Scouting Report: Anthony Rendon of the Washington Nationals

By | September 1, 2012 at 12:58 am | 3 comments | Baseball Prospects, Scouting Reports | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Anthony Michael Rendon

Harrisburg Senators (Washington Nationals)
Third Baseman
Height: 5’11″
Weight: 200 LBS
Born: June 6, 1990 in Richmond, Texas
BaseballNewsHound.com Prospect Rank: #5 Top 121 Hitting Prospects 2012
MLB Player Comparison: Edgardo Alfonzo, Mike Lowell, Ron Santo, Travis Fryman

Scouting Grades
Hit: 55/70
Power: 50/55
Running Speed: 50/50
Fielding: 50/60
Arm Strength: 55/55
Plate Discipline: 65/70

Anthony Rendon was born to play baseball. He’s a phenomenal athlete and a five-tool player, but more than that, he’s blessed with a seemingly natural feel for the sport. Rendon plays the game with veteran maturity, boasting game instincts that have been built over a lifetime spent on the diamond. He picked the bat up at just five years old, and he started playing ball at his Houston elementary school a year later. A multi-sport star through high school, he also excelled on the track and basketball court. Though he didn’t grow until his junior year, he had already developed a rarely found mixture of speed, arm strength, hand-eye coordination and pure athleticism that allowed him to shred his competition. He put together a phenomenal high school career, first at George Bush and then at Lamar high school. His performance earned him a wave of attention from pro scouts, but he decided to turn down an opportunity to turn pro with the Braves following graduation. Instead, he took his game to Rice University, a local program and one of the best baseball schools in the country.

After spending his underclass seasons at George Bush high school, Rendon transferred to Lamar high in Houston Texas. Well known for its dominant sports programs, Lamar has produced a number of professional athletes in recent years, including recognizable names like Brian Orakpo, Brandon LaFell, Jeff Niemann and Joe Savery. After earning first-team all-district recognition the previous season, Rendon broke out as a junior. In his first season with the Redskins, he mashed fourteen homeruns and hit his way on the to 5A All-State team. That offseason, he took-up a more rigorous work-out routine and added more strength to his frame. He also grew almost six inches, and added almost thirty pounds of muscle. 

Rendon put together his finest campaign as a senior, establishing his name on the National scene with a sparkling performance. He posted a monster .570 batting average and raked eight homeruns and twenty-seven extra-base hits. He also managed to collect thirteen stolen bases along the way. Tabbed a natural leader by his coaches, he led the Redskins to a 29-7 record and the 20-5A Championship before taking home first-team 5A All-State honors at shortstopAnthony’s accolades didn’t end there, he also played in the Texas High School Baseball Coaches Association All-Star game and later took home 20-5A Most Valuable Players honors along with friend and future teammate Taylor Wall.

When he wasn’t on the diamond playing for the Redskins, Rendon played shortstop and second base for prestigious travel ball team, the Houston Heat. Heat alumni pepper the big leagues, boasting names like Kyle Drabek (2006), Jay Bruce (2005), Homer Bailey (2004), Aaron Cook (2003) and Scott Kazmir (2002).

Rendon was certainly a professional-grade prospect coming out of high school, with the kind of skills that would generally warrant an early pick if not for a strong college commitment. In college however, he established himself as a superstar and one of the elite talents in NCAA history. Out of the gate, he not only exceeded expectations, he pretty much out-performed every hitter in the nation. During his freshman season at Rice, he led Conference USA in batting average (.388), slugging percentage (.702) and he set Rice’s freshman home run record with twenty bombs (19 in the regular season). Playing in more games than any of his teammates, he led the Owls to a 43-18 record and all the way to the Super Regional. A clutch player, he hit nearly .478 with runners on base and .500 during seven games in the NCAA tournament.  

Anthony not only became the first player to earn both Conference USA Player of the Year and Freshman of the Year honors, but Baseball America also named him their 2009 Freshman of the Year. Though he ended his season on a sour note, tearing multiple ankle ligaments while playing against LSU in the Baton Rouge Super Regional, he bounced-back following in 2010 to put together another campaign for the record books.

