Washington Nationals Anthony Rendon: Bounceback in 2016?

When assessing what is the weakest fantasy baseball position heading into 2016, it seems as though that it is clear that second base yields the least amount of viable fantasy producers. While there are some obvious studs, the rest of the class is littered with question marks and flawed selections.

One of the most intriguing cases, is if Anthony Rendon can bounceback anywhere close to the first round type of production that he showed in 2014. He is not only instrumental in solidifying the Nationals lineup, he could also be a great buy low candidate for owners this season at the worse position on the board.

Now the first thing to note, is that the Nats will fully insert Rendon at third base in 2016 in order to not only reduce the wear and tear on his legs, but to also make room for the newly acquired Daniel Murphy. Rendon has shown that he is proficient at both spots, but the 59 games he played at second base will give him the much needed boost of being eligible at second.

Rendon has been considered a top prospect since he was drafted in 2011 out of Rice University and ever since he stepped foot in the Nationals system, he was ranked highly on all of the top prospect charts. The talent is clearly there as he has shown the ability to make solid contact at the plate, offer decent power and showed the ability to be a speed threat during his breakout in 2014.

But, as good as he may be, it does not matter if he cannot stay on the field. Rendon has battled injuries dating back to his college days and showed last season that he can be prone to nagging ailments. Last season he battled a sprained MCL, a quad injury and eventually an oblique problem, clearly derailing his season.

He managed to play 80 games last season, obviously failing to reach the potential and hype that he had mustered after a great 2014 campaign. Rendon’s 2014 was phenomenal as he posted a, .287/21 HR/83 RBI/17 SB/111 R/.824 OPS, and many owners contemplated taking him early in the draft.

The Nationals were injury ravaged all season, but I would hold that the loss of Rendon was the biggest setback of all to overcome. Imagine how many more RBI that Bryce Harper could have gotten with Rendon in front of him and the counting stats that Rendon could have posted if he batted in front of Harper last season.

One of the biggest signs of optimism that drafters can have towards taking Rendon this season, has to be the lineup he will be in. As it sits right now, Rendon would probably man the second spot of the lineup where he would hit behind Ben Revere, and be followed by Harper, Daniel Murphy, and Ryan Zimmerman.

The counting stats that these five could help Rendon post, if healthy, would serve as a huge fantasy boost for all parties involved. Not to mention the whispers that some guy named, Yoenis Cespedes, could be coming to town as well. Clearly the situation Rendon is in, serves as a plus to drafting him in 2016.

Even though it was a shortened sample size in 2015, Rendon’s batted ball data pretty much aligns with what he showed in 2014. The biggest difference was that with him only hitting five homers last season, something had to give whether it was because of the injuries or whatever, because his GB% rose 5% and his FB% rate fell by 6% last season. But, he continued making solid contact producing a Med%, or balls off the bat at medium speed, of 55% and only a 12.7% Soft%. So, for him to flirt with the 20+ HR mark, he will have to get his FB% ratio back near the 40% mark, which he should be able to do based on the solid contact ability he still shows.

The bigger question with his value will be if he can maintain the SB output that he produced in 2014. Now with all the lower half injuries he had in 2015, it came as no surprise to see him only attempt three steals all season, but with a clean offseason so far, will the Nats give him the green light again?

This is where they hope that the move to third can help Redon’s durability. Third base offers him the chance to reduce the lateral ground that he has to cover and it prevents him from the wear and tear of base runners coming into him headstrong at second. Dusty Baker has also never been one to shy away from allowing his players to be aggressive on the basepaths, so Rendon should not have a problem of at least getting near 15 SB this season.

Everything in baseball comes down to luck and injuries. Baseball tends to be even more troublesome, because all it takes is one awry pitch or one fluky play to cost a player significant time. Rendon is no stranger to being dinged up, last season he his knee issue came from diving in a spring training game, which eventually turned into a quad issue. So, if he does not dive for that ball in a meaningless game, would we still be having this discussion? The oblique is warning flag, but it is impossible for us to be able to determine if that is a product of being injury prone or having bad luck.

Thanks to second base being so bad this season, Rendon still warrants consideration amongst being one of the first players taken at the position. Many will be scared off of him after last season and his history, so the chance to buy low on him is hard to pass up. Monitor him this spring to make sure he does not get nagged by anything, because if he can enter the season with a clean slate his potential is huge.

2016 Early Projections: 140 GP/.285 AVG/18 HR/80 RBI/15 SB/100 R/.800 OPS