Phillies Opposition Roadblock: Anthony Rendon

May 24, 2016; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Nationals third baseman Anthony Rendon (6) celebrates with teammates after hitting s solo home run during the fourth inning against the New York Mets at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports
May 24, 2016; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Nationals third baseman Anthony Rendon (6) celebrates with teammates after hitting s solo home run during the fourth inning against the New York Mets at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports /

The Philadelphia Phillies visit the Washington Nationals for a weekend series, and the hot Nats 3rd baseman could be a major roadblock.

Before I write a spirited article about how talented Anthony Rendon is, I want to touch on a couple of brief topics.

First, I apologize for missing my usual ‘Opposition Roadblock’ series piece with the Chicago Cubs.  It was the last few days of school for my second grade students, and those are the busiest days of my calendar year.

However, if I would have written one, I would have probably chosen the entire team.  Let me put this into perspective for you, my friends:

  • The Phillies have one player with more than 30 RBI: Maikel Franco with his 32.  The next closest teammate to the 3rd baseman is Freddy Galvis…with22.  The Cubs?  They have four players with over 30 (two of those have 40+).  Jayson Heyward is 6th on the team with one less than Galvis at 21.
  • The Cubs run differential as of today is +149.  The next closest in baseball?  The Boston Red Sox with +70.  Yes, the Cubs have doubled up baseball in run differential without a DH.

In other words, the Chicago Cubs are really good.  Hopefully, the Phillies are on their way to the same type of success in the next couple of seasons, which leads me to the next thing I would like to mention.

Without going into too much detail because our staff has already done a nice job of it, I love the first two 2016 MLB Amateur Draft picks.  I wanted Kyle Lewis, but Mickey Moniak is a safer pick with a higher upside.  Nice to think we could see an outfield in 2020 of Randolph/Cozens+Moniak+Williams.

Now to the real reason you are all here.  You want to know why Rendon is the player I chose for the Phillies to try to stop this weekend, hopeful that the team can make a quick return to success.

The answer on the choice of Rendon is simple: he is red-hot right now.  One thing I know about Rendon is that the talent is there.  Health may be a concern, but when a guy this talented gets hot, he can carry a team through a series, a week, or an entire month of the schedule.

I was pretty critical of Rendon after the first month of the 2016 season when he was only hitting .242 with a OBP of .310 and a .286 slugging percentage.  However, over the last month, the 26-year old has raised his batting average 20 points and is getting on base nearly 35% of the time, which is around his career average.

The improvements will more than likely continue as the season progresses.  Rendon will hit as he gains more comfort after an injury-plagued 2015.

The 2B/3B only played 80 games last season.  He missed time due to many ailments.  It seemed like every time he found himself back in the lineup, his body found something else wrong with itself.

The frustration for someone with elite talent but not being able to use it must be incomparable.  It was only a year before that when we had seen how much of a difference-maker Rendon can truly be.

In 2014, his first full season, Rendon won the Silver Slugger Award because of an extremely consistent line (.287/.351/.473) tied to his 21 homeruns, 83 RBIs, and 111 runs scored.  The runs scored stat lead the National League.

I remember watching Rendon play, thinking how much of a terror he was going to be.  Then, injuries destroyed the former first rounder’s hopes at back-to-back successful campaigns.

I took him as a bounce-back candidate this season in all of my fantasy leagues, hoping he would move toward the success he had in 2014.  While he had a rough first month, the year is starting to turn for him.

And do not forget one of the key components to this whole equation: Bryce Harper.  The hotter Rendon gets, the more effective he will be hitting in front of Harper.  If he can find ways to get on base, the Nationals may not have to worry about teams walking Harper every time he strides to the plate.

Rendon, who turned 26 years old just this week, is still a guy the Phillies can get out if they pitch him smartly and effectively.

He is different from most hitters in that in many cases, pitchers do not want to make mistakes up in the zone.  However, with Rendon, you want to tie him up high in the zone.  Mistakes come to him down in the zone.  He loves to go down and get pitches at his knees.

Rendon has a very pretty inside-out swing and loves to hit the ball the other way on pitches down in the zone.  Anything knee level over the heart of the plate toward the left-handed side of the zone, and Rendon will go get it.

Most of the outs that the Nationals’ 3rd baseman makes are more or less ground ball outs when pitchers force him to pull.  If he can get a pitch to drive to right field, you can believe that he will do it.

Jeremy Hellickson, Aaron Nola, and perhaps Adam Morgan are going to have to find ways to keep the ball up in the zone and in on Rendon’s hands this weekend.  If they struggle and make mistakes to him down in the zone, Rendon’s climb up the statistical ladder will continue and the Phillies descent in the standings will also continue.