing for a backup in any position is that you don’t want to be worse off defensively. And that is especially true for catcher. The three guys we have are all fairly good defensively.

    Now lets take a look at their offense. Lets consider the backup is primarily a backup. But lets still assume 50 games – which is somewhere between 200 and 250 at bats. For 250 at bats, the difference between a .210 hitter and a .250 hitter in 225 at bats (the midpoint) is slightly less than 7 hits; or slightly more than 1 extra hit every 7th game (channeling Crash Davis for that perspective). The impact of 1 extra hit every seventh game is not nearly as important IMO as making sure you have a good defensive catcher.

    And if we have to make a trade (possible, but not necessarily likely), you will probably have to pay more But that is not certain as it depends on who else on other teams gets injured and what those teams need that we perhaps have an excess of.

    • jd - Jan 15, 2014 at 5:12 PM

      That’s a very good analysis. The point you are making (I think) is that no one on that list and you can also throw John Buck provides the Nats with a greater likelihood of winning any more games than the players they already have.

      When you are talking about a 5 to 6 win difference you are talking about the difference between a Johnny bench and a Wil Nieves not between John buck and Chris Snyder.

      • sjm308 - Jan 15, 2014 at 5:20 PM

        Pretty much what I was trying to say early in the day but done with a much better analysis. I really like the way we can disagree but still stay civil as well. Again, the backup catcher will not be the reason we make or do not make the playoffs. If the bench performs like last year, and that of course does include the back up catcher, then we have problems, but I don’t see that happening.

        Also agree strongly that the key to most of your bench is that they can come in and play defensive and with McLouth, Espinosa and any of the 3 catchers I think we are in good shape. Hairston and Moore are not plus defenders which is why I might just keep one (Moore does have an option left) and then you might see Mr. Carroll back with this team as well.

        Go Nats!!

        by the way, remember when we would be talking about who might be our starting 8 and there were maybe 2 positions set.. We are now talking about the last lefty in the bullpen, the back up catcher, and maybe the 25th man on the roster. We certainly have come a long way since 2005.

    • letswin3 - Jan 15, 2014 at 6:04 PM

      There ya go SJM308, the glass is way more than half full when we have to thrash around talking about the back-up catcher.

  11. pchuck69 - Jan 15, 2014 at 6:05 PM

    Mark is a bit too conservative on the best case for Rendon.

    Because of his eye and fantastic swing, I fully expect Rendon to lead the team in BA, something between .315 and .320.

    I expect Werth and Harper to bat over .300 as well, but that a best case for another day. :)

  12. Section 222 - Jan 15, 2014 at 6:19 PM

    I remember those days well 308. I also remember when our backup catchers were guys like Paul Lo Duca. How did he not get inducted into the Hall? He was versatile. Remember when they forced Manny Acta to showcase him in left field?!

    But I digress. Then there was Johnny Estrada, Robert Fick, Alan Bennet, Wil Nieves, and Josh Bard. Actually, Bard was our starter in 2009.

    Oh the humanity!

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