Is Rendon’s future at second base?

It’s kind of weird to think that, barring a shocking late comeback, today will mark the last home game at Nationals Park this year.

Seventy-nine home games are in the books. Two remain, both of which will be played today under what looks like clear skies and gorgeous weather, after yesterday’s postponement following a nearly four-hour rain delay.

Stephen Strasburg would have started last night’s game, and now he’ll start the nightcap tonight. I guess it’s fitting that the Nationals’ ace will get the ball for the final home game of the season.

As the 2013 season starts to wind down, we’ll look back at a number of storylines from this year and preview how the Nats could look in 2014. But one topic has already been posed to manager Davey Johnson - the progress of Anthony Rendon at second base and where he fits in the team’s plans for next season and seasons to come.

Rendon moved over to second base on the fly this season, and he’s performed pretty well overall. There have been a couple bumps in the road, as could be expected, but all-in-all, Johnson has been impressed with the body of work Rendon has put together in his time at second base.

“He’s farther along than I thought he was going to be,” Johnson said. “His footwork’s really good around the bag, he’s still learning a little bit about positioning. He’s a good second baseman. I would classify him a little above average. Good hands, his footwork, he’s got a good future. He’s a big leaguer at second. And I think the biggest thing not so much defensively is that he’s starting to make some adjustments. You go through the league and with all the technology everybody has a pretty good scouting report on you, how to set you up and how to pitch to you.

“He’s making some adjustments, and I think he’s just made the tip of the iceberg adjustments. I think he’ll know more about how to handle a lot of things as his career goes on.”

The big question with Rendon going into next season and future seasons is whether he’ll become a full-time second baseman in the majors.

Rendon came up through college and the minors as a third baseman. He has experience at shortstop. But this season, largely due to necessity, he’s learned the ropes at second base. He’s posted a solid .974 fielding percentage in 78 games at second base this season, making nine errors in 352 chances, but his future largely is dependent on how the Nats choose to handle some possible moving parts at other infield spots.

If Ryan Zimmerman is eventually moved from third base to first base, then Rendon could slide in as the Nats’ third baseman. But Zimmerman’s throwing has improved as the season has gone on, and he seems to be getting more strength back in that surgically repaired shoulder. Ian Desmond is under contract through the 2015 season, and the Nats would surely be interested in locking him up to a long-term deal to make him the Nats’ shortstop for years to come. So that would leave Rendon looking like an option for second base in the coming seasons, although there is also the Danny Espinosa factor.

“It depends on a lot of things,” Johnson said, when asked if Rendon’s future is at second. “It depends on, I’m still very high on Espinosa. I think he still, if he gets his thought process straight, he’s an awfully talented player also. And you can never have too many good, talented players.”

Rendon’s defense has always been looked upon highly by scouts, but it’s his bat that really makes many scouts excited about his major league potential. Rendon is viewed as a potential .300 hitter in the big leagues with gap-to-gap power, largely because of his plate discipline, plate coverage and super quick wrists.

This season, he’s hit .263/.326/.397 with seven homers, 22 doubles and 34 RBIs in 335 at-bats, but if he stays healthy, those numbers are likely to rise in future seasons. And Johnson sees the 23-year-old Rendon as someone who could produce in the power department, as well.

“I think he’s got the power to hit 15-20 (home runs) a year,” Johnson said. “He’s more line drive, doubles, average type. He knows the strike zone very well, tracks the ball well, can hit a fastball and a breaking ball. That’s a prerequisite of being a big league hitter, and a good one.”

Rendon has impressed in his first major league season, and now it’s just a question of where he’ll fit in in future seasons and how far his potential can take him.

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