The buzz surrounding Anthony Rendon is whipping into shape after he was announced first-team preseason All-American by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association on Wednesday.
Once again Rendon was also named Area Preseason College Baseball Player of the Year by the Houston Athletic Committee. Rendon is the first player in the 26-year history of the awards dinner to repeat as the preseason college player of the year.
Buster Olney had this to say in his blog about Rendon:
The Pirates will have the No. 1 pick in next year’s draft, and the player widely considered to be the best player is Rice third baseman Anthony Rendon, who scouts say has the talent to play in the majors within a year after the draft. “If he and [Bryce] Harper were in the same draft, I think I’d take Rendon because he plays in the infield,” said one rival talent evaluator. “Their [offensive] skills are comparable.”
Rendon was the winner of the Dick Howser Trophy this season. He was the nation’s top player after belting more homers (26) than strikeouts (22.) He drove in 85 Rice teammates and hit.394.
The big questions are will he be fully recovered from his ankle injury and will he continue to dominate this season? When you read what is being written about Rendon, it’s hard not to get excited about the thought of him in black and gold. Should the recurring injuries bother the Pirates, their is a wealth of talented arms available as well including right handed pitcher Gerrit Cole of UCLA, Matthew Purke a left hander from TCU, and Taylor Jungmann a right hander from Texas.
But when reading what Keith Law gathered on Rendon it’s hard to fathom the Pirates taking any other player but the man from Rice:
A few things that jump out at you about Rendon’s approach: He generates tremendous bat speed, and creates good whip. He’s got a really disciplined approach; he identifies pitches early and his walk-to-strikeout ratio is extraordinarily good. Rendon is short, but still has plenty of power and the chance to add a little more weight to his frame.
If the recurring ankle problems scare the Pirates away, there are several pitchers waiting for their name to be called. Gerrit Cole is a right hander from UCLA with a plus fastball (93-95) that allowed him to whiff 153 batters while walking 52 in 123 innings last spring.
Matthew Purke is a lefty from TCU that went 16-0 last season striking out 142 and walking 34 in 116.1 innings.
Taylor Jungmann is a right hander from Texas. Jungmann struck out 129 batters and issued a free pass just 41 times in his 121 innings.
Law’s profile earlier this year on Rendon was glowing. After reading this it will be difficult to imagine the Pirates shying away unless something serious happens between now and draft day.
Add in Gold Glove-caliber hands at third base, and the player who stayed local after hitting a respectable .570 as a Houston-area high school senior should have GMs chomping at the bit after he lays waste to college pitching for another year.
“I’m just a reaction hitter,” Rendon says. “I see it early and react. I wouldn’t even want to know what’s coming. It’d mess me up.”
Others aren’t so nonchalant about Rendon’s talents, and in a sport where only about one of every 13 drafted players cracks a big league roster, even the most experienced of observers are predicting great things.
“He’s got eye-popping, God-given abilities,” says a long time National League scout. “He plays both sides of the game. The kid’s capable of All-Stars, of MVPs.”
“He’s got a buggy-whip,” says another NL talent evaluator.
In other words, while his swing is fairly compact, Rendon’s hand action and bat speed are such that the bat whips through the zone — think Rickie Weeks, Gary Sheffield, Alfonso Soriano — creating extra torque, and power that belies a short, not terribly stocky 5-foot-11, 180-pound frame.
“He’s still a little under-developed and could add power as he gains some maturity,” says the scout. “But even then, he has all the physical abilities right now.”
Rendon has never heard of the term “buggy whip” but admits his swing is not totally normal. His hands are moving as the pitch is delivered, and he loads them slightly while his body rocks back into its rhythm. What stands out about Rendon’s approach is how loose it looks.
The word “whip” sounds as though it’s a product of a violent jerking forward of the hands and torso, but Rendon’s swing is free and easy with good hip action. His approach can remind you a little of Evan Longoria, not necessarily in stance, but in the measured approach. His look against live pitching is almost indecipherable from batting practice, whereas many players barely re-set before the next pitch is on its way.
And Rendon doesn’t like to mess with it. After a recent bad spell in the Team USA trials, he admitted maybe he’d consider a change here or there, but “I wasn’t really seeing the ball like I usually do” — which, given his earlier description, sounds like Bill Gates complaining about misplacing his checkbook — “but I’m pretty stubborn with my approach in general.”
Rendon’s ease at the plate is mirrored in the field. Another talent evaluator from the NL West, sees him developing into a glove comparable to Scott Rolen’s at third base, and his soft hands go well with plus range after a move from his high school position of shortstop. Rendon says he just tries “to knock it down and lob it over.”
Are you ready?
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