LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. - Based on all we know about Anthony Rendon and the makeup of the Nationals’ roster, it was probably safe to assume that Rendon has no shot at making the team out of camp this year.
After all, Rendon has only 133 career professional at-bats under his belt, and he batted just .162 in 21 games at Double-A Harrisburg last year, the highest level he saw in 2012.
Rendon, the Nationals’ top pick in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft, has battled injuries for much of the last three years and has to prove he can stay healthy.
He also doesn’t have a spot waiting for him at the big league level, with Ryan Zimmerman, Ian Desmond and Danny Espinosa established as the Nationals’ starters at third, short and second, respectively, and Steve Lombardozzi set as the utility infielder on the bench.
But Rendon has been on an absolute tear thus far in spring. It’s still incredibly early, but through five spring games, Rendon is batting a robust .417 (5-for-12) with a home run, two doubles and five RBIs. He’s looked every bit like a big leaguer to this point.
As the old adage goes, it can’t hurt to ask. And so Nationals manager Davey Johnson was asked before tonight’s game against the Braves whether the 22-year-old Rendon has any chance to open the regular season with the big league club.
“No. He needs the reps. He needs to go play,” Johnson responded, before cracking a smile. “We’ve only had five or six games, holy moly. You’re crowning him the next savior?
“Jeez. You’re awful.”
OK, then. I guess I’m not going out on too far of a ledge by predicting that Rendon won’t be on the Nationals’ opening day roster.
The Nationals love Rendon’s skill set. They feel his bat is major league-ready now, and that he possesses the defensive skills to play third, short or even second.
All that said, they’re not going to rush their top prospect. The Nats feel Rendon needs more seasoning and reps in the minor leagues, and he needs to prove that he can handle the physical rigors of a full professional season.
Rendon is a definite candidate to join the Nats later on this season. Assuming he stays healthy and continues to progress, he’s a likely September call-up, and should there be an injury to one of the Nats’ starting infielders, Rendon could get the call at that point.
For now, however, the Nats are content to let Rendon get some more time in the minors before he gets his first taste of big league baseball.