In a fittingly ironic finish, injured prospect 3B Anthony Rendon is our top prospect and our least controversial choice. Three of the four voters put him as the best prospect in the system, and the fourth pegged him second. His ceiling is extremely high, but his injuries are certainly a cause for concern.
The Braves drafted Rendon in the 27th round of the 2008 MLB Draft from his high school in Houston, Texas. As you can deduce from the fact that he is a National, he did not sign, and elected to go through with his commitment to Rice University. He had great success his freshman year, including being named the Conference USA Player of the Year after hitting .388 with a .496 OBP. At the end of the year, he tore several ligaments in his right ankle in what would become an unfortunate trend. Rendon’s 2010 was even more successful than his freshman season, as he won the Golden Spikes Award for the nation’s best player. He impressed with the bat and the glove, hitting .394 with 26 home runs in 63 games and committing only four errors. He hit four more home runs than he had strikeouts. After the season, he joined the Team USA Collegiate National Team, but unfortunately broke his right ankle. Coming into 2011, he was widely pegged as the top pick in the draft, but a shoulder injury marred his season. He was forced to play most of his games at DH, and only managed to hit six home runs. Despite the injury, he still managed to hit .323 and lead the nation in walks with 80. Even though his stock was down, Rendon was expected to be taken 2nd overall in the 2011 MLB Draft. The Seattle Mariners chose to pass on him, opting instead for University of Virginia pitcher Danny Hultzen. Their surprising decision began a bit of a slide for Rendon, and the Nationals were fortunate to grab him at sixth overall.
Rendon received rave reviews in 2012 Spring Training, and many who noticed his polish predicted him to be in the majors shortly. But Rendon began his career at High A Potomac, and fractured his left ankle while rounding the bases in his second game. He missed three months of game action, but came back strong, hitting .364 in a Rookie League rehab stint and .333 in High A, including the two games before his injury. After seven games back at Potomac, the Nationals felt comfortable promoting him to AA Harrisburg where he struggled a bit, hitting just .162 in 21 games. His poor performance there is not too much to worry about, however, given the relatively small sample size. He also dispelled many doubts about the season when he dominated the Arizona Fall League, even while facing some of the game’s top pitching prospects. He hit .338/.436/.494 and walked 15 times while striking out only 14 times in 77 at-bats. Although he was inconsistent across various levels of the minors, there is little concern about his stats translating from college. The only legitimate worries stem from his health.
Verdict: Rendon is an incredible talent. His glove is considered good enough to move former Gold Glover and the Face of the Franchise, Ryan Zimmerman, over to first base when Rendon hits the majors in a year or two. He will almost certainly hit for average, walk a ton, and hardly strike out. His power numbers will probably be relatively average, but he will still have plenty of extra base hits. The only reason Rendon is not one of the top ten prospects in baseball is concern over his health. While his three major injuries have come to different parts of his bodies, indicating that they may just be accidents and not indicators of a continuing problem, it does not bode well that he broke both his ankles in three years. For now, it appears most are giving Rendon the benefit of the doubt, and deservedly so, given how recent his injury problems are. But if 2013 becomes his third straight year impacted by a major injury, his stock will drop quickly. If Rendon can stay healthy in 2013, however, he could make a September cameo in the majors and will be one of the game’s best prospects for 2014.