The Washington Nationals decided to recall infielder Anthony Rendon to the 25-man roster on Tuesday, one of many moves the team made as Jayson Werth returned from the disabled list and Danny Espinosa took his place.
Now that Rendon is back in the bigs, it's time to give him the reigns at second base—even if such a move might be a bit of a growing period as Rendon adjusts to an unfamiliar position.
Amanda Comak of the Washington Times also had a report as the Nats prepared to make a splash at a position that has plagued them for most of the season. Per this report on Twitter, Comak expects the Nats to use Rendon in a 2B-only role during his second career MLB stint:
#nats expect Anthony Rendon to primarily play 2B w Lombardozzi.— Amanda Comak (@acomak) June 4, 2013
Although a move to use Rendon in a position that is foreign to his listed one (third base) would be a bit of a reach for the second-place Nationals, times are tough in the nation's capital and bringing up a top prospect in a position of need hasn't exactly hurt Washington over the past few years.
It's time to see what Rendon can do, and if he can help stabilize the middle of the infield and a lineup that currently doesn't have a second baseman on the stat list this season (Espinosa and Steve Lombardozzi) hitting above .231.
Rendon was well above that mark in the minors this season and was even above that output during a short eight-game stint to start the season (.240) when Ryan Zimmerman was on the disabled list. Although he wasn't flashy, Rendon did have a double, an RBI and drew six walks in 30 plate appearances with the Nats during his first taste of pro ball.
The 22-year-old Texas native had totaled six hits in 25 at-bats when Zimmerman became ready to reclaim his starting job at third. The Nats made the decision to send him back to Double-A Harrisburg, where he continued to prove why he was catching eyes in spring training this year.
Impressing enough to move up to the next level of the organization, Washington had already promoted Rendon to Triple-A Syracuse over the weekend, a move that now looks like a preemptive tune-up for the youngster to get some game action at second base before a move to the majors.
ESPN's Jim Bowden had this tweet on Sunday with Rendon's splits in the minors this year and a ploy by the Nats to bring him up to speed with a new position via the "trial by fire" method:
Anthony Rendon playing 2B in minors with .317/.459/.592 11 2B 6 HR 24 RBI.....can't be long before Nats recall him to play 2B every day— JIM BOWDEN (@JimBowdenESPNxm) June 2, 2013
Tuesday's decision gives Washington a chance to do just that.
Not scheduled to be part of the lineup on Tuesday, Rendon should have roughly two weeks to lay claim to the starting 2B job for the remainder of the season.
Sure, the Nats are only seven games out and this is in no way time to start preparing for the future, but an answer needs to be found if the franchise wants to have a chance at catching Atlanta or holding off Philadelphia for the second spot.
Just to play devil's advocate, it certainly won't be easy. As noted by Dan Kolko of MASNSports.com, the last time the natural three-bagger played second base on a regular basis was all the way back during his Little League days:
Anthony Rendon last played 2nd base on an everyday basis back in Little League. Says he feels comfortable there now, footwork not a problem— Dan Kolko (@masnKolko) June 4, 2013
It certainly catches your eye, but hopefully it doesn't cloud Washington from making a pure baseball decision with respect to its infield. If you can field the ball at third base, you can learn to field the ball at second and give the team a lift at the dish in the process.
If you listen to Nick J. Faleris and Bret Sayre of Baseball Prospectus talk about Rendon, the fact that he's suffered through ankle injuries and some arm issues should actually make a move to second base more plausible for long-term success at the MLB level.
The scouting report on Washington's top prospect is simple: Although there's a road block in front of him in Zimmerman, he can help this team out at the plate by shifting positions. There's something to be said for versatility in the pros, and if Rendon can make this switch without conceding normal defense or good at-bats, he can help this team on into October.
It's something that the Texas Rangers are doing right now with top prospect Jurickson Profar, playing the young shortstop phenom at second base because Elvis Andrus is a top American League SS and Ian Kinsler has been banged up.
If Rendon cannot make the switch, the Nationals will likely have to return to the Espinosa platoon option or look elsewhere (trades) for help prior to the summer deadline.
Where do you see Anthony Rendon playing long-term in MLB?
However, the Nationals have been bold enough to call the young stud to the pros at the ripe age of 22 and are doing so for the second time this season. It's obvious he factors into their long-term plans in some way, or we wouldn't be seeing him up when another option would have sufficed.
Now that this move is official, it's time for Davey Johnson to let it ride with his top prospect and see what he can do up the middle while Espinosa tries to regain his former form. It might be overstated in baseball, but you don't call up top guys to sit on the bench.
Expect Rendon to see the field early and often after Tuesday's game with the Mets is in the books. It might be a move that helps to turn Washington's up-and-down season around.
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