Bryce Harper and Anthony Rendon have a lot in common. Both were heralded first-round selections who are considered two of the best young hitters in the game. Both ended their first professional seasons here in Harrisburg with the Senators before playing well in the following Arizona Fall League. And more recently, both are tearing it up at the plate so far in the Nationals spring training games.
But I wouldn’t expect to see Rendon take Harper’s path to the major leagues. Harper started his 2012 season at Triple-A Syracuse and played only 21 games (hitting a mere .243) before getting the call to The Show when Ryan Zimmerman went on the DL. Don’t expect either of those thing from Anthony Rendon in 2013. I fully believe he’ll start the year in Harrisburg and won’t see Nationals Park until September callups.
With Harper, one of the things the Nats were concerned about was him getting used to the daily grind and routine of being a professional ballplayer. Harper did that in in 2011 as he played a combined 109 games between Low-A and AA ball. He showed that despite only 37 games at Double-A that he was ready to advance another level to start the season. Harper’s placement in Syracuse had nothing to do with his spring training last year and everything to do with his time in Hagerstown, Harrisburg, and the Arizona Fall League the previous season.
Rendon, on the other hand, doesn’t have the same resume as he begins his second professional season. Rendon’s 2012 was abbreviated to only 43 minor league games after he went down in early April with a broken left ankle. He did manage to get back on the field late in the season and posted a paltry .162 batting average in 21 games here at Harrisburg before playing much better in the Arizona Fall League. But make no mistake, the Nationals don’t feel the need to rush Rendon with the major league 25-man roster all but set. Manager Davey Johnson said it best earlier this spring, “He needs the reps. He needs to go play.”
One factor that played into Harper’s quick ascension was the injury to Zimmerman and the need for another bat in the middle of the order. It’s conceivable that another injury to Zim, Desmond, or Espinosa could speed up Rendon’s timeframe. But isn’t that why they signed a guy like Will Rhymes as insurance for virtually every position in the infield? Carlos Rivero, if he clears waivers, and Zach Walters are also more options the Nats have stored at Triple-A. There is no need to speed up his devlopment no matter how many home runs or extra base hits he collects in spring training.
The calls for seeing him on the Nationals’ roster sooner rather than later are almost too hard to ignore, but 2013 isn’t 2012 and Rendon isn’t Harper.