Anthony Rendon was a bust in 2015. He hurt his knee in Spring Training and could never get healthy. After exploding for a 21 homer, 17 steal, .287/.351/.473 season in 2014, Rendon was considered to be a second round pick heading into drafts in 2015, but posted just 5 homers and 1 steal over 80 games. Last year, he rewarded owners, who invested in the bounce-back candidate, hitting 20 homers and stealing 12 bases. Playing in 156 games, Rendon scored 91 runs while driving in 85 with a .270 average. All and all, Rendon was an asset in 4 categories, and a non-negative in the fifth.
However, given the home run surge, 20 homers might have been a tad disappointing especially since players that fit Rendon’s high teens/low twenties power profile were the primary beneficiaries in the power surge. Additionally, Rendon’s position – 3B – was the elite position in fantasy with Josh Donaldson, Nolan Arenado, Kris Bryant and Manny Machado all putting together elite seasons. Additionally, Rendon’s contemporaries Kyle Seager, Adrian Beltre, Evan Longoria and Todd Frazier all finished higher in end of season rankings, riding 30+ homer seasons to top Rendon.
Given the similar level of overall success at 2B last season, it is unlikely that Rendon would have endured a much better fate going forward with eligibility there. However, eligibility is always useful, and Rendon no longer has that in his favor. He will be 3B eligible alone next year.
According to early ADP, at 88th overall and as the 9th overall 3B, Rendon is going in front of the following 3B eligible players: Evan Longoria (99.56), Alex Bregman (100.78), Jose Ramirez (101.33), Maikel Franco (124.22), Justin Turner (124.89), Jake Lamb (144.78), Ryon Healy (204.56), Nick Castellanos (206.44), Mike Moustakas (208.33), and Jung Ho Kang (230.67).
That is a list of numerous players that could produce at or beyond what we have seen from Rendon at this point. For instance, last year, Longoria (67), Ramirez (71) and Turner (87) did finish in front of Rendon, but are going ten picks, one round and three rounds later in early ADP respectively. It is fair to wonder how players like Bregman, Franco, Lamb and Castellanos may develop with another year under their belts. Moustakas’s 2015 would have put him in front of Rendon last year and he was on-pace for a better season 2016 before his injury shelved him for the year. Kang might be the best bargain of the bunch because of his off-the-field concerns. If he would have played a full season, Kang might have approached 30 homers.
I find it extremely difficult to see a path to a higher ranking finish for Rendon, but the path to a lower ranking is fairly obvious if he stays stagnant. Additionally, Rendon also carries some fairly significant injury risk – he has a history of knee problems dating back to college. Any missed time would really hamper his overall line, given his lack of an elite power or speed tool. It is not difficult to reduce Rendon to a 15 HR /7 SB player with a couple of DL trips.
Can Rendon increase his power output? What about his stolen bases?
Covering the latter first, it is extremely difficult to project a stolen base surge. We know that in two full, mostly healthy seasons that Rendon stole 17 and 12 bases. Pre-injury, in 2014, Rendon stole 17 on 20 attempts. Last year, post-injury, Rendon stole 12 on 18 attempts – a much worse percentage. If Rendon had the green light on a bad team, then maybe he could steal 25 in a best case. Even with Dusty Baker, who is notorious for his love of the running games, as his manager, his 90% percentile is probably 20 steals at this point.
Without a large jump in steals, can Rendon see a jump in his power output? Looking at the underlying numbers, it sure looks like he tried to increase his power output.
Rendon saw a considerable shift in his batted ball profile. For the first time in his career, Rendon hit more flyballs than groundballs – up over 10% from 2015. Rendon upped his Hard Ct % up to 36.5% from 32.7%. He also pulled the ball slightly more. On the negative side, Rendon’s batting average was harmed by this change because it resulted in 12.5% IFFB%.
Despite a solid, if unspectacular overall Statcast profile for power including above average exit velocity and flyball/line drive velocity, Rendon barreled up the ball in just 3.9% of his plate appearances – a league average amount among hitters with 50 or more batted ball events and an amount well below the league’s elite.
In a world where thirty-six players hit 30 home runs, I would not be totally stunned if Rendon managed to hit that mark, but I do not see enough consistency in his profile to project him for much more than the 20 homers that he hit last year.
Thus, I will be staying away from Rendon at his current ADP. There is not enough upside to warrant gambling on his health especially given the elite production at the top of the position and the depth at the bottom.
My projection: 141 GP, 17 HR, 72 R, 81 RBI, 13 SB, .275/.345/.452