According to a Houston media outlet during the 2012 season, there were reports that Nationals top prospect Anthony Rendon might not return to the field because of his recovery from an ankle injury.
Third baseman Rendon suffered a fractured left ankle early in April for the high Single-A Potomac Nationals. But slowly and methodically, Rendon rehabbed that ankle and was able to resume baseball late last season.
Double-A Harrisburg Senators manager Matt Lecroy got to see Rendon play for the last three weeks of the Double-A season. It was the first time Lecroy had been able to see Rendon play.
"I had never really got to see him play because he was banged up with injuries," Lecroy recalled. "But reading about him, all I heard about was his bat. I saw some really good swings. He struggled a bit at times, but I thought that was mainly because he hadn't played."
Lecroy said the best indication that Rendon has a big bat was a monster home run he hit late in the year.
"We saw signs," Lecroy said. "He hit an opposite-field home run the last game of the season, probably halfway up the scoreboard."
Some observers had criticized Rendon's defense. Rendon even told me he was aware of those rumors and he didn't understand the reasoning.
Lecroy confirmed that Rendon did well defensively at third base and worked diligently to get better at his craft each day by doing extra work.
"At third base, I was really surprised," Lecroy said. "His defense was really, really strong. He made some really good plays. His work ethic was good. He was trying to teach himself a routine about being a pro and coming to the park everyday taking ground balls, doing your cage work, doing your early work. He caught on pretty quickly with all the guys.
"My hitting coach, Eric Fox, did a good job getting him on a good routine. The three weeks I had him, I could really see the upside that everyone was talking about."
Lecroy said he also saw no ill effects from the ankle injury in Rendon's play, although he did sense that the youngster was being careful as he worked to return to full speed.
"He came back pretty quickly from it," Lecroy said. "He was a little bit hesitant on the bases at times, but about the last six or seven games, he was more comfortable with it. I believe I have a good feeling that he won't be even bothered with it all in spring training. I believe he will be raring to go and be in good shape."
Rendon showed he was good to go by hitting .338 in 22 games in the Arizona Fall League. His on-base percentage rose to .436. He also stole six bases that month and was caught stealing just once. He surged at the end with a .455 average in his last 10 games in Arizona.
Now it will be interesting to see if the Nationals test Rendon at other infield positions in spring to add to his versatility, mirroring the organizational philosophy of always looking to find multiple ways to get a good bat to the majors.