Anthony Rendon was a steady force last season for fantasy owners and the Nationals. Yet, is his fantasy value still intriguing heading into 2017?
Prospect hype is something that fantasy owners and the baseball community love to help create. While some players reach that hype and others never do, it is also interesting to watch prized prospects along their journey. Anthony Rendon entered the league with huge hype for the Nationals as the Rice University alum looked pro-ready as soon as he was drafted. While injuries have slowed his journey somewhat, he has been able to showcase his talent.
He ended the 2016 season with a .270/20 HR/85 RBI/12 SB/91 R/.797 OPS line after playing in a career-high 156 games. His bounce back performance would earn him NL Comeback Player of the Year honors after he was robbed of his 2015 season due to a myriad of injuries. Those fantasy owners that showed faith in him and drafted him last spring were well rewarded for their efforts.
Things in 2016 did not start out so well for Rendon. He was dreadful the first month of the season, posting only a .242/1 RBI/.596 OPS line over the first 23 games of the season. Luckily, he turned things around in May and would go to notch at least 3 HR/12 per month throughout the rest of the season. He especially caught fire over the second half of the season, producing a .291/11 HR/52 RBI/.866 OPS line.
The third base position is usually never lacking for talent, and this season will be no different. Nolan Arrenado, Kris Bryant, Manny Machado and Josh Donaldson clearly make up the first tier, but after those big four things get interesting.
This is where Rendon’s talent and value become intriguing. The clear red flag with Rendon are the injuries. He is no stranger to them and did miss most of 2015 because of it. But, now that he has proven that his 2014 breakout was no fluke, could owners target him for both his floor production and possible further upside?
Anthony Rendon broke out for the Nationals in 2014 with a .287/21 HR/83 RBI/17 SB line. His batted ball data that season read as followed, 20% LD, 40% GB, 40% FB, 48% Med, and 38% Hard contact rates.
Last season, his batted ball data was nearly identical except for in a few key areas. In 2016 he posted, 21% LD, 36% GB, 44% FB, 50% Med, and 37% Hard contact rates. This set of impressive ratios would lead him notch 38 2B last season as well.
The clear difference between his breakout season and in 2016, was that he cut his GB rate while raising his FB rate over 40%. This is a very interesting development in his game because not only does it point to possible more power output, but also a repeatable skill. He also made harder contact last season, which can further be seen in his 404 ft. average distance per homer, a 4 ft. increase from 2014.
The hardest area to pinpoint in Rendon’s game are the SB numbers. He had 17 SB in 20 attempts in 2014 and 12 SB out of 18 attempts last season. After his slow start, he was well on pace to post a 20 SB season, but once he was moved down in the order he stopped running. Over the last two months of the season, he did not even attempt a steal.
As he stands now, he is a solid four-category producer. That solidifies him as a top-10 option. He looks to be slotted to bat in the fifth spot again in 2017. The addition of Adam Eaton likely pushes him down to that spot, but there is also the possibility of him and Daniel Murphy flip-flopping between the three and five spots. But, Rendon will be in a prime position to hit the 90 RBI mark for the first time in his career this season no matter where he hits.
Dusty Baker has never been shy about letting his runners have the green light at all times on the base paths. While Rendon will more than likely not be close to a 20 SB performer for the Nationals that we saw in 2014, he should have no issue staying in the 12-15 range. Add that to his possible, .280/25 HR/90 RBI line, and what you have is a third baseman who offers safety and the upside to flirt with a top-5 status.
There will be those owners that are rightfully scared off by his injury-plagued season in 2015. But, underneath that is a rock solid performer two of the last three seasons. His floor is great thanks to his supporting cast, and his current skill set. But, he is one of the rare picks after the big four that offers solid production and the chance for a further breakout. Do not be afraid to target Anthony Rendon in 2017.