Last year, Anthony Rendon bounced back quite nicely from an injury-shortened, disappointing 2015 campaign. He raked in 2014, and 2016 was merely a return to form. The quartet at the top of the hot corner is clear as day, but after that, there’s plenty of room for debate as how the next tier should be ranked. According to the NFBC’s ADP data, Kyle Seager (66.70), Matt Carpenter (71.74), Todd Frazier (74.02), Adrian Beltre (83.70), Rendon (91.72) and Alex Bregman (92.13) round out the top-10 at third base, and Jose Ramirez adds 11th third basemen to the top-100 picks checking in with an ADP of 95.43.
Rendon is the ninth ranked third baseman in terms of ADP at NFBC, and over at Fantasy Pros, he checks in 11th in expert consensus ranking (Jonathan Villar is third base eligible for Fantasy Pros ranking purposes). I’m a believer in Rendon posting a top-10 fantasy line at the hot corner in 2017, and at their respective ADPs, he stands out as my target at third base if I don’t end up with one of the Big Four — or if I end up with Manny Machado or Kris Bryant and opt to use the former at shortstop and take advantage of the latter’s outfield eligibility.
Despite suffering ankle injuries in college and carrying injury concerns into professional baseball, Rendon sandwiched a pair of 150-plus games played seasons around an injury shortened 80-game 2015 season. In other words, I’m confident in Rendon’s health and ability to hang with the other third basemen in the five through 10 range in games played and plate appearances. Bregman is a wild card in that group, and Frazier is a unique option who Randy Holt covered on Wednesday. The 26-year-old’s work was rock solid last year, and it doesn’t take much squinting to see similarities between him and Seager, and the M’s third baseman is being selected about 25 picks earlier than Rendon. You can check out the duo’s dashboard stats here, but it’s the head-to-head comparison of the two’s batted ball data and plate discipline numbers that intrigues me the most. The two had very similar LD/GB/FB numbers (21.9%/36.1%/42.0% for Seager and 20.6%/.35.7%/43.8% for Rendon) last season, but their directional batted ball data and quality of contact rates were also eerily similar. As for the plate discipline stats, Rendon was less willing to go fishing out of the strike zone than Seager (22.8% O-Swing compared to 27.0%), made more contact (84.9% Contact% compared to 82.7%) and swung and missed less frequently (6.4% SwStr% versus 7.3%).
There’s room for batting average growth for Rendon in 2017. He hit .287 in 2014, and that’s a mark not out of reach for him this year. He belted 20 homers last season and 21 homers in 2014. There might be room for growth there, too. Rendon posted a new high in FB% at 43.8%, and it was his first year north of 40%. He also pulled the ball at a new career-high rate of 40.2%. Those career-high marks were even saddled with a dreadful April. From May 1st through the end of the year, Rendon hit all 20 of his homers and kicked his FB% up to 45.4% and his Pull% up to 41.2%. The run production stats were plentiful for Rendon in 2016 with 91 runs and 85 RBI, and they should be plentiful once again this year in a loaded Nationals’ lineup. The club added Adam Eaton via trade, and he and Trea Turner should set the table for the club. The heart of the order will feature Daniel Murphy and Bryce Harper, and I suspect Rendon will hit fifth, providing him ample RBI opportunities. Rendon’s the owner of a .345 OBP in his career and tallied a .348 OBP in 2016. His ability to get on base at a high clip bodes well for his run-scoring potential, though, bounce backs from Ryan Zimmerman and Derek Norris would help as well.
Rendon should be a strong four-category performer, but he can separate himself from the likes of Seager, Carpenter and Beltre on the bases. In that quartet of third basemen, only Rendon reached double-digit steals with 12 last year. Seager stole three bases, Carpenter stole zero and Beltre stole one base. Seager has reached double-digit steals just one time in his career (13 in 2012), and Carpenter and Beltre are unlikely to steal more than a couple bases. Rendon isn’t a burner, so it’s possible he could be asked to run less frequently this year, but he attempted 18 steals last year and 20 in 2014. The Depth Charts peg him for 10 steals and the Fans are more optimistic with a projection of a dozen steals. Steamer is the least optimistic in the bunch with nine steals projected, but the sub-10 steal projection is the product of projecting him to play in just 138 games. Add his double-digit steal upside to his profile, and Rendon has a strong case for ranking as high as fifth at third base heading into the season. I currently have him ranked behind only the four studs and Villar at third base at Fantasy Pros. Getting a discount on him, according to the ADP data at NFBC and the ECR at Fantasy Pros, is an added bonus.
You can follow Josh on Twitter @bchad50.