It’s been a tale of two months thus far for Nationals infielder Anthony Rendon. Things started off well for the 23-year-old. In April, he hit .316, with four home runs. After the strong start, the league may have adjusted. Rendon is hitting just .190, with one home run, in May. Despite the recent struggles, Rendon has shown some signs of improvement at the plate during his sophomore season.
Due to the recent slump, Rendon’s overall numbers don’t seem that impressive. His .333 wOBA is an improvement over his .318 mark last season, but it only rates him as slightly above-average. That’s not necessarily a bad thing considering it’s his second season, but it’s a disappointment based on how he started the year. It’s tough to big into the stats when we’re dealing with monthly samples, but it’s unlikely Rendon is as bad as he’s shown in May. While his true talent level hasn’t been established yet, it seems safe to assume he’ll get better.
Rendon has also made some strides at the plate that suggest he’s improved this year. Rendon is showing more optimal batted-ball rates, particularly if he’s going to emerge as a power-hitter. His fly ball rate has jumped from 33.9% to 42.2% this year. Putting more balls in the air has helped Rendon raise his slugging percentage to .452, nearly 60 points higher than it was in 2013. It played a role in Rendon hitting five home runs already, though it should be noted that his 8.1 HR/FB rate is still below the league-average.
Some of that shiny, new slugging percentage is a result of Rendon using the whole field. Rendon has experienced a lot of success going to center and to the opposite field in 2014.
Both Rendon’s slugging percentage and wOBA have improved to the opposite field. And given his pace when it comes to extra base hits, it seems he’s taken more balls up-the-middle and to right at the start of the year. His wOBA to center has improved to about league-average, while his wOBA to right is one of the best rates in the league. This approach may have had a negative impact on his pull numbers, as Rendon has been below-average when taking the ball to left this season. If that can rebound, Rendon’s numbers should take a step forward, even if his opposite field rates drop.
The issue here is that we don’t have an accurate idea of what Rendon’s end of season numbers will be. As is, it would still represent an improvement over his rookie season, and would put him in good shape considering his age and room for growth. At the same time, adjustments need to be made. Rendon needs to discover his pull power again, and he’ll need to start hitting righties better — he’s posted a 92 wRC+ against them thus far. But the minor improvements have given hope that Rendon has what it takes to adjust. Though the current slump may be concerning, there’s still a lot of potential in his bat.
Chris is a blogger for CBSSports.com. He has also contributed to Sports on Earth, the 2013 Hard Ball Times Baseball Annual, ESPN, FanGraphs and RotoGraphs. He tries to be funny on twitter @Chris_Cwik.