Apr 2, 2014; New York, NY, USA; Washington Nationals second baseman Anthony Rendon (6) makes it safely back to first base ahead of a tag by New York Mets first baseman Josh Satin (13) on a pickoff attempt during the fifth inning of a game at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
Off days give the players a much needed break, allowing time with family or to relax, but most importantly, off days give me the opportunity to waste hours on the web, seeing just how many customizable reports I can create on Fangraphs. It’s a gray, rainy Monday. Perfect. The Carpenters and John Fogarty probably sang a song about this.
Anthony Rendon is 23 years old. He starts at 2B for a team with World Series aspirations. While uncommon, it is not rare. Kolten Wong is also 23 years old, four months younger. He also starts at 2B for a team with World Series aspirations. Slightly older division contemporaries include Padre Jedd Gyorko, 25, and Dodger Dee Gordon, 26. This saddens me. I wanted Rendon to be singular. Fine. There are others. They are all young and talented, but Rendon started me down this trail. How good is he supposed to be?
Projecting stats can be tricky, especially when you’re projecting for a player who has played a whopping 98 big league games, but it’s not my math, so I’m not the one inventing complicated formulas. Fangraphs projects Rendon in ’14 to accumulate 2.9 WAR. This seems low to me. Fangraphs obviously lies. Baseball Prospectus also buys low on Rendon, projecting ‘14 at 3.0. Stupid formulas. This is the consensus though. So, how many players 23 or younger accumulated at least a 2.9 WAR, and who are Rendon’s comparables, according to Baseball Prospectus?
In the last forty years, there have been 41 occurrences of a 2B generating a 2.9+ WAR, with the high being Ryne Sandburg at 8 in ’84 and Dustin Ackley just making the cut at 2.9 in ’11. Surprising me a little, Danny Espinosa recorded a 3.2 in ’11. Open the list to 3B, a position Rendon sometimes plays, and we can include an additional 67 players, topping out with Mike Schmidt’s ridiculous 9.4 in ’74. David Wright and Evan Longoria (twice) also top this list.
Why only forty years? These were the players I recognized and watched and to whom shared more in common with the modern game. Does Cupid Childs’ 1890-92 make for a relevant comparison? Not unless you’re discussing names.
I learned a few things here. One, Willie Randolph was better than I remembered. A lot better. He appeared on the list four times, generating 4.6, 4.2, 5.2, and 5.4 from ’76-79. Also, I forgot how well Delino DeShields and Carlos Baerga played early in their respective careers. Each seemed to follow a similar career arc, peaking early at All Star level play, then fading away to serviceable players after only a few seasons.
It’s tough to say which path youth takes. Rendon’s comparables include Dustin Ackley and Gordon Beckham. Both Ackley (2.9) and Beckham (2.5) had strong first seasons but have settled into barely above replacement level. The same goes for Mike Moustakas, another comparable; his 3.1 WAR in ’12 has been his best season by a mile.
Then again, on that list is Robinson Cano. Gulp. Is that possible for Rendon? If the ceiling is Roberto Alomar or Cano, is seeing Rendon a few floors down with Willie Randolph being way too optimistic? He’s 23 for God’s sake. This is his first full season. He hasn’t even mastered that V for Vendetta soul-patch, mustache thing he’s working now.
There is time.
The great thing about young ballplayers is that they’re unfinished products. Who knows what happens when they peak? If they peak. If they play great ball like Chuck Knoblauch until the day they can’t throw the ball to first anymore. Anything can happen. Good or bad.
It’s raining outside. It’s an off day. Rainy days and off days…