With all of the talk about how Gerrit Cole has passed Anthony Rendon, and the worries about Rendon’s struggles this year, I’ve been thinking about something. The situation with Rendon and Cole is almost like when you’re making a big purchase, such as buying a car, a house, etc. You analyze the different options until you’ve settled in on the one you want. However, it’s not over at that point. Once you settle on the one you want, you start second guessing yourself. It’s a little bit of buyer’s remorse, and a little bit of just making sure you’re making the right call on such an important decision. From that point, you’re not looking for reasons why this pick is the right choice. Instead, you’re looking for reasons why you shouldn’t make this choice.
Coming in to the season, Rendon was the new house, or the new car. He was the consensus number one prospect in the draft, mostly due to his amazing 2010 season. That put him in a position where people weren’t looking for reasons to take him, but instead looking for any reason why he might not be the best choice. Rendon has certainly provided some concerning reasons. His injury history added one more chapter with a shoulder injury that has kept him off the field for most of the 2011 season. He has also struggled at the plate, mostly with a lack of power.
At the same time, Gerrit Cole has stepped up in a big way to contend for the number one overall pick. What was a one man race heading in to the season is now a two man race. But has Cole really passed Rendon, or is this an extreme case of over-reacting to short term performances (the success for Cole, the injury and struggles for Rendon), combined with looking for reasons for Rendon to fail?
I’ve always believed a certain phenomenon exists in baseball where fans expect a certain performance once a player reaches a certain level. Take Jason Bay, for example. He was easily the best player that had come through Pittsburgh in awhile back when he was with the team. However, he drew criticism for not being “clutch”. That “clutch” label was a result of fans remembering when he struck out with the bases loaded, or grounded in to a double play. They forgot all of the times he came through in that situation, and there’s good reason for that. We expected Bay to come through in the big situations. When he did, it was chalked up as normal, and forgotten. When he didn’t come through, it stuck out and was remembered.
That’s pretty much the case with any player. It’s all about “what have you done for me lately”, and poor performances stand out in the mind, since we expect players to come through every time. However, lesser players can have a big moment stand out, mostly because it’s unexpected.
That’s kind of what is happening with Rendon and Cole this season. Rendon came in to the season with huge expectations, mostly due to his amazing season in 2010 when he put up a .394/.539/.801 line. Good was never going to be good enough for Rendon this season, considering the expectations. He needed to have a record setting year to live up to the expectations. Likewise, Cole wasn’t expected to be so good, and because he’s gotten off to a great start, it’s almost like he’s the new toy, with Rendon being tossed in with the old toys.
Rendon has struggled this year, but his struggles leave people jumping to conclusions, without considering all of the factors. First, his injuries have raised questions about his durability and size. His ankle injuries were fluke injuries, and his shoulder, which has kept him off the field, isn’t a long term concern. Would you pass over a guy because of a short term injury, which doesn’t have any long term implications?
As for his offense, his power is down this year, with a .550 slugging percentage, compared to an .801 slugging percentage last year, and a .702 in his freshman year. What people don’t consider are two factors. First, the NCAA is using new bats this year, which have put a damper on offense around the league. Second, Rendon is the only productive hitter in the Rice lineup right now, and is being pitched around. He’s drawn 19 walks in his last 11 games. He’s walked in 25.7% of his plate appearances this year. And it’s not like this is all we have to work with on Rendon. We know he’s a good hitter. We saw that last year, and the year before. Why should this year be graded higher than those two, especially considering the circumstances surrounding him this year.
To recap, if we look at the stats, we can see that Rendon is struggling and Cole is doing great. If we look closer, Rendon’s injuries aren’t a long term concern, he’s being pitched around, and offense in general is down around the NCAA ranks due to the new bats, which only further hurts Rendon’s numbers. That’s not saying that Rendon hasn’t been bad, or that Cole isn’t deserving of being in the conversation. It just means that you need to look past the results in this case, consider what Rendon has done in the past, and consider what he could do in the long term. The draft is a long term decision. It shouldn’t be decided based on short term performances.
