Phil Wood: Will Nationals' Rendon be put on the fast track?

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VIERA, Fla. - Anthony Rendon, the Nationals' first-round pick in last year's draft, was among the first cuts on Monday. He was optioned to Potomac of the Carolina League -- high Single-A classification -- though many in baseball felt the Nationals might start him at Double-A Harrisburg.

"It doesn't really matter much where he starts," manager Davey Johnson said. "I was a college guy, too, and I started in class C ball," a classification that no longer exists. "I made it to Baltimore pretty quick."

Actually, it took Johnson about 31Ú2 minor league seasons before reaching the major leagues. Rendon is expected to be on a faster track.

No one questions Rendon's ability with the bat. The manager puts it simply: "That kid can lash."

Of course, the Nationals have -- and will have for many more years -- a veteran third baseman who can also lash. Ryan Zimmerman is off to a great start with the bat this spring. Johnson said that it takes some hitters about 50 spring at-bats to find their stroke, but that Zimmerman "was locked in after three."

Rendon is going to play third base this year and likely some shortstop as well. He's willing to play wherever he's asked, so it won't be a shock to see him take some reps at second base or even in the outfield. What would be a shock will be if he's still in Northern Virginia after July 4th.

There's a perception that because of Johnson's extensive resume, his reputation would be well known to his players. To some that's true, but Rendon wasn't one of those guys. He admitted that, prior to getting drafted by the Nats, he didn't know Johnson.

That's all changed now, and knowing Johnson's success with young, high-ceiling players, Rendon can only hope he gets a chance to play for Johnson on the big league level. Johnson has already labeled this roster "as deep as any other I've ever managed." That may be at least part hyperbole, but it's hard to ignore the kind of attention this club is getting this spring.

The Nationals still have a season to play, and it's hard not to get caught up in the hype. Rendon is still just a prospect, but two years ago he was being mentioned in the same breath as Bryce Harper, who is now his teammate. He might have been the first draft pick overall, but an injury his last year at Rice caused him to fall to the Nats. Local fans will get a close-up view of Rendon this season, but they'd best not wait too long to make that trek to Prince William County.

By the All-Star break, he'll likely be on his way up the farm system.

Examiner columnist Phil Wood is a baseball historian and contributor to MASN's Nats Xtra. Contact him at philwood@washingtonexaminer.com.

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Phil Wood

Staff reporter - sports
The Washington Examiner