The Nationals' top selection in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft, third baseman Anthony Rendon, was introduced at a news conference, alongside fellow top picks Brian Goodwin and Alex Meyer, Tuesday at Nationals Park.
Baseball America's Jim Callis has called Rendon "the best hitter in college baseball," and his numbers back that claim up. Last season, Rendon had 26 homers and 85 RBIs and was walked an amazing 65 times. This season, despite shoulder woes, Rendon batted .327 with six homers, 37 RBIs and 80 walks.
With a bright smile and an infectious personality (he asked for a "lifeline" to get agent Scott Boras involved on a tough question during the news conference), Rendon fit in well on his first day in a Nationals jersey.
"It is a life-changing moment," Rendon said. "I have been dreaming about this my whole life. To be given the opportunity to take my talents to the next level and it happens to be in our nation's capital. It will be a pretty cool deal."
Rendon was the sixth overall selection in the June draft. Many thought he would be the No. 1 overall selection before questions about his shoulder were raised. Rendon said that his shoulder is 100 percent and he is excited to get to Florida and start his professional career.
Did Rendon see the fall to sixth overall a chance to show the teams in front of Washington that they made a mistake in overlooking him?
"It definitely is motivation," Rendon said. "I try to take everything as a motivation, what people say about me. Whether it be negative or positive, you want to prove them wrong or you want to keep it up (the positive things). I just want to go out there and play the best ball that I can."
Agent Scott Boras said he was surprised five teams passed on Rendon.
"It is a hard call for a team to turn down a player like that," Boras said. "For all the players in the draft, he is the one that you could clearly say is for a position player is a major leaguer. If his skills stayed exactly the same, he is a major leaguer."
Rendon grew up playing shortstop and played a game or two last season at that spot, but has almost exclusively played third base at Rice University. With Ryan Zimmerman obviously set at third for now, Rendon said he is open to moving to any position in the infield, wherever the Nationals need him.
As for the shoulder, Boras said all the doctors have cleared Rendon to play now. Dr. Lewis Yocum completely examined Rendon and the third baseman "came out to California and spent eight or nine weeks at our sport fitness institute," Boras said.
"He followed Dr. Yocum's regimen and then the (Nationals) doctors examined him in D.C. He has been given a clean bill of health. He is back throwing and doing things. He just needed 10 weeks rest that he didn't get in college because they wanted him to DH."
Rendon said his shoulder is "100 percent," and he has been throwing all summer and has had no setbacks.
Rendon also said he is very familiar with third-round pick, left-hander Matt Purke from Texas Christian, who is also now a National. Both played baseball together in Houston.
"We played summer baseball together on a Houston select team," Rendon said. "I know him pretty well. We played a couple of tournaments together. It is pretty awesome that two guys growing up (in Texas) playing together in the professional level."
Front page photo courtesy of Rice University Athletics