Now that the Nationals have their top draft picks in the fold, completing what assistant general manager Roy Clark called the best draft he’s ever been involved with in 27 years in the business, they’ll get to the work of putting those players in place to live up to those lofty pronouncements.
They will likely send their top picks to Viera, Fla., to work out with the team’s Gulf Coast League affiliate before the beginning of the instructional league season in September. Before the Nationals put any of the five players they signed Monday night on the field, they want to evaluate where each one is at.
Their top pick, Rice third baseman Anthony Rendon, might also be the most interesting case the Nationals have on their hands. Rendon was projected by many to be the top overall pick before the draft, slipping to sixth overall because of concerns about the health of his shoulder. General manager Mike Rizzo said, though, that team doctor Wiemi Douoguih and noted surgeon Lewis Yocum both cleared Rendon after examining him. And with his shoulder being good to go, the Nationals will start him at third base.
That is, of course, where things get interesting; some scouts see Rendon as a Gold Glove-caliber defender at third, and while the Nationals already have one of those at third base in Ryan Zimmerman, the 26-year-old has had to learn a new set of throwing mechanics after coming back from abdominal surgery in June.
It’s possible Rendon will end up in the middle of the infield, too, but the Nationals like what they have there in Ian Desmond and Danny Espinosa. And if Michael Morse moves back to the outfield next year, they could have a long-term need at first base; Adam LaRoche doesn’t figure to be the answer there for the next four or five years. If someone in the current infield was to move to first, Zimmerman’s size might make him the best fit, though it remains to be seen how open the team’s franchise player would be to such a move.
For now, though, the Nationals will develop Rendon at third base, knowing that the most intriguing question about him will come later.