As the 2011 First-Year Player Draft moved along, it was apparent that there was a run on pitchers, and with guys like Danny Hultzen and Gerrit Cole setting the tone, the Nationals quickly realized top position players would still be available at No. 6.
Only outfielder Bubba Starling was taken before Washington selected Rice third baseman Anthony Rendon with the sixth pick. Many mock drafts had Rendon as the No. 1 talent on the board and the Nationals were thrilled the heralded corner infielder was still available.
Baseball America executive editor Jim Callis said the Nationals’ top selections of Stephen Strasburg, Bryce Harper and Rendon were the best haul in a three-year period in major league draft history.
There were some questions about Rendon’s shoulder and ankle at the time, but the Nationals were not overly concerned about the long-term effects. Recently, the team has been working with Rendon on a training program to build his overall strength.
His numbers were astounding in college. At Rice, Rendon hit .371 with 46 doubles, four triples, 52 homers and 194 RBIs in 187 games. he had 46 homers in his first two seasons. He had just six homers in 2011 over 63 games when opposing pitchers walked him a nation-leading 76 times.
Baseball America national writer Aaron Fitt believes Rendon is a unique find because of his bat. Thee publication ranks him as the Nationals’ No. 2 prospect.
“He is a guy was ranked as one of the top draft picks in this draft and the (Nationals) got him at No. 6 because of injury concerns,” Fitt said. “Again, I talked about how it could be another opportunistic draft pick for the Nationals. He is a special talent who can do everything. He has an upside where he could hit .320 or .330 in the big leagues with 20 to 25 homers and he plays really solid defense.
“The comparison we have gotten in the past is Ryan Zimmerman and David Wright. He is that kind of player. He could be that kind of player; he has special makeup, too. He is a joy to talk with and a joy to play with. He has it all figured out.”
So will injury concerns follow Rendon in his career with the Nationals? Fitt discounts that notion because he does not believe the injuries were caused by something Rendon did wrong, just circumstance.
“(Rendon) had some fluke injuries,” Fitt reasoned. “I don’t think you can label him as injury-prone.The first time he injured his ankle, he stepped on a sprinkler head at LSU. The next time he was just running the bases. Those things happen. He is not a guy who is playing with a nagging injury. If he can stay healthy, he can be an All-Star.”