Jan 15, 2014, 6:00 AM EDT
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.
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