No one thinks he’ll hit .337, but everyone wonders exactly what that eventual number will be. So far, at five pro levels over two seasons, he’s hitting .306/.410/.538 for a stellar .948 on-base-plus-slugging average.
“Anthony’s got some really good hand-eye coordination. He doesn’t have a typical conventional swing. It’s as fluid and effortless as it gets,” LaRoche said. “For a guy that’s not huge, he really been backing up the baseball. That’s what hitters say when its almost like you keep hitting the ball after you’ve made contact. It comes out of nowhere. Your bat stays in the strike zone a long time. That’s when the ball goes a long way.
“Rendon keeps the bat through the zone for probably two feet where a lot of hitters are in-and-out of the [hitting] zone in a foot,” LaRoche added. “He’s got that loose-wrist pop, too. All of that together is why he can hit the ball as far as guys 50 pounds bigger.”
The big leagues are full of hot-shot hitters who get figured out. Last year, Red Sox third baseman Will Middlebrooks was supposedly a future star; now, after hitting .192 this season, he’s back at Pawtucket. On Thursday, Rendon would probably have gone 2 for 5 in the minors. But big leaguers robbed him twice, once of an infield hit, for a 0 for 5 in a 3-2 loss to Arizona. The process of Rendon learning the league while it learns him has just begun. As soon as you mention his name, discussion of hitting theory follows quickly.
“I like his wrist action. He throws the bat head. When he goes the other way [to advance a runner from second base], he doesn’t drag the bat through the zone. It’s a quick swing. Both hands are working — pull [with the left] and release [with the right] at the same time,” Manager Davey Johnson said. “Twice he’s hit the ball so hard that the man couldn’t score from second.
“He’s real quiet at the plate. His pitch analysis is really good. He reads what type of pitch it is early,” said Johnson. “They’re going to try to pitch him in to speed him up so they can go soft away. That’s already started. It hasn’t been working.”
Get used to the inside-baseball hitting talk. With Rendon, the discussion won’t resemble Bryce Harper tape measure homers, but is more likely to be an analysis of how he “gets his front foot down early” so he can handle the fastball, yet still seems to be able to handle off-speed pitches.
Or you can forget all that and just enjoy a rookie with a grin, a gift and an unexpected season to find out how he and the big league life interact.
“The pitchers are smarter up here. Smarter about everything,” said Rendon. However, whether it’s his switch to second base or his first trip to another new city, Rendon greets it all with a relaxed delight.
“It’s baseball. It’s still just a game,” he said. Then the grin breaks out, like he’s seen a feast placed before him. “It’s another day.”
For previous columns by Thomas Boswell, visit washingtonpost.com/boswell.