Who Will Lead Off for the 2016 Nationals?

Anthony Rendon

The 25-year-old third baseman started 2015 hoping to build off an exhilarating 6.5-WAR 2014 campaign. Instead, he suffered two significant injuries – one in spring training to his knee, and another to his oblique mid-season – and never found any traction. Sadly, injuries have dampened two of his three big-league years, but there is still good information to be gleaned here.

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The power numbers are low, but we see that even in these two “down” years, he’s posted on-base percentages that were above league average. His “floor” in this category is still solid, and that alone would make him an attractive candidate for batting first.

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In his one truly healthy year, Rendon both struck out less and walked more often than an average NL hitter. His two injury-plauged years hovered closer to average in all categories. Taken as a whole, even the worst-case scenario shows that this is a player who can effectively set the proverbial table.

Also of note: he came awfully close to a 20/20 season in 2014, laser-beaming 21 home runs while stealing 17 bags in 20 tries, an exemplary 85% success rate.

That year, Rendon drove scouts and pitchers mad as they tried to punch holes in his swing. Cole Hamels had this to say about pitching to him:

… That should have been a broken bat. He got in, and he still hit it with authority. You’re like, ‘Oh my gosh.’

The question with Rendon has never been about his ability – it’s always about whether he can stay on the field.

Only once in the past three years – yep, 2014 – has he managed more than 100 games (98 in 2013, 80 in 2015). Maybe the club’s new, analytic-driven medical staff can help here, because when he’s right, he can be among the game’s best all-around offensive players, a guy who would fit anywhere in anyone’s lineup.

If neither Werth or Rendon are the guy, there are two other, less-obvious options on the current Nationals roster.

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