A semi-finalist for the ’09 Dick Howser Trophy and the Golden Spikes Award as a freshman, Rendon faced an up-hill battle if he wanted to improve his numbers in his sophomore season. How much better can a player play? Evidently, he could do better, and he actually managed to out-perform his remarkable 2009 with a truly miraculous 2010 season. He hit a ridiculous .394/.530/.801, often facing-off against many of the best pitchers in college baseball, and managed to tally more homeruns (26) than strikeouts (22). His single-season home run total sits behind Lance Berkman‘s 41 for the second-most in Owls’ history. Also a stellar defender, he made just four errors all year.


After leading the Owls to their sixteenth consecutive conference championship, Rendon added more hardware to his already jam-packed trophy case. Both Rawlings and Baseball America named him the nation’s best college player, and the NCBWA awarded him the Dick Howser Trophy. He also garnered several other awards, including C-USA Player of the Year, the NCAA Austin Regional’s Most Outstanding Player and he  just missed winning the Golden Spikes Award, finishing second behind Bryce Harper.

Though impressive, Rendon’s final season at Rice wasn’t nearly as star-powered as either of his previous two. Battling injuries for most of the Spring, he put together a career-worst line. Playing with Team USA over the summer following his sophomore year, he severely fractured his right ankle and foot in a game against South Korea. Though surgery to mend the injury was successful, and he was able to return tot he field to open his junior Spring, Rendon wasn’t the same player during the finale season of his amateur career. Along with the ankle injury, Rendon also strained a rotator cuff muscle on the rear of his throwing shoulderrelegating him to full-time designated hitter duty as a result. He still managed to lead the team in hitting, posting a sexy .327/.520/.523 line, and he topped division-I baseball with 80 walks drawn. For any other player, Rendon’s career-worst numbers would’ve been a career-best, but for this special player, it pushed him down draft boards.

Following his junior season, the Nationals drafted Rendon with the sixth overall pick in June, 2011. Widely considered the best non-pitcher in a loaded draft class, Rendon was selected alongside blue-chip phenoms Dylan Bundy, Gerrit Cole and Trevor Bauer. Though concerns about his health caused him to slide down draft boards slightly, he still cashed-in and managed to land with an up-and-coming organization. Part of Washington’s annual monster spending spree in the draft, Rendon inked a lucrative big league deal that included a $6 million signing bonus.

This Spring, injuries once against suppressed Rendon’s star-power. After drawing media attention with an impressive spring training performance, he kicked-off his pro career with a bang, reaching base four times in his first six plate appearances and rapping a double against Lynchburg. His hot start was short-lived though, he severely injured his left ankle while rounding the bases in the second game of the year. At first, it appeared that Anthony’s season was a wash, but with some hard work, he found a way to work his way back to full-health.  

Following a lengthy three-month recovery, Rendon returning to the diamond at the end of July, starting a short rehab stint in the Gulf Coast League. Playing in five games for the GCL Nats, he mashed two homers and reached base seven times in fourteen plate appearances. Washington then promoted him to the Carolina League, where he started the season. He played well there too, hitting .333/.438/.630 in nine games before earning another promotion, this time to the Harrisburg Senators of the Eastern League.

While playing in Double-A, he’s looked pretty good. His stats don’t illustrate his performance fully, as he’s hitting just .154 with four extra-base hits in 58 at bats. But physically speaking, he looks healthy, and he’s running at full speed, hitting the ball hard and making all of the plays at third base. Overall this season, the Nationals are happy with his performance, especially because he was able to dodge a bullet. He’s hit .224/.345/.448 across four levels of the minors, and he’s played well enough to validate a spot in the Arizona Fall League. 

