Up the Middle: Anthony Rendon
This will be the last Up the Middle post for a bit as the much anticipated dynasty rankings will be coming out shortly. We’ve talked about a bunch of good middle infielders in these posts, including both prospects and major leaguers. This week we’ll take a look at a second baseman who is just starting his major league career: Anthony Rendon. With some guy named Bryce Harper in front of him on the Nationals prospect depth chart, Rendon might not have received the white hot spotlight, but he was ranked #30 on Baseball America’s top 100 prospects list heading into the 2013 season. It took an early June injury to Danny Espinosa to bring him up for good and in 98 games for the Nats he smacked 7 home runs while hitting .265/.329/.396. Nothing earth shattering, but also nothing to sneeze at for his first year in the bigs. Its important to keep in mind that second base was rather new to him as well, with most of his games in the minors coming at third base. So what makes Rendon a good target for dynasty league owners?
For starters, he’s been handed the keys to the starting second base job at just 23 years old, and barring injury he should see ample opportunities for counting stats in a solid Nationals lineup. Secondly, his minor league numbers point to a player that has patience and power. Those two things play up at third base but they play way up at a shallower position like second base, where power doesn’t exactly grow on trees. While it’s not a huge sample to draw from (only 101 games in 2 years), he posted a 16% walk rate in the minors to go along with a .955 OPS. Furthermore, his peripherals in the majors look good even after just one season. His contact percentage in 2013 (88%) was 8 points higher than league average and put him in the top ten among second basemen (min. 350 PA). Meanwhile, his GB% (41%) and HR/FB ratio (7.2%) are very similar to what another promising young middle infielder named Jurickson Profar did in 2013 (41%/7.7%).
It’s not all rosy for Rendon though. There are some legitimate questions surrounding him and my argument that he makes a great second baseman in dynasty leagues. First of all, it’s no secret that the Nationals have toyed with the idea of moving Ryan Zimmerman across the diamond when Adam LaRoche’s contract expires at the end of the 2014 season. While I think Matt Skole would be a good option to replace Zimmerman, he recently underwent Tommy John surgery that derailed his 2013 season. There’s a chance that the Nats leave Zimmerman where he is or find some other answer at third, but we can’t discount the fact that Rendon has experience there and is a candidate to move off of second base. Also, his health is a question mark. I’m the first one to say that fantasy owners shouldn’t worry about the injury Bogeyman when a player is currently healthy, but Rendon has had several ankle injuries including one in 2009, 2010, and 2012. If he does end up at second base long term, the Nationals might be playing with fire as manning the keystone would put him at greater risk for injury.
I’ll take the upside in the bat and roll the dice on an injury or a change in position.