The Nats’ Next Big Thing?

Nationals third baseman Anthony Rendon was the sixth overall pick in the 2011 MLB draft.

Nationals third baseman Anthony Rendon was the sixth overall pick in the 2011 MLB draft.

Anthony Rendon is the Nationals’ newest hot prospect, following in the footsteps of the likes of Ryan Zimmerman, Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper.

But Rendon doesn’t exactly have to live up to the same kind of expectations that those three All-Stars faced upon their arrival to the big leagues. Manager Davey Johnson doesn’t even expect to keep the 22-year-old in the majors once Zimmerman, who was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a left hamstring strain on Saturday, is healthy enough to return.

“I don’t care if he hits .900, he’s not going to beat out Ryan Zimmerman,” Johnson said.

Rendon isn’t letting his uncertain future get in the way of trying to convince Johnson he’s capable of staying at the big league level.

“I have to go out there and play my game,” Rendon said. “If it works out, it works out. If it doesn’t, then what can you do?”

The infielder was Washington’s sixth overall pick in the 2011 MLB draft and spent the 2012 season in the minor leagues. He battled through injuries and hit .233 with six home runs and 12 RBIs in just 43 games.

He opened the 2013 season with Double-A Harrisburg, where he hit .292 with two home runs and seven RBIs in the first 14 games before getting called up.

“Given where he’s at with such little time in minor league experience, he’s a good player,” Zimmerman said. “He has a chance to be really good.”

Rendon, who’s used to playing in front of crowds as small as 100 people, is still getting a feel for what it’s like to play baseball at the highest level. He has started all three games at third base since coming to Washington.

After going 0-for-4 in his MLB debut, Rendon got his first major league hit and RBI on Monday against the Cardinals. He sent a line drive to right center that went for a double and drove in a run.

The change in scenery hasn’t changed Rendon’s approach, though.

“The bases are still 90 feet [apart],” he said. “The fences are relatively the same size. It’s still the same game. You try not to take it out of context too much.”

While his manager isn’t ready to give Rendon a permanent spot on the 25-man roster, the prospect seems to have convinced at least one of his teammates that he belongs.

“He deserves to be up here, I believe,” said Harper, who at 20 is the only player on the Nationals’ roster younger than Rendon. “He’s a great hitter and has a great head on his shoulders.”

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