Strengths

It might sound cliche, but Rendon’s biggest strength is his lack of weakness. Actually, that would be an understatement, his best attribute his his extraordinarily well-rounded game. He not only lacks any visible weakness, but he carries star-level tools in to both the batter’s box and the field. He’s not a big guy, with a square 5’11″ frame, and he isn’t a burner. He was a track athlete in high school, and is capable of running a 6.8 60, but his athleticism is much more subtle than one would expect from a blue-chip prospect. Sixty-yard dash times, radar guns and physical testing doesn’t do justice to his spectacular baseball skills. His hand-eye coordination, body control and agility set him apart from other top prospects, and he’s smooth and fluid in everything he does on the field. Well-coached, bright and intelligent,  he’s a tireless worker and he’s far more polished than most top young players. His batting eye is second to none, and his fundamentals and mechanics are flawless. Simply put, Rendon is a future star, and one of the most gifted young players in pro ball.

Hitting and Swing Mechanics

At the plate, Rendon’s potential as a hitter is sky-high. He’s already big-league ready and if he were healthy and given the opportunity to play everyday with the Nationals today, he could probably post All-Star caliber numbers. Most top prospects, no matter how athletically gifted aren’t that good and certainly aren’t that advanced. But Rendon plays like a veteran. It might sound ridiculous for a twenty-two-year-old, but his coaches have long quit teaching him fundamentals and honing his swing. He just doesn’t need it. He generates unbelievable bat-speed with lightning-quick wrists and a swing that employs his entire body. Armed with a razor-sharp batting eye and a cut that covers the entire plate, he effortlessly barrels pitch after pitch. He rarely swings and misses, and he drives nearly everything he makes contact with.

During his batting practices, spectators watch Rendon shoot screaming homeruns and laser line-drives like a machine, one after another. His former head coach at Rice University, Wayne Graham, once described him as having “Hank Aaron’s wrists.” Graham said that he felt honored to coach Rendon, and watching him play was like watching “poetry in motion.” This Spring, his Nationals coaches, Bo Porter and Davey Johnson, raved that he had one of the best swings they’d ever seen.

Rendon deserves all of the compliments and every bit of the hype that’s surrounded him throughout the past few years. His swing is picture-perfect. As if he helped write Ted Williams’ book on hitting, he seems to do all of the things that hitting instructors spend hours unsuccessfully trying to teach even the most advanced big leaguers. His hands stay back, and he builds power off of his back-leg. He explodes to the baseball, whipping the bat-head through the zone with his core and trunk, and he guides his hands on a direct-path to the ball with his strong wrists and shoulders.

Rendon’s selectivity and plate vision have helped him develop a knack for barreling pitches. All speeds, all quadrants of the strikezone, Rendon mashes them effortlessly. He drops the bat-head, drags the barrel through the zone with incredible acceleration, and he finishes up-high with a nice, extended follow-through. Making the power-V with his arms just after the point of contact, he stays over his back leg, balanced and centered, with his head down and involved. Though he launches the ball with line-drive force, his swing path has the optimal arc for backspin and loft.

Piece by piece, Rendon’s swing is fundamentally near-perfect. Picking it apart in slow-motion still doesn’t reveal any flaws. He has great bat control and an well-schooled pitch recognition. But, hitting prowess starts with bat-speed, and he’s golden in that department too. He generates whirlwind bat-speed with remarkable efficiency. When he plants his front-heel, following his toe-tap, he’s in an athletic hitting position, with his knees bent and feet spread. He raises his hands slightly and pulls them back, in perfect timing sync with his toe-tap. As he fires his hips, his hands are still back, next to his back-shoulder. Gathering power off of his back-leg, he stays back and behind the baseball, using his hips and core to whip his hands through the zone. As a result, he barrels more pitches and lofts more pitches, unlike many contact-oriented hitters that suffering from drifting hips.

Blessed with excellent wrists and hand strength, Rendon’s swing stays remarkable controlled despite using his entire body to drag the bat through the strike zone with such violent bat-speed. His hand strength adds firmness to his cut, helping him square-up pitches consistently, and increasing exit velocity. He’s also already strong enough to fight the centripetal force created by swinging a club so hard, and use it to his advantage. Pulling the bat handle in toward his belt buckle, he maximizes the linear velocity of the bat-head through the hitting zone, creating exceptionally hard contact. He’s so efficient and fluid, that the incredible acceleration and bat speed appears remarkably quiet and easy, allowing him to maintain his balance through follow-through.

