Until this year Anthony Rendon hadn’t played second base since Little League. In college he played third and once he got hurt DH. He played third not because he couldn’t hang at 2nd or SS, but because Rice had some good depth at those positions, but none with the his bat.
One of the more interesting questions to consider the rest of the is year is what will the line up look like heading into 2014. There will be those looking to dump LaRoche via trade and move Zimmerman to 1st, thus allowing Rendon to go back to 3rd. The problem with that theory is that the team still needs to field a 2nd baseman, and the team doesn’t really have an answer. Danny Espinosa is a slick fielding player, but this year he was virtually the worst hitter in the MLB before he was sent down to AAA to work out his problems. Steve Lombardozi is good fielder (won a minor league gold glove) but like Espi, his bat isn’t good enough to really count on him as an every day player.
This brings us to the Nats rookie Anthony Rendon, who, really by necessity has held down second this season. He started off great at the plate, the league made some adjustments, and he is now getting to a period of equilibrium when his adjustments to the adjustments take hold. He is also starting do draw more walks, which has been a big part of his game. The question isn’t about his bat, the question is about his glove. As expected, there has been some adventure with a guy who never played the position at the professional level, he has also made some fantastic highlights diving for balls in the gap. Lets look at some of the UZR stats to judge his defense.
The above stats tell us some things about the Nats collection of second basemen. Bottom line, Rendon is playing second at an above average level, but he is doing it the hard way. Average UZR is 0. The most surprising line from above is the range metric (RngR). Rendon is covering the position expertly. He has as many runs saved this year due to range as Espinosa had last year in half the innings. How good is he, 6th overall in about half as many innings. If you watch him play, this kinda matches what your eyes tell you.
Now, where Rendon breaks down is his errors. This is a reflection of his inexperience at second. Espinosa and Lombo have played 10s of thousands of innings in the middle infield, Rendon, about 500 as a pro. He has made 6 fielding errors and 2 throwing error. One would expect that to improve. For comparison, Desmond has a -10 error rate in in his first full season, where Rendon is at about 3. Espinosa is elite fielding at second, Lombo is above average but so far Rendon’s range is good enough to more than cancel out the errors he makes due to inexperience. If the experience with Desmond is a guide, he will only get better.