Nats’ ‘magician’ Rendon ready for another charmed season

Anthony Rendon in training. (WTOP/Jon Warner)
Anthony Rendon in training. (WTOP/Jon Warner) (WTOP/Jon Warner)
Anthony Rendon
FILE – In this Oct. 11, 2017, file photo, Washington Nationals’ Anthony Rendon (6) hits a double against the Chicago Cubs during the fourth inning of Game 4 of baseball’s National League Division Series in Chicago. The hot corner figures to be smoking Friday, Jan. 12, 2018, when players and team swap proposed salaries in arbitration. Toronto’s Josh Donaldson, Baltimore’s Manny Machado, Chicago Cubs’ Kris Bryant and Rendon were among the more than 170 players headed to the exchange. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast, File) (AP/Charles Rex Arbogast)
WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 01:  Anthony Rendon #6 of the Washington Nationals celebrates hitting a three run home run in the first inning with Bryce Harper #34 during a baseball game against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Nationals Park on October 1, 2017 in Washington, DC.  (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC – OCTOBER 01: Anthony Rendon #6 of the Washington Nationals celebrates hitting a three run home run in the first inning with Bryce Harper #34 during a baseball game against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Nationals Park on October 1, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images) (Getty Images/Mitchell Layton)
Anthony Rendon
Washington Nationals’ Anthony Rendon tosses his bat after a called third strike during the eighth inning in Game 1 of baseball’s National League Division Series against the Chicago Cubs, at Nationals Park, Friday, Oct. 6, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon) (AP/Alex Brandon)
CHICAGO, IL - AUGUST 05:   Willson Contreras #40 of the Chicago Cubs is tagged out at third base by Anthony Rendon #6 of the Washington Nationals in the 1st inning at Wrigley Field on August 5, 2017 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL – AUGUST 05: Willson Contreras #40 of the Chicago Cubs is tagged out at third base by Anthony Rendon #6 of the Washington Nationals in the 1st inning at Wrigley Field on August 5, 2017 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) (Getty Images/Jonathan Daniel)
Anthony Rendon
Washington Nationals’ Anthony Rendon hits a three-run homer during the first inning of a baseball game against the Pittsburgh Pirates, Sunday, Oct. 1, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Mark Tenally) (AP/Mark Tenally)
Matt Wieters, Anthony Rendon, Daniel Murphy, Ryan Zimmerman
Washington Nationals’ Matt Wieters, right, celebrates with Anthony Rendon, left, Daniel Murphy, center, and Ryan Zimmerman after hitting a grand slam during the eighth inning of a baseball game against the Chicago Cubs, Sunday, Aug. 6, 2017, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh) (AP/Nam Y. Huh)
Anthony Rendon, Brian Goodwin
Washington Nationals’ Anthony Rendon (6) celebrates his two-run home run with Brian Goodwin (8) during the eighth inning of the first baseball game of a split doubleheader against the San Francisco Giants, Sunday, Aug. 13, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Nick Wass) (AP/Nick Wass)
Anthony Rendon
Washington Nationals third baseman Anthony Rendon throws to first base during the first inning of a baseball game against the New York Mets, Saturday, Aug. 26, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Mark Tenally) (AP/Mark Tenally)
Anthony Rendon, Matt Wieters, Daniel Murphy
Washington Nationals Anthony Rendon (6) is congratulated by teammates Matt Wieters (32), and Daniel Murphy (20) after hitting a three-run home run during the first inning of a baseball game against the Seattle Mariners in Washington, Wednesday, May 24, 2017. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
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Anthony Rendon in training. (WTOP/Jon Warner)
Anthony Rendon
WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 01:  Anthony Rendon #6 of the Washington Nationals celebrates hitting a three run home run in the first inning with Bryce Harper #34 during a baseball game against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Nationals Park on October 1, 2017 in Washington, DC.  (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)
Anthony Rendon
CHICAGO, IL - AUGUST 05:   Willson Contreras #40 of the Chicago Cubs is tagged out at third base by Anthony Rendon #6 of the Washington Nationals in the 1st inning at Wrigley Field on August 5, 2017 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Anthony Rendon
Matt Wieters, Anthony Rendon, Daniel Murphy, Ryan Zimmerman
Anthony Rendon, Brian Goodwin
Anthony Rendon
Anthony Rendon, Matt Wieters, Daniel Murphy

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. —  Anthony Rendon is as solid an all-around baseball player as there is. And turning 28 this year, he is just entering his prime.

Some players may hit for more power than Rendon. However, not too many will hit for a better average or reach base at a higher clip, and it will be even harder to find a better fielder. He is in an elite class.

Last season, Rendon put up MVP-caliber numbers, batting .301 with 25 homers and 100 RBIs. He walked more than he struck out — 84 times to 82. He also cranked out 41 doubles.

If you can’t recall him making an error, it’s because he rarely did — committing just seven while playing nearly 1,300 innings at third base.

Solid offensively and defensively, Rendon finished sixth in National League MVP voting.

He takes an easygoing approach to the plate.

“I try to keep it simple,” he said Wednesday. “You see the ball and you hit the ball. The plate hasn’t changed since baseball’s been played. They still throw it over that white part and I’m trying to hit it when it comes over that white part.”

But in the rare time that his swing needs tweaking?

“I definitely look at video to see if I’m leaking. Why complicate it?”

He doesn’t have to.

New hitting coach Kevin Long admires what the Nationals third baseman is doing.

“Rendon is a magician,” Long said. “He is fun to watch. When he came up to bat, I sat there and marveled at him. He is quiet. His mechanics are flawless. It looks effortless.

“He is in line. He is balanced. He just does a lot of things right.”

What does Rendon attribute to his career year?

“I think I tried to drive the ball more,” he said. “I wouldn’t necessarily say I tried a Daniel Murphy launch angle, but I did try to hit it at a certain degree.”

Rendon has made an even bigger change heading into the new year: He got married in the offseason, then cut his long hair.

“It’s at home in a plastic bag. I kept it, don’t worry. I did. I’m going to use it for something later,” he said.

Rendon jokingly added that maybe the new look will garner his first All-Star selection. He just missed the team last year. What will it take in 2018?

“I’m thinking with my new haircut, I’m a professional now. I’m trying to show people to take me more seriously, so maybe I’ll get more All-Star votes. That’s just my own reasoning,” he said.

Sounds reasonable enough. He has done everything else to warrant selection.

Nats Notes: Pitchers are usually ahead of hitters early in Spring Training, and that was the case when Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg took the mound in batting practice. They kept the batters at bay, including must-see battles with Bryce Harper.

After he passed his physical, the Nationals officially announced the signing of reliever Joaquin Benoit. He said it’s nice to be on a team with a chance to go to the playoffs and contribute. After just two days on the field in West Palm Beach, Benoit seems to have made an immediate connection with a lot of players.


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