Mechanically, Rendon is the batter’s version of Tim Lincecum. His hand-body separation is remarkable. He employs his core muscles in his cut, just as Lincecum uses his coiled body to generate premium velocity in his wind-up. Slow-motion footage of Lincecum’s wind-up shows him generating power and torque by coiling his body. Just as the ball is raised into the cocked “L” position, Lincecum’s front knee is already facing the batter, with his front foot already planted. His shoulders are still facing leftfield however– with his back shoulder appearing hidden by his front from the batter’s view. This corkscrew position lengthens the core muscles, helping them load energy so he can uncoil and sling-shot the ball towards homeplate. 

Batting is highly similar to pitching, and is a matter of creating momentum and efficiently transferring force. Just like Lincecum coils his body, Rendon pulls the bat back as his front hip opens and begins rotation. After he finishes his stride, he keeps his hands pulled-back in the cocked position. This loading technique is the ideal method for swinging with the body rather than the hands, and Rendon has it knocked. Involving the powerful core muscles allows him to accelerate the bat with much more force, and increases his bat-speed significantly, leading to more quality power and a more consistent, manageable swing. It also allows him to use his hands as a guide, not as the primary actor, affording him much better pitch recognition and bat control. He stays back better than any prospect in the minors, and drives pitches to all fields with authority, using his hip rotation to slingshot the bat across the plate.

With strong hands and incredible hand-eye coordination, Anthony takes an unbelievably fluid and quiet swing. He’s so short to the baseball, employing a squeaky-clean, smooth hand path. Back and up slightly, then forward. He whips the bat barrel through the zone, pulling the handle in towards his belt buckle, and finishes with a nice long, high follow-through. The arc of his swing is ideal for creating loft and back-spin, driving the ball with his body balanced and his head over his back knee through the point of contact. His bat speed is already above big league average, and his easy line-drive swing is conducive to both doubles and home run power.

More than just a pretty swing, Rendon already shows the plate discipline and pitch recognition to take his game to the MLB. He’s polished, and plays like a veteran, working the count and swinging at strikes. His approach and swing mechanics help him read the ball, and he gets reaction time. He isn’t a guess hitter by any means. He’s savvy, and is probably the best young hitter in the game at hitting offspeed stuff. His plate coverage is incredible, and he never sells-out for power. His contact is almost always loud, and even his ground balls have serious bite. Rendon’s endowed with all of the ingredients for a .300 average, and could win a batting title one day.

Power

He’s not a big guy, but Rendon is blessed with plenty of power. When healthy, his bat already shows the juice to hit 15-20 homeruns in the MLB, and with a little bit more experience in develop, he should grow into solid to plus MLB power. He won’t be a slugger, but he has the makings of a complete power hitter, the kind of guy that mashes 20-25 homeruns and racks up doubles. A premium athlete, he puts his entire body behind his swing, yet manages to keep his cut remarkably quiet and firm. His strong hands make his swing rock-solid, and his quiet cut and selectivity helps him barrel baseballs with machine-like efficiency. With second-to-none plate coverage, and the ability to wait, and stick with any pitch, there simply aren’t any holes in his swing. He’ll beat you on premium heat inside and he’ll mash the soft stuff to right-center field gap. Armed with lightning-quick hands and vicious bat acceleration, he’s short to the ball that he can barrel and pull big league fastballs in on his knuckles.

Rendon’s power is a product of his ideal swing. His loud contact and bat speed play like they come from a much bigger, more imposing slugger. He’s muscular and athletic, but his power isn’t a product of brute strength. His pretty, efficient swing lets the bat do the work, and the awesome bat-speed creates Major League power out of a not-so-scary body. His ability to stay inside the ball allows him to turn on anything middle-in, but his plate coverage also affords him hard contact on the outer-half of the plate.

He does a nice job of laying-off pitcher’s pitches, but when Rendon does swing at the outer-half, he has the hands to drive the ball to right field. Adept at staying over his back leg, his hand-hip separation gives him the luxury to wait on offspeed and breaking pitches. Like Albert Pujols, he hits soft stuff on the outer-half of the plate to right field with authority. His swing only strengthens with extension, and he gets on top of hard-stuff in all quadrants of the strike-zone. That kind of power is rare, and while his ultimate homerun ceiling isn’t quite as impressive as his hitting prowess, he still should develop in to a very dangerous hitter nonetheless. He has the pop to hit the ball out of the park in all directions, and should fill his batting average with extra-base hits once he gets comfortable in the MLB.

