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General : : Crack The Bat
Rendon Down, Not Out
Published: Tuesday, July 20, 2010

On a night in which three pitchers (Sonny Gray, Kyle Winkler, Noe Ramirez) combined on a no-hitter to defeat the Korean Republic team 3-0, Team USA lost their star third baseman, Rice’s Anthony Rendon.  He was caught in a rundown between first and second base in the first inning of the contest, and ended up fracturing and dislocating his right ankle as part of the play.
 
In my humble opinion, Rendon is the best prospect available for the 2011 draft, a gifted hitter that makes everything look so easy at the plate.  He commands the strike zone extremely well, and the ball explodes off of his bat.  He also excels defensively at the hot corner, and some believe he could play second base on a regular basis, or even shortstop in a pinch.  He was named Baseball America’s player of the year, a year after he was named the national freshman of the year, and has hit .391/.497/.750 with 46 home runs and 157 RBI in his two years for the Rice Owls.
 
What does his recent injury mean for his career, particularly in relationship to his standing for next June’s draft?  By drawing some similar situations from recent history for reference, probably nothing.
 
Mark Teixeira entered the 2001 season for Georgia Tech as one of the top prospects eligible for that year’s draft.  Experts debated whether he or Mark Prior was the top prospect available in a year when Joe Mauer went first overall.  Teixeira broke his ankle early in the year, and missed most of the season only to return during the last month and finished strong.  The only reason he didn’t go higher than the fifth overall pick to the Texas Rangers were signability concerns.
 
Former Long Beach State Dirtbag Troy Tulowitzki also had lofty aspirations for the 2005 draft, but he too missed significant time to injury during his junior year prior to being selected seventh overall in the ’05 draft.  He broke his hamate bone early that year, missing 20 games, but also returned to finish strong, and like Teixeira, is one of the best hitters at his position as a big-leaguer.
 
Christian Colon may not be a big-leaguer yet, but most seem to think that’s a matter of “when” and not “if.”  He was the fourth overall pick this past year, and while he didn’t miss any time due to the broken leg he suffered last summer while playing for Team USA, there were still concerns late last summer how the injury would affect his performance this past college baseball season, particularly as a middle infielder.
 
So while it is a shame that Rendon’s summer season is over, I feel comfortable saying that we can expect much of the same from him next spring.
 

When a door closes...
 
While Rendon’s summer season is over, Vanderbilt’s Jason Esposito has been summoned to take his place.
 
He was not part of the team trials, although much of that likely had to do with the presence of fellow third-sacker Anthony Rendon, who had the starting position sealed for the National Collegiate team before the trials took place.  Knowing that his playing time would likely be limited, at least at his natural position, Esposito took his talents to the Cape Cod League.
 
Esposito was batting .247 in 18 games for the Orleans Firebirds prior to joining Team USA this past Saturday.  While his numbers aren’t quite as impressive as Rendon’s over his first two years for the Commodores, Esposito did enjoy a very good sophomore year in which he hit .359/.455/.599 with 25 doubles, 12 home runs and 31 stolen bases in 35 attempts.  He is an exciting all-around offensive player, with both good bat and foot speed and a chiseled physique.
 
(If Rendon were to compare favorably to Ryan Zimmerman of the ’05 draft, Esposito may very well be Ryan Braun.)
 
While he is far from an unknown, such an opportunity could go a long way helping his reputation as one of the top draft-eligible hitters available for next year’s draft.  How he fares not only with a wood bat, but in Rendon’s place, could push him into the conversation for the first round, possibly among the top 10-15 overall picks, before next spring arrives.
 

The thoughts and opinions listed here do not necessarily reflect those of Perfect Game USA.  Patrick Ebert is affiliated with both Perfect Game USA and 5 Tool Talk, and can be contacted via email at pebert@5tooltalk.com.