Anthony Rendon likely doesn’t put the Los Angeles Angels in the playoffs. Their starting pitching remains suspect, and the Houston Astros and Oakland Athletics, their American League West rivals, are deeper and more proven than the Angels. But the All-Star third baseman’s arrival in Anaheim gives new manager Joe Maddon the best star duo in Major League Baseball: Rendon and Mike Trout.
Last week general manager Billy Eppler made the biggest free agent signing of his career, agreeing to a seven-year, $245 million deal with Rendon; he’s worth every penny of the deal.
The number six selection in the 2011 MLB Draft, Rendon shined and only improved through his seven-year tenure with the Washington Nationals. He began as a secondary source of offense in a lineup that was headlined by Bryce Harper, Ryan Zimmerman, Jayson Werth, Adam LaRoche, Ian Desmond, and Denard Span. Their presence, as well as an injury-riddled 2015 campaign, hindered Rendon’s growth in the early stages of his career.
Then some of those veterans left via free agency, and Rendon got healthy and moved up in the order; he grew into a star.
From there on out, Rendon was a force to be reckoned with in the batter’s box. He garnered a great deal of plate discipline, drove pitches to all fields, came through with clutch hits, and was difficult to strikeout. From 2017-18 he compiled 49 home runs and 192 RBIs while hitting above .300 and posting an OPS above .900 in both seasons. Then Harper signed with the Philadelphia Phillies, Rendon became the Nationals’ main man, and he also became one of the faces of the sport.
Hitting .319, posting a 1.010 OPS, and totaling 34 home runs and 126 RBIs (all four outputs are career highs) while playing a stellar third base, Rendon played himself into being a finalist for the National League Most Valuable Player Award. He reiterated his case in the postseason, hitting .328, doing his thing at the hot corner, and coming through with clutch home runs — such as breaking the ice for the Nationals in the seventh inning of Game 7 of the World Series in Minute Maid Park.
Rendon is 29, arguably the best third baseman in baseball, and has few, if any transparent weaknesses in his game.
Then there’s Trout, who’s a pretty good baseball player too. He’s a hard-hit machine, as he ropes line drives and home runs like nobody’s business and has led MLB in OPS in each of the last three seasons. Meanwhile, he’s a vacuum in center field, has a great arm, and is a walking highlight reel. Trout has great speed, and is a considerable threat to steal a base every here and there. He has also won three AL MVPs and has made the AL All-Star Game roster in each of his eight full big-league seasons. Not too bad, seems pretty historic, actually.
Trout and Rendon are elite players with happy-go-lucky, infectious personalities. Unless either player burned your respective team in the playoffs, more specifically Rendon this past season, it’s difficult to hate them.
These two are going to be in the same lineup, perhaps hitting behind each other in 2020. There’s going to be no pitching around them, especially with Shohei Ohtani likely not far behind in the lineup.
Now, there are other potent position duos across the sport, but they’re a step or two behind Trout and Rendon.
- Aaron Judge–DJ LeMahieu: The right-handed hitters are a hassle at the plate for pitchers and field their positions well, but Judge has exhibited offensive inconsistency in recent memory.
- Mookie Betts–Rafael Devers: Betts won 2018 AL MVP honors, and Devers is a rising star, but Betts’ high-level offensive production is scattered, and Devers is shaky at the hot corner.
- Eddie Rosario–Jorge Polanco: Rosario and Polanco are each great hitters and fielders, but they’re not yet one of the preeminent MLB duos.
- Francisco Lindor–Jose Ramirez: Lindor and Ramirez form one of the best left sides of the infield in baseball, but Ramirez is coming off a mixed bag of a season at the plate.
- Jose Altuve–Alex Bregman: Altuve and Bregman are high-octane players. One minor knock on Bregman is that he swings for the fences too much. A subtle weakness.
- Matt Chapman–Matt Olson: They’re two of the better corner infielders in the sport, but Chapman and Olson struggle to hit for average.
- Ronald Acuna Jr.–Freddie Freeman: Acuna and Freeman are stars. The knock? Acuna is strikeout prone, and it can be a bit of a damper on the Braves offense when it gets the best of him, as he’s their leadoff hitter.
- Juan Soto–Trea Turner: Soto is beyond his years at the plate, and Turner is one of the best shortstops in the sport, but Turner can be inconsistent at the plate.
- Pete Alonso–Jeff McNeil: They’re the Mets’ future and two of the game’s best position players under 30, but Alonso and McNeil have to string together more All-Star-caliber seasons to be an elite duo.
- Bryce Harper–Rhys Hoskins: They each have big-time power, and Harper is an exciting player, but he and Hoskins are strikeout prone hitters who don’t hit for average.
- Christian Yelich–Keston Hiura: Yelich has put together two MVP-caliber seasons, and Hiura had an impressive rookie season, but the youngster has to become less prone to strikeouts.
- Javier Baez–Kris Bryant: They’re versatile fielders and dangerous hitters, but Bryant has gone through prolonged dry spells at the plate.
- Cody Bellinger–Max Muncy: They were part of a 106-win Los Angeles Dodgers ballclub in 2019, but Bellinger and Muncy are each strikeout prone and sometimes a bit predictable in the batter’s box.
- Ketel Marte–Eduardo Escobar: Marte is a star, and Escobar has come into his own as a great third baseman, but the duo has to produce at an elite level for more than one season.
- Nolan Arenado–Trevor Story: They make for the best left side of the infield in baseball and are prolific players at their respective position, but Story is a bit strikeout prone.
Every player mentioned above is a great player; everyone has some weakness in their game. Sometimes Trout goes through dry spells at the plate, and Rendon occasionally swings too soon in at-bats when there are runners on base. But balancing out their strengths and weaknesses, Rendon joining forces with Trout supersedes the aforementioned pairings.
Trout and Rendon on the same lineup card and holding a glove at the same time is going to be exciting to watch, regardless of whether the Angels go to the playoffs. You don’t see two players of their caliber wearing the same jersey every day.