Fielding

A shortstop in high school, Rendon is particularly athletic for a third baseman. Just like his hitting appraisal, he’s blessed with all of the tools for stardom. He has soft hands, quick feet, a strong throwing arm and great body control. He isn’t always flashy, but his agility shows up in his smooth actions and easy range. He moves well to both his glove and arm side, keeping a low center of gravity and reacting in a split-second following contact. He’s adept at charging the ball, fielding bunts like a Gold Glove veteran, and he already makes bare-handed picks regularly.

Unbelievably sure-handed, he rarely makes errors– and never makes the careless mistake. Despite his previous shoulder troubles, his arm strength is at least solid-average, and he can make all of the throws, accurately and quickly. Some scouting reports cite a so-so release, but he’s been getting rid of the ball as quickly and as smoothly as anyone in 2012. Overall, his defensive ability is already above MLB-average and he has the look of a Ryan Zimmerman or a young Eric Chavez in the field.

Because they already have Ryan Zimmerman, one of the best third baseman in the game, the Nationals are forced to consider alternative defensive positions for Rendon. They’ve toyed with the idea of developing him in the middle infield, playing him at short during spring training. He played both second base and shortstop occasionally in college, and was an All-State shortstop in high school. He’s light on his feet and he’s smooth enough and quick enough to play at least a solid middle infield in the Major Leagues. His low center of gravity and incredible balance helps him make strong, accurate throws on the run, and he’s adept at turning the double-play from third base. Turning-two from the middle infield is more tricky, but considering his dexterous footwork and impressive body control, he should be more than capable. Still, he has the tools to be a Gold Glove third baseman– he’s already one of the best fielders at the hot corner in pro ball– and moving him to a demanding defensive position he’s less familiar with, like second or short, might consequently pull his focus away from developing his superb offense.

To round-out his game, Rendon is also a solid baserunner. Though his speed doesn’t stand-out, especially compared to his other tools, he’s a very solid runner nonetheless. Seemingly because he plays third base, he’s often passed off as a below-average runner, but he’s actually solid if not a tick better. Coming out of high school, Rendon was actually on pace to grow in to a plus runner, posting 6.7-6.8 second 60 yard dash times at age seventeen. However, multiple fractures to both ankles have nicked his wheels a little bit, and he’s still settled in to average to solid-average game wheels. He’s quick out of the box, and he puts-in all-out hustle every time he runs to first. He’s aggressive and won’t shy away from taking the extra-base. He legs out doubles and triples, and love to pressure outfielders in to throw through the cut-off man. He won’t be a burner, but he’s a capable base-stealer, with enough speed to swipe a few when the situation calls for it. He reads pitchers well, and shows nice instincts on the base-paths.  

Weaknesses

Rendon is a special player. He’s such a well-rounded prospect that he really doesn’t suffer from any major weakness. He’s a great baseball athlete, with tremendous skills and he’s extraordinarily advanced for his age. If not for his injury history, he’d almost be a sure thing.

The only knocks that Rendon draws are in the body/appearance/Fabio area of scouting. Baseball players come in all shapes and sizes, but regardless, scouts always like the tall guy with sloped shoulders, long levers and high waist. Rendon isn’t that guy. He isn’t small, but he’s more average-looking than what one might expect from a top prospect. His frame and length isn’t ideal for power, but he more than makes up for it with agility, balance and coordination. He’s solidly 5’11″, and he’s squarely built. While “stocky” generally isn’t a part of the formula that scout’s look for in young players, it can be an advantageous trait. His low center of gravity and balance help him stay smooth in the field and in the batter’s box. 

