Any long term discussion about Anthony Rendon is full of caveats:
Yes, but He can’t stay healthy — he hasn’t put up more than 160 plate appearances at any level or in any calendar year. Yes, but he’s probably a third baseman and the incumbent is pretty good — no matter how bad Ryan Zimmerman’s throws look, there’s still a first baseman signed to a fairly decent contract staring at Zimmerman accross the diamond. Yes, but we don’t know how good the power will actually be — power takes the longest to stabilize, and Rendon has not yet put up a one-year, one-level sample that’s big enough to really be predictive.
Yeah those caveats are all fine and good, but Anthony Rendon is healthy and in the big leagues. Right now.
His debut didn’t start out well — Rendon whiffed twice and made a throwing error Sunday — but Rendon has a lot going for him. The limited statistical record we have of him is remarkably consistent. In only 225 minor league plate appearances, his walk rate is 16.4% (13.4% in his biggest one-level sample), and he’s walked in double-digits at every stop. His strikeout rate was 16.9% and 19.5% in his biggest sample. His isolated slugging percentage on the farm was .243, and the only time was he was closer to average than above-average was in rookie ball, where he had a .156 ISO (in 94 plate appearances).
Rendon can make contact, and has a great sense of the strike zone.
Mark Anderson wrote him up and said:
Rendon offers the bat speed and enough loft in his swing to elicit projections of at least 20-25 home runs annually. When his offense is in a groove, the power comes naturally and he doesn’t have to gear up for it as he did at times during his junior year of college. When he works from gap-to-gap, he has the pitch recognition skills to identify pitches he can turn on and hammer to left field. If that recognition remains intact at the big league level – and there is no reason to believe otherwise – then he should be able to add a strong power showing to his already outstanding hitting ability.
RotoGraphs graduate J.D. Sussman agreed with Anderson in general, telling me “Rendon isn’t a physically imposing player, but his ability to make quality contact, sound approach and good bat speed should allow him to produce average or better power for a third baseman. (15-20)”
But in Anderson’s comparison, which otherwise provides some real-life reasons that Rendon might be preferable to Nolan Arenado (better patience and defense), the author also admits that though Rendon has the contact ability to hit .300 in the bigs, that it’s Arenado that “has a freakish feel for contact” and “adjusts so quickly to the path of the ball that he can make contact on virtually any pitch thrown to him.” Then you look at Rendon’s .249 minor league batting average, and you can see that he might be a surer thing in on-base percentage leagues.
There are probably dynasty owners considering this comparison right now. Arenado is hitting close to .400 with more power in the minor leagues, but Rendon is in the bigs now. Arenado has the sweet home park waiting for him, and only Chris Nelson in the way long-term. Since Ryan Zimmerman will take at least two weeks to rest his hammy, it might make sense to audition the National now, but it’s the Rockie with the freakish contact ability that probably makes the better long-term speculative add.
With a phone full of pictures of pitchers' fingers, strange beers, and his two toddler sons, Eno Sarris can be found at the ballpark or a brewery most days. Read him here, writing about the A's or Giants at The Athletic, or about beer at October. Follow him on Twitter @enosarris if you can handle the sandwiches and inanity.