After sluggish April, Rendon recaptured top form in 2016

As we transition into offseason mode here, we’re reviewing each significant player on the Nationals roster. We continue today with Anthony Rendon, who got off to slow start but then became one of the club’s most consistent and productive hitters in the second half.

PLAYER REVIEW: ANTHONY RENDON

Age on opening day 2017: 26

How acquired: First-round pick, 2011 draft

MLB service time: 3 years, 130 days

2016 salary: $2.8 million

Contract status: Arbitration-eligible in 2017. Free agent in 2020.

2016 stats: 156 G, 647 PA, 567 AB, 91 R, 153 H, 38 2B, 2 3B, 20 HR, 85 RBI, 12 SB, 6 CS, 65 BB, 117 SO, .270 AVG, .348 OBP, .450 SLG, .797 OPS, 4.1 WAR

Quotable: “I guess I felt all right throughout the whole year. I got off to a little bit of a slow start. But it’s how we finish, it’s not how you start.” - Anthony Rendon

2016 analysis: After an injury-plagued 2015, Anthony Rendon raised some concerns when he began 2016 with a sluggish start. At the end of April, he was batting just .242 with four doubles, zero homers and one RBI.

With teammate Jayson Werth also struggling, manager Dusty Baker decided to swap the two regulars in his lineup, moving Werth up to the No. 2 spot and Rendon down to the No. 5 spot. Whether it was the move or something else, Rendon’s production dramatically increased.

rendon-home-run-nlds-sidebar.jpgOver his final 124 games, Rendon batted .287 with 33 doubles, 18 homers, 80 RBIs and an .859 OPS, ranking among the top 10 in the National League in most of those categories.

Rendon’s second-half surge, though, didn’t carry over into the postseason. After going 2-for-4 with two RBIs in Game 1 of the National League Division Series, he went just 1-for-16 the rest of the series, the lone hit his home run in Game 3 at Dodger Stadium. He stranded a Division Series-record 22 men on base in the series.

2017 outlook: Whatever concerns there were in April that the 2014 version of Rendon (when he finished fifth in NL MVP voting) was the aberration were dispelled by the end of the 2016 season. When healthy, he is a productive all-around batter with an above-average glove; he ranked fourth among all major league third basemen in defense, according to FanGraphs.com.

Baker will have to decide in spring training how Rendon best fits into his lineup. Though he succeeded as the fifth-place hitter during the second half of this season, his skills always have seemed to make him an ideal No. 2 hitter.

The Nationals also may face a decision in the near future about Rendon’s long-term role with the club. He’s still under club control for three more seasons, but if they believe his 2014 and 2016 performances were the norm, it might be time to start discussing an extension before his price skyrockets.

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