Rendon’s only major knock isn’t a lack of skill in any particular area of the game, it’s his injury woes. He’s fragile, and it would be a naive to pass his already extensive injury-history off as bad luck. Until his recent ankle sprain (that included a fracture), his ailments hadn’t forced him to miss much regular season time as he’d dealt with his previous ankle problems in past offseasons. So, developmentally speaking, he’s generally been able to stay on the field and grow. However, there’s no telling how multiple ankle injuries to both of his ankles and a nagging shoulder problem will affect his future. It often takes time for these injuries to take a toll on a player, with young stars like Jason Kendall, Eric Chavez and Scott Rolen paying the price for all-out play when they were young with shortened careers and lengthy disabled list stints years later. His history also poses some questions about his ability to avoid serious injuries in the future. He’s now suffered four injuries– three of them  were serious– in just over three seasons. 

Summary

Rendon is a blue chip prospect and a special player. If not for injury woes, he’d probably be touted as a prospect on par with Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper. Hard-working, athletic and intelligent, his pretty swing, and surplus of baseball skills give him sky-high potential–and a Major League floor. He has the bat to hit .300, with the power to rake 20+ homeruns and a hefty serving of doubles and triples annually. He’s a Gold Glove caliber third baseman, with a strong arm and smooth footwork. If the Nationals decide to move him in deference to Ryan Zimmerman, he’s more than capable enough to handle second base or even shortstop.

Mentally, Rendon is well-prepared for big league stardom. Maybe the most complicated aspect of the scouting process, intangible’s like a player’s nerve and make-up are difficult to judge. However, they play an important part in a successful pro career. Rendon’s character and first-rate work-ethic are surely fit for a role model. Intelligent and well-schooled, he’s a shrewd player. He puts forth all-out effort in every game he plays. He’s a quiet leader, doesn’t seek or shun the spotlight and his teammates love playing alongside him. Relaxed and confident, he shows a stone-cold nerve under presure, and he’s been able to brush off adversity and serious injuries without a second thought. 

A unique player, gifted with a rare mix of intelligence, polish and athleticism, there aren’t many players as special as Anthony Rendon. He’s not as flashy as many of his fellow top prospects– he lacks Bryce Harper’s power and arm strength, and he isn’t the superb, long-n’-lean acrobat that Brian Goodwin and Manny Machado are. But he’s a natural. He does everything well and he goes about his business with unbelievable grace. The game just seems to slow down for him. Spectators and coaches alike compare him to Hall of Famers regularly, with some even describing his swing as resembling Hank Aaron’s. 

The Nats’ know drafted something special and they’re pacing Rendon’s his timetable accordingly. If he can stay healthy, he should ultimately mature in to a Travis Fryman or even a Ron Santo-type player. That’s a tall order, especially considering Santo was recently elected in to the Hall of Fame, but Rendon has that kind of ability.

Anthony has a big league contract, and now that the Nats are competing, they’ll do their best to get him to the MLB by next summer. With Zimmerman entrenched at third, and Ian Desmond and Espinosa teaming-up for a super up-the-middle duo, he’ll likely move to first base for the time being. His future lays at a more demanding defensive position, but his bat is more than potent enough to support a MLB first base job.

Scouting Report: Anthony Rendon of the Washington Nationals / Baseball News Hound by Ryan Kelley is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives CC BY-NC-ND

About the Author

Ryan Kelley

Founder and Executive Editor of BaseballNewsHound.com. Ryan is a graduate of the George Washington University, with a degree in economics. His acclaimed thesis on Major League Baseball's Labor Market is in the running for an excellence award in economics. A young economist working in Washington D.C., Ryan has extensive experience working in professional baseball. In the past, he's worked in player development, for the United States Olympic Committee and in scouting. Ryan's resume also includes jobs in journalism, social media marketing, government as well in non-profit legal services. However, sports and sportswriting are his two passions, and he strives to incorporate his unconventional career experience and academic expertise in his work at BaseballNewsHound.com. Born and raised in Connecticut, Ryan currently resides in Arlington Virginia, just outside of DC. A former amateur baseball and football player, Ryan loves both sports.

2012 MLB Competitive Balance Draft Lottery Results / Baseball News Hound by Ryan Kelley is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives CC BY-NC-ND