The schedule for Rendon and Cole this weekend:
7:30 PM EST – Rice (Rendon) vs Marshall
9:00 PM EST – UCLA (Cole) vs Washington
2:00 PM EST – Rice (Rendon) vs Marshall
11:00 AM EST – Rice (Rendon) vs Marshall
People to follow on Twitter for updates:
Rendon: @Chronicle_Owls @FSH_Owls @RiceOwlsdotcom
Cole: @DBSports @RyeUCLAbaseball
And of course you can follow me @pirateprospects.
Tim started Pirates Prospects in 2009 from his home in Virginia, which was 40 minutes from where Pedro Alvarez made his pro debut in Lynchburg. That year, the Lynchburg Hillcats won the Carolina League championship, and Pirates Prospects was born from Tim's reporting along the way. The site has grown over the years to include many more writers, and Tim has gone on to become a credentialed MLB reporter, producing Pirates Prospects each year, and will publish his 11th Prospect Guide this offseason. He has also served as the Pittsburgh Pirates correspondent for Baseball America since 2019. Behind the scenes, Tim is an avid music lover, and most of the money he gets paid to run this site goes to vinyl records.
Very well written Tim. The Bucs need to draft the player that gives them the best chance of getting the highest value 3 years from now. This is where a GM HAS to trust the scouts eyes over college numbers.
tim, as a huge fan of this site, i have to say this article is starting to show a rendon bias.
skimming over his two ankles surgeries in back to back years as fluke, or his throwing shoulder not allowing him to take the field, seems to be understating without evidence.
rice is 6 weeks into their season and i can’t find a box score w/rendon at 3B. that’s a red flag for me w/6 weeks left in their regular season. any updates or info w/rendon at 3B would be appreciated.
Rendon has played third base this year. He played one game last weekend, and he played there at the start of the season, before the shoulder started acting up.
As for the ankle injuries, the thought it “he had two major ankle injuries, so he must have bad ankles”. The injuries were fluke plays. This past year he was in a rundown, got his foot caught beneath him when changing directions, and broke his ankle. The year before, he stepped in a hole on the field, chasing a foul ball, and tore a ligament. It’s not that he’s injury prone, just that he’s been unlucky.
As for his shoulder, it’s keeping him off the field in the short term, but it’s not a long term problem. That’s what I’m focused on. When healthy, Rendon is a good defensive third baseman. The shoulder injury isn’t going to be present if/when he is with the Pirates, so why be concerned that he’s not playing third for Rice?
thanks. guess i’ll have to be of the non-rendon camp until he shows he can take the field consistently, has reports of good mobility at 3B fielding and demonstrates no throwing problems. any info on how he’s running the bases now, as the DH, would be appreciated.
just hate to assume everything will be rosy, with such an important pick. would rather he show these qualities during the next 6 weeks and in the tourney. would be a lot easier for me to join the rendon camp then, with evidence.
I’ll see Rendon next weekend for a three game series against ECU. I’ll have a first hand report, and a lot of coverage of him, throughout the weekend.
Great article as usual Tim!
Two other things to consider.
First, Cole has been a “top” prospect for much longer than Rendon. Cole was considered by some as the top HS pitching prospect 3 years ago. He was also a 1st rounder.
Second, as you pointed out the new bats have had a major change on the college game. Cole is having a “great” season but, entering this weekend, his ERA was the worst of the UCLA starters. Rendon has not shown “any” power yet he has almost as many HRs as the entire Duke team (3 for Rendon and 4 for Duke).
BTW Duke’s freshman class, which includes former Pirate draftee Dillon Haviland, is outstanding.
On the issue of Cole being a top prospect longer, I really think that’s irrelevant. Matt Purke was also a top high school pitching prospect and a first rounder two years ago. On the other extreme, Stephen Strasburg wasn’t even drafted out of high school.
Where Cole and Rendon were drafted three years ago has no impact on their skill level now, or the expectations on each player coming in to their junior year.
This seems sort of contradictory to the piece. Why does 2 years ago matter but 3 years does not?