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I believe in Anthony Rendon. I remember the exact moment I came to feel so strongly about Rendon as a player and as a key part of the future of the Washington Nationals. I was sitting in the bleachers in the Pfitz and up walked Anthony Rendon. A sense of anticipation fell over the crowd. The entire place was waiting for something to happen. Rendon is one of the best pure and natural hitters I've ever seen. He has a rare combination of bat speed, plate coverage, and plate discipline, and on that day in Woodbridge it was all on display.  

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Anthony Rendon: Making a Case for Minneapolis

Anthony Rendon was the 6th overall pick by the Nationals in the 2011 MLB First Year Player Draft. Despite being injured and in question through the draft process, that Nationals went with him anyway. He made his way through the system and finally made his major league debut last season in 2013. He came up to fill a spot on the bench, but ultimately found himself in the starting nine due to the struggles of Danny Espinosa. Now in 2014, Rendon has jumped between playing second and third base, and has been a force with the glove and with the bat. Rendon has surprisingly found a power stroke, clubbing a total of 12 home runs so far this season, which already tops his 2013 total of seven. He has also helped support a lineup that has seen absences of Ryan Zimmerman and Bryce Harper for periods of time by supplying a 27 RAR and a 2.7 WAR, which has steadily climbed as the season has gone along, and continue to do so. What does the typical all star in MLB have for a WAR? On average, that answer is a 5.0.

Rendon's offensive numbers outlast some past all stars such as Hunter Pence, Robinson Cano, and Chase Utley. He is tops in the league in slugging percentage and OPS. So based on that, it still shouldn't be enough, right?

Looking at Rendon, past all of his offensive statistics, his all around game as been exciting to watch for some of the more common fans of MLB. Not just can the kid hit, but his defense has been superb, only committing 8 errors this season, all coming at third base. He has not committed an error while playing second base, while sporting an overall fielding percentage of .978. He has been able to make the tough plays when needed. Also as a side note, he has established himself as a viable fantasy baseball option, with plenty of value due to his dual position eligibility.

But in all seriousness, Rendon has been someone who has been a bright light and sparkplug in a Nationals offense that has had their tough streaks throughout the season. He is still young, and this fact shouldn't hurt him when it comes time to name the all-star teams. But it probably will, as he does not have the time in and the fan popularity to get in. The only National besides Rendon that is statistically better overall is Adam LaRoche, who has quietly put together a fantastic season. Surprisingly being ranked in the top-10 in many categories, LaRaoche may also go unrecognized for the Mid-Summer Classic.

The MLB All-Star Game is Minneapolis on Tuesday, July 15th at 7 p.m.

What Happens if Danny Espinosa Wins his Job Back

Today at Natsfest Danny Espinosa said he was promised the chance to compete for the starting second base job in Spring Training and in his opinion if given that opportunity he will win his job back. Given how poorly Espinosa performed in 2013 and how Anthony Rendon seemingly saved the position from total ruin it sounds impossible, but baseball isn't built on recency bias. Rendon's .265/.329/.396 batting line is good for a second baseman but it isn't too much different than Danny Espinosa's .242/.319/.408 batting line from 2011-2012. Over those two season's Danny Espinosa was one of the top second basemen in baseball racking up a 6.6 fWAR and ranking as the sixth best second baseman in baseball. 

Much of this was based on Danny Espinosa's defensive ability but his .727 OPS ranked twelfth among second basemen and was over the average MLB OPS for the position of .694 in 2011 and .689 in 2012. Danny Espinosa was an above average hitting second baseman in both 2011 and 2012. When that was paired with his defense it made him one of the best second basemen in baseball. The casual fan had issues with this because they didn't count defense as important, couldn't wrap their head around the concept of positional scarcity, and struggled to realize that strikeouts are just another form of outs. When it comes right down to it in 2013 Danny Espinosa was awful, and because of that both recency bias and confirmation bias took hold and the call to get rid of Danny Espinosa was answered when he went on the DL and Anthony Rendon took his spot.

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Anthony Rendon the Second Baseman

There is a scene in the movie Moneyball where manager Art Howe refuses toplay Scott Hatteberg at first base because he has a first baseman in Carlos Pena and Hatteberg is not a first baseman. Anthony  Rendon is not a second baseman and the Nats have a natural second baseman in Steve  Lombardozzi . The chances that the Nats situation goes the way of the A's situation is unlikely as Rizzo and Davey have often been in step when it comes to moves. There have been some recent signs that maybe Davey isn't too keen on the new guys. In a recent interview about the Nats bench struggles Davey Johnson said he was going to keep using the guys he saw do it last year over the new guys like Eury  Perez

or Jeff  Kobernus , and just this past weekend in Atlanta Davey Johnson used Henry Rodriguez

over the recently called up Erik  Davis in the 10th inning of a tie game, and the very next day, when down by one, called on Zach  Duke again over Erik Davis.  

Davey Johnson was going to use the guys he had and he was going to favor the guys that helped him win 98 games last season. Mike Rizzo has since removed three of those guys with Henry Rodriguez and Zach Duke being designated and Danny  Espinosa being placed on the disabled list. In Espinosa's place Anthony Rendon was recalled from the minors. He didn't start last night and at second was natural second baseman Steve Lombardozzi who hit the walk-off sac fly in the bottom of the ninth. With Bryce Harper still hurt it is possible to play both Lombardozzi and Rendon and then decide from there who should play second, but the decision of the front office is already obvious. Anthony Rendon wasn't called up to sit, and after just three games at second in the minors the Nationals are ready for him to be their everyday second baseman.

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Thoughts on Bryce Harper and Anthony Rendon on a Sunday Morning Coming Down

Mike Trout and Bryce Harper will forever be linked. They got called up on the same day last April, both made the All-Star team, and both won rookie of the year. The only issue is that everyone forgets that Trout had a disappointing age 19 season and so the comparison was always age 20 Trout to age 19 Harper. Through the magic of stats we can track how Mike Trout was doing through his first 16 games as a 20 year old to how Harper is doing so far this season. Instead of comparing the age 21 Trout to the age 20 Harper we'll compare apples to apples. Through his first 16 games last season Mike Trout hit an impressive .333/.391/.567 with 3 homeruns. Through his first 16 games as a 20 year old Bryce Harper is hitting .371/.426/.758 with 7 homeruns.   ​

It should be noted that not one of those stats leads the majors and it is very early in the 2013 season. It is also impossible to say that Harper will regress to the mean because as a second year player he has no defined mean. What can be said is that while it is unlikely for Harper to keep it up it isn't impossible for him to do just that. The best OPS ever for a 20 year old was Mel Ott's 1.084 in 1929 and so far in 2013 Harper is at 1.185. Harper's numbers could drop, but they also could not. It is a long season and a lot is going to happen between now and October. By the way Mel Ott also holds the record for most homers hit by a 20 year old with 42. At 7 through 16 games Harper is on pace to hit 65 if he played in 150 games. While 65 homers is extremely unlikely more than 42 is well within reach.  

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Danny Espinosa's Good Spring Lost in the Shuffle

It has become a spring rite of passage around Natstown for the desire toreplace on middle infielder with a younger fresher model even if said prospect has yet to learn the middle infield. Last season the trendy thought was to trade Desmond, move Espinosa to short, and start Lombardozzi at second. Lombardozzi had a good spring, but the Nats viewed him as more of a utility player and that is where he ended up while Ian Desmond went on to have a career year batting .295/.335/.511. Lombardozzi was important to the Nats filling in for Werth, Zimmerman, Morse, and Desmond when they all missed time and softening the blow normally associated with losing a star player. 

As intense as the Espinosa vs. Desmond debate was last Spring Training, it wasn't without merit. Up until that point in his career Desmond was barely a 1.0 fWAR player and his only true value was derived from positional scarcity. Danny Espinosa in his rookie season was a 3.5 fWAR player and some scouts had him as a better defensive shortstop than Desmond. That argument made a lot more sense than the one to replace a 3.8 fWAR, top 10, second baseman with a minor league corner infielder that has never played the middle infield for a sizable stretch.   

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A Look at the Nats' Minor League Disappointments

The year 2012 has been pretty awesome for the Washington Nationals at the major league level, but there were quite a few disappointments amongst their good prospects. Due to the trading of four top-15 prospects in the Gio Gonzalez deal and having Bryce Harper, Steve Lombardozzi and Tyler Moore graduate to the big leagues, the Nats’ top prospect list looks much weaker than it did in December.

Some players who I expected to fall into the places left by Harper, AJ Cole, Brad Peacock, etc. looked good this year; we’ll take a look at guys like Brian Goodwin and Alex Meyer in a few weeks. On the other hand, many other prospects that we’ll look at today underwhelmed in 2012 and will need to work hard this winter to bounce back in 2013. There are two categories that the disappointments fall into: injuries or poor performance. The prospects with the highest ceilings were generally the ones that had injury issues this year while the borderline guys fell into the wrong side of the border with poor performance.
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Ryan Zimmerman, Defense, and First Base

Over the last couple of games Ryan Zimmerman's arm has become an issue, or put more aptly it has been made an issue by some. Before going very far in this I would like to introduce the Bill James defensive spectrum (read more about it here). The basic concept of it is that the most difficult positions defensively are in order catcher, short stop, second base, centerfield, third base, right field, left field, and first base. First base is the easiest position to fill defensively and not much defense is expected from that position. It is where an NL team might stick a player like Adam Dunn or Michael Morse to hide their defensive flaws. The limited defensive ability required to play the four bottom positions is why the saying exists, "Defense up the middle, power at the corners."
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