After having watched Gerrit Cole on Friday, I wanted to take a look at Anthony Rendon today. Unfortunately, Rendon was in the lineup once again as the DH, batting fourth. After having spent the last week playing third, he was limited to DH duties this weekend, which means the shoulder is still bothering him. This will be a real concern if it carries further into the season. Anyway, I did watch the entire game and saw all of Rendon’s at bats. Once again I would like to remind everyone that I am not a scout and that I watched the game online. I did not have the benefit of video playback, either, so my analysis of Rendon’s swing will be limited.
Rice faced the University of Central Florida today, capping off this Conference USA opening weekend series. Today’s game was the rubber match, as UCF won Friday 7-2 and Rice took Saturday’s game 6-2. Unfortunately for the Owls, they lost the game today 5-4 dropping their season record to 16-11 and most likely knocking them out of the top 25.
Coming into Sunday, Rendon was 1-for-4 with six walks in the series. With Rendon having been walked 33 times this season, I was curious to find out if he was being pitched around due to the relative weakness of the rest of Rice’s lineup. Well, I cannot speak for the rest of the season but he was not pitched around today. UCF pitchers went right at him and Rendon finished the game going 3-for-5 with a double, one run scored and no walks.
6-foot-7 junior Ray Hanson started for the Knights today. For such a tall kid, Hanson did not bring the velocity I expected. I didn’t get any gun readings today, but his fastball was straight and didn’t really overpower anyone. Hanson went right after Rendon in his first at bat in the bottom of the second. Rendon took a fastball on the outside corner to go down 0-1. He took the second pitch for a ball and fouled off the third, quickly putting him in the hole 1-2. Rendon then took the next pitch for a called strike three on the outside corner.
In the bottom of the fourth, Rendon came to the plate with a runner on first and one out. He uncharacteristically (from what I have read in other reports) swung at a first-pitch fastball on the outer half of the plate and sharply lined the ball up the middle for a base hit. Rendon then attempted to steal second on a full count ball four and promptly stole third because no one was paying attention. It was a very smart and aggressive play, and is evidence of Rendon’s high baseball IQ. He later scored, and Rice broke through for three runs knocking Hanson out of the game. I should point out that in his limited work Hanson was pretty unimpressive. I only saw a couple of average to below average changeups and one terrible curveball.
Rendon showed off his hit tool again in the bottom of the fifth when he turned on a fastball off of lefty Chris Atkins, drilling the ball well over the third baseman’s head down the line in left field for a double. One thing I noticed in that at bat was how fast Rendon gets his hands through the hit zone. It was quite impressive.
In the bottom of the seventh, Rendon faced another lefty, Joe Rogers. Again, I didn’t get any velocity readings today, but Rogers looked like he was throwing hard, at least harder than the other Knights pitchers. Down in the count 1-2 once again, Rendon displayed an excellent two-strike approach taking a pitch low and away, just out of the zone, up the middle for a hard groundball base hit. Given that Rendon takes so many pitches, I was glad to see that he has a very sound two-strike approach where he looks to hit the ball where it’s pitched rather than trying to turn on everything. He has an excellent, and very advanced, approach at the plate.
In the bottom of the ninth, Rendon ended the game when he bounced out to the shortstop.
In all of Rendon's at bats but one, he took the first pitch, and in two of them they were strikes. As stated above, he has an excellent two-strike approach, displaying a consistent ability to go with the pitch. This approach allows him to be selective early in the count and is a likely reason he draws so many walks. He displayed a lot of confidence hitting behind in the count. It is evident to me that he has a plus hit tool. Unfortunately, this was really the only tool I could observe today. Nothing Rendon hit today had any loft, so I wasn’t able to gauge how much power was there. I really wanted to see him get a chance to launch a ball, because his three home runs on the year is a bit of a concern.
I have heard a lot about Rendon’s complicated swing and timing mechanisms. I didn’t observe anything too complicated, but he does have an open stance in which he brings his front foot in as the pitcher is about to throw the ball (this must be the timing mechanism). Rendon is very balanced when he is in his “ready position.” His shoulders are parallel to the ground and his weight is properly loaded on his back foot, which enables him to stay back on breaking pitches. He has extremely quick wrists and excellent arm extension. He explodes through the zone and can easily cover both sides of the plate. Rendon was not off-balance in any of his plate appearances. He did not look fooled nor did he lunge at any pitches. Knights pitchers did not challenge Rendon inside much today, which seems like a missed opportunity, because if there is any weakness at all in Rendon’s open stance, I would think it would be inside.
I would like to see more of Rendon, especially in the field, but he was far and away the best player present, even when he’s just the DH. If he is playing hurt now I cannot wait to see him healthy. I would like to reiterate that Rendon was not pitched around today, which indicates to me that all of the bases on balls he's received may be in part due to his excellent approach at the plate and discipline. Again, I can confirm that he has a plus hit tool. His aggressive approach on the bases also indicated that his ankle must not be in terrible shape.
Rendon is the number one or number two draft prospect this year in large part due to last year’s monster season. Nothing I saw today convinces me that his draft status should change much, if at all. I don’t think he forgot how to hit for power; I am convinced it’s a product of the shoulder injury. Rice announcers indicate that they and members of Rice’s staff believe the same thing. Even if the plus power does not return I think he will still be a player with average power and a very high on-base percentage. That's still really valuable, especially if he is able to play above-average defense. The only real question is how well, and how long, Rendon can play in the field down the road. The three injuries he's endured are all thought to be flukes, but three injuries in two years is a trend to me. That said, if these are fluke injuries and Rendon can return to the field, I definitely can see a potential all-star third baseman.
This post is not meant as an endorsement by me for the Pirates to draft Rendon. It's to early in the season for me to make that call. But the Pirates could sorely use his on base abilities in the middle